All About Animals: The Issues (Ages 11-14): Companion Animals

You know how excited your dog is when you come home from school? She has probably spent all day waiting to see you. And what do you do? Rush straight past your pup, grab your football and leave the house again without her?

Well, that’s not very nice! You are your dog’s best friend, and your canine companion loves to spend time with you, just like you love to spend time with your best friends. So why not include your pup in your games? She will have a great time, and you’ll know that you are being a great friend, too.

Whether you share your home with a dog, a cat or a goldfish or two, it’s important for you to look after your companion animals very, very well. They depend on you and your family to do what it takes to give them a good life, including fun stuff like playing and walking in the park, and not-so-fun stuff like keeping their bedding clean and making sure they have enough good food and fresh water. Forgetting these things or putting them off to do later (just like you do with your homework), can mean your animal becomes hungry, thirsty, sad, lonely or ill. Animals have feelings, just like you do.

Dogs and cats used to live in the wild and were domesticated about 15,000 years ago, when humans in Asia took wolf cubs from their pack. Dogs and humans have a long history together, which is why we get on so well and understand one another. You know what your dog is trying to tell you when he wants to go out, wants his dinner, or wants you to play with him, don’t you? And he knows when you’re sad or are even just thinking of going out without him.

As for cats, they were first domesticated about 8,000 years ago. The Ancient Egyptians were the first to bring cats into buildings and, through their traders, introduced cats to Europe. If a black cat crosses your path it is said to be a sign of good luck but today, cats who are left outside to fend for themselves need all the luck they can get just to survive. Traffic, lack of food and water and cruel people pose considerable risks to all animals who are forced to live on the streets.

All animals need the following things:

  • Comfort
  • Consideration
  • Freedom to run and play safely
  • Fresh, clean water
  • Friends (no animal wants to be lonely)
  • Good food
  • Respect

If you live with an animal, it’s a good idea to go over this list regularly to make sure you have a happy and healthy companion animal.

Think about the animals in your life. Are there small things you could do to make them happier? What if your dog stops and sniffs at every lamppost or tree-trunk? Do you yank at the lead and demand that he “hurry up!” or do you let Fido sniff away as he picks up all the doggy news in the neighbourhood? And what if kitty scratches at the furniture? Don’t get mad! Cats want and need to scratch, so it’s best to provide a proper scratching post or your sofa will most likely get mauled.

‘I Want an Animal!’

Many people want to share their homes with dogs and cats, but properly caring for an animal requires give and take. Cats and dogs give us slobbery kisses, purrs and great pleasure. In return, we must give them safe, caring and loving homes.

Living with an animal can be a lot of work. And if you asked your parents for that animal, it is up to you to help look after her. Taking on an animal is a life-long commitment, as they can’t be tossed aside when you get bored with them. You wouldn’t toss your best friend aside, would you?

Some people find out that keeping an animal is too much trouble and decide they don’t want their companion anymore. Sometimes, people discover that their new animal moults too much, smells, barks too much, claws the furniture or makes them sneeze. Do you think it is fair to throw an animal out of the house for those reasons?

There are better ways to deal with problems. For example, regular grooming keeps dogs and cats from dropping hairs everywhere and also prevents their fur from getting matted. And most dogs who bark a lot are doing so because they are frustrated or bored. Rover will probably stop howling when he gets the company and attention he craves. Proper housetraining will keep puppies from having accidents, and if the litter trays are kept clean, cats prefer to use them.

People who decide to get a companion animal must be ready, willing and able to devote a great deal of time, energy and money to giving their companion the best possible life. It’s an important commitment. If you and your family are considering opening your home to an animal, every member of your family must be happy to care for and care about the new addition before you even think about letting an animal set a paw in your home. If everyone agrees to do his or her part, why not go to a rescue centre and give a homeless animal a second chance at happiness?

Talk About: Topics to Chat About!
1. How do you feel about keeping animals in cages?
2. Is it right to keep an animal if he or she isn’t happy?
3. How important is it that you put the needs of your companion animal first?
4. Should everyone be allowed to look after an animal?
5. What are the seven things you should make sure your companion animal has? (See the list above for a clue.)