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The Best And Worst Pets For the Kids

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Getting a pet is an exciting time in any child’s life, but the wrong pet can bring more problems than joy. Here’s what you need to know about picking the right pet for your family.

At some point in time, many parents end up getting their children their first pet, whether it’s because they’ve relentlessly begged you for one or you’re trying to teach them a thing or two about responsibility. (Spoiler: That latter reason will backfire.)

You might think that there’s not really anything to taking care of a dog, hamster, or fish, but in some cases, we can guarantee that you’re seriously underestimating the amount of work it will take.

Here are the best and worst pets to get for young children—and some of the most unexpected aspects of caring for them.

Are they ready?

Before you even start considering which pet to buy, consider if your kids are ready to look after any animal at all. This will largely depend on the type of pet you want to get them, but there are other things to factor in, too.

For example, even though taking care of a goldfish seems incredibly simple to any adult, a child who’s too young might have trouble with it. Are they old enough to be trusted with getting the food out of the cabinet? Do they understand the importance of feeding the fish the correct amount?

These are things you can obviously teach them when it comes to caring for any pet, but they might not stick if the child truly isn’t ready yet.

Dogs—Best

A dog is the most obvious choice when it comes to getting a pet for your family—not only are they incredibly cute, but they’re pets that can also be active members of your family. In general, dogs tend to be easy for kids of any age to take care of because there isn’t a ton that you really have to do for them.

 
Putting out food and water is simple enough, they can easily be walked or let out in the yard for some fresh air, and it’s not hard to clean up after them when they relieve themselves.

If you and your family have settled on a dog, older shelter dogs typically make the best pets, because they usually come potty trained and they’re fairly calm. If you think a puppy sounds like a good idea, we’ll pray that the universe goes easy on you.

It’s important, though, to ask a few questions before you adopt, such as:

Is there a reason no one has adopted the dog yet? Does the dog have experience being around children or families? What is the dog’s personality like? What is the dog’s life expectancy?

Cats—Best

Like dogs, cats tend to be one of the first options most people consider when they think of getting a pet for their families. Sometimes the choice is even easier when you consider how independent cats tend to be—you make sure their litter gets cleaned and changed, you make sure they have food and water, and there don’t tend to be too many details after that.

Despite their aloofness, cats can also form intense bonds with their owners, especially children.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), cats that are well cared-for can live incredibly long lives, up to 17 years in some cases, and 13 years at minimum. A kitten will be a bit harder to care for, but they’re ultimately just playful little creatures who do tend to calm down considerably as time goes on. If you have pretty small kids, they’ll probably relate to a cat fairly well—just like them, cats often work playtime and naptime into their everyday schedules.

 

Pocket Pets—Worst

A “pocket pet” is pretty much just that—any pet that is small enough to fit in your pocket. This type of animal can include mice, rats, hamsters, ferrets, guinea pigs, and gerbils.

Unlike dogs and cats, which will typically become part of the family and be included in many different family activities, pocket pets usually have to stay in their own space and can’t really be left to roam around like a cat or dog.

Caring for them also requires way more supplies than you might think—they’ll need the right type of cage, the right type of food, a water dispenser, something they can exercise on, and wood chips or bedding material, which will need to be replaced fairly often.

Although they’re cute, these small critters involve way more work and care than any kid can handle. Not only that, but they’re also considered a sort of specialty animal when it comes to veterinary care, so it might be difficult to find a solution if something’s wrong with your pet. Until your kids realize how much goes into looking after a pocket pet, they’re not a good idea.

Rabbits—Not Great, Not Terrible

Rabbits are adorable, so it’s not a surprise that so many kids feel drawn to them and want them as pets. They’ll require a similar setup to that of any pocket pet, but they’re a little bit larger and more interactive than something like a mouse or rat. Rabbits can actually be really playful and have very distinct personalities.

However, they’re not just like a smaller version of a cat or dog. In fact, there’s actually a lot that people don’t know when it comes to owning a rabbit.

First of all, rabbits aren’t really meant to be caged animals, and they require way more exercise, space, and time to roam than most people think. They’re also not an animal that will be too keen on you picking it up like you would a dog or cat. Because they’re a prey animal in the wild, a rabbit’s instinct when being picked up is to flee.

