Pet Parenting: Kitten for Christmas?


Denise Holmes is a local pet behavior counselor who owns Ain’t Misbehavin’. She answers pet questions sent in by NWA moms. Denise has been training animals for 25 years and believes she has the best job around! To send her a question, email it to: Here’s the latest, just in time for Christmas:

Dear Denise,

My 4-year-old daughter has been begging for a new kitten for Christmas. I’m tempted, since I know it would be such a thrill for her to wake up to such a wonderful present on Christmas morning. But I’m also worried that she’s not ready for a pet. Bad idea or not?

Dear Mama,

Thanks for the question, and the opportunity to share my thoughts on two topics: pets as Christmas gifts and pets for children.

The holidays are a hectic time and the introduction of a new pet into the home should be done carefully. With all the hustle and bustle, and unwrapping of ‘other’ gifts, the pet will likely get lost in the shuffle (if not out the door with the guests), and not get the attention it needs to settle into a new home with ease. If you are set on getting your daughter a kitten for Christmas, I’d suggest a photo along with a cat bed, toys and bowls, and the promise that after the holidays, you will go together to pick out a new kitten at the shelter. This will also help ensure that kitten likes your daughter and is tolerant of 4 year old behavior.

As for your other question, is she ready for a pet? Probably not. A four year old child is not mentally mature enough for something so complicated. I would guess that you are still helping her get dressed in the morning and reminding her to brush her hair and teeth. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get a pet; it is a great way to help children learn empathy and responsibility. I work with many ages of children who are helping care for and even train the pets in their home. It’s a great experience. Just keep in mind that you will be the one doing the work of cleaning, feeding, and grooming. So, the real question is “Are you ready for a pet?” If so, then a photo and a promise ought to be just perfect! If not, I’d get a Gund instead.

For more pet tips and weekly updates, join my fan page, Ain’t Misbehavin’ on Facebook.

Thanks, Mamas, and happy holidays!

Note from the mamas: If you think your child is ready — or if you are! — check out these two cuties. They’re 9 weeks old and were dropped off at the Fayetteville Animal Shelter without a mother. Right now, foster mom Brooke Eldridge is taking care of these two guys named Charlie and Oliver. The lighter one is Charlie and he has seven toes on each front paw! The darker one is Oliver and both are described as “very sweet”. Call the shelter at 479-444-3456 for more information about these kittens or other pets that are available for adoption right now.