Additionally, they also have super sensitive stomachs, and the wrong diet could be fatal. Ultimately, rabbits can make great pets, but they have to be in the right home.

Chicks—Worst

Most of us probably have memories of keeping baby chicks in our elementary school classrooms, and it was definitely an exciting time. Not only was it cool to watch them hatch and begin their lives, but they’re also incredibly cute and fun to hold.

 
It’s natural that a kid might start asking about having a chick as a pet after an experience like this, but we’re here to warn you that it really isn’t a good idea.

As sad as it is to think about, chicks can easily get crushed by a child who’s running around and not paying attention, which would obviously be a traumatic experience all around. They can also carry bacteria and viruses that can be transmitted to humans, such as salmonella, along with other zoonotic diseases.

The most important thing to remember, though, is that chicks are baby chickens, and they won’t stay that way forever. Granted, puppies and kittens don’t stay that small forever either, but caring for a full-grown chicken is a lot different from taking care of a standard household pet.

Fish—Best

Even before they consider a dog or cat, some parents lean toward a fish as their child’s first pet. In some cases, it’s an easy decision—they’re fairly cheap to buy, you really don’t have to get too many supplies, and what you do need can be found pretty much anywhere. They’re also a good pet for kids who are allergic to dogs or cats, because the kid will never even make contact with them.

Although it’s fairly easy to take care of a fish—you give them a sprinkle of food a few times a day, change their water every now and then, maybe buy them a tiki hut for their bowl—the main thing to consider is their lifespan.

Although it’s not likely that they’ll only live for a week, fish can be sensitive to things like water temperature, water filtration, and over- or underfeeding. Educate yourself about the specific care the type of fish you’re considering needs, talk about those needs with your kids, and go from there if they’re confident they can handle it.

Birds—Not Great, Not Terrible

Birds tend to be more of a specialty pet, mainly because of all the random equipment people need to take care of them—large cages, special foods, toys, and more. In general, birds aren’t terrible pets for children, but it’s important to consider if a child will even feel drawn to care for them once they realize that you can’t interact with a bird like you would a dog or cat.

Additionally, even when you do get all of the equipment that’s needed to take care of a bird, there’s still a lot more that goes into caring for them than just giving them food and water. As with pocket pets, most vets don’t specialize in taking care of birds, so it might be harder to get them veterinary care, and it’ll probably cost you once you do.

 Ultimately, birds are probably a no for any home with young children, but they might be a good option for older kids who are actually willing to take care of them the right way.

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Stay Healthy & Protect Yourself from Cancer

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Health they say is wealth and there are certain habits that can guarantee great health even as you progress in years.
Eight healthy behaviors can go a long way toward improving your health and lowering your risk of many cancers as well as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and osteoporosis. And they’re not as complicated as you might think.
So take control of your health, and encourage your family to do the same. Choose one or two of the behaviors below to start with. Once you’ve got those down, move on to the others.
1. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Keeping your weight in check is often easier said than done, but a few simple tips can help. First off, if you’re overweight, focus initially on not gaining any more weight. This by itself can improve your health. Then, when you’re ready, try to take off some extra pounds for an even greater health boost. To see where you fall on the weight range, click here.
Tips
  • Integrate physical activity and movement into your life.
  • Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Choose smaller portions and eat more slowly.
For Parents and Grandparents 
  • Limit children’s TV and computer time.
  • Encourage healthy snacking on fruits and vegetables.
  • Encourage activity during free time.
2. Exercise Regularly
Few things are as good for you as regular physical activity. While it can be hard to find the time, it’s important to fit in at least 30 minutes of activity every day. More is even better, but any amount is better than none.
Tips 
  • Choose activities you enjoy. Many things count as exercise, including walking, gardening and dancing.
  • Make exercise a habit by setting aside the same time for it each day. Try going to the gym at lunchtime or taking a walk regularly after dinner.
  • Stay motivated by exercising with someone.
For Parents and Grandparents 
  • Play active games with your kids regularly and go on family walks and bike rides when the weather allows.
  • Encourage children to play outside (when it’s safe) and to take part in organized activities, including soccer, gymnastics and dancing.
  • Walk with your kids to school in the morning. It’s great exercise for everyone.
3. Don’t Smoke
You’ve heard it before: If you smoke, quitting is absolutely the best thing you can do for your health. Yes, it’s hard, but it’s also far from impossible. More than 1,000 Americans stop for good every day.
Tips 
  • Keep trying! It often takes six or seven tries before you quit for good.
  • Talk to a health-care provider for help.
  • Join a quit-smoking program. Your workplace or health plan may offer one.
For Parents and Grandparents
  • Try to quit as soon as possible. If you smoke, your children will be more likely to smoke.
  • Don’t smoke in the house or car. If kids breathe in your smoke, they may have a higher risk of breathing problems and lung cancer.
  • When appropriate, talk to your kids about the dangers of smoking and chewing tobacco. A health-care professional or school counselor can help.
4. Eat a Healthy Diet
Despite confusing news reports, the basics of healthy eating are actually quite straightforward. You should focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains and keep red meat to a minimum. It’s also important to cut back on bad fats (saturated and trans fats) and choose healthy fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats) more often. Taking a multivitamin with folate every day is a great nutrition insurance policy.
Tips
  • Make fruits and vegetables a part of every meal. Put fruit on your cereal. Eat vegetables as a snack.
  • Choose chicken, fish or beans instead of red meat.
  • Choose whole-grain cereal, brown rice and whole-wheat bread over their more refined counterparts.
  • Choose dishes made with olive or canola oil, which are high in healthy fats.
  • Cut back on fast food and store-bought snacks (like cookies), which are high in bad fats.
  • Buy a 100 percent RDA multivitamin that contains folate.
5. Drink Alcohol Only in Moderation, If at All
Moderate drinking is good for the heart, as many people already know, but it can also increase the risk of cancer. If you don’t drink, don’t feel that you need to start. If you already drink moderately (less than one drink a day for women, less than two drinks a day for men), there’s probably no reason to stop. People who drink more, though, should cut back.
Tips
  • Choose nonalcoholic beverages at meals and parties.
  • Avoid occasions centered around alcohol.
  • Talk to a health-care professional if you feel you have a problem with alcohol.
For Parents and Grandparents
  • Avoid making alcohol an essential part of family gatherings.
  • When appropriate, discuss the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse with children. A health-care professional or school counselor can help.
6. Protect Yourself from the Sun
While the warm sun is certainly inviting, too much exposure to it can lead to skin cancer, including serious melanoma. Skin damage starts early in childhood, so it’s especially important to protect children.
Tips
  • Steer clear of direct sunlight between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. (peak burning hours). It’s the best way to protect yourself.
  • Wear hats, long-sleeve shirts and sunscreens with SPF15 or higher.
  • Don’t use sun lamps or tanning booths. Try self-tanning creams instead.
For Parents and Grandparents 
  • Buy tinted sunscreen so you can see if you’ve missed any spots on a fidgety child.
  • Set a good example for children by also protecting yourself with clothing, shade and sunscreen.
7. Protect Yourself From Sexually Transmitted Infections
Among other problems, sexually transmitted infections – like human papillomavirus (HPV) – are linked to a number of different cancers. Protecting yourself from these infections can lower your risk.
Tips
  • Aside from not having sex, the best protection is to be in a committed, monogamous relationship with someone who does not have a sexually transmitted infection.
  • For all other situations, be sure to always use a condom and follow other safe-sex practices.
  • Never rely on your partner to have a condom. Always be prepared.
For Parents and Grandparents
  • When appropriate, discuss with children the importance of abstinence and safe sex. A health-care professional or school counselor can help.
  • Vaccinate girls and young women as well as boys and young men against HPV. Talk to a health professional for more information.
8. Get Screening Tests
There are a number of important screening tests that can help protect against cancer. Some of these tests find cancer early when they are most treatable, while others can actually help keep cancer from developing in the first place. For colorectal cancer alone, regular screening could save over 30,000 lives each year. That’s three times the number of people killed by drunk drivers in the United States in all of 2011. Talk to a health care professional about which tests you should have and when.
Cancers that should be tested for regularly:
  • Colon and rectal cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Lung cancer (in current or past heavy smokers)

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Health & Lifestyle

Sickle cell may get solution soon – scientists.

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Scientists in the U.S. have unveiled results of a small clinical trial that could mean an effective “cure” for sickle cell anemia, the painful and debilitating disease that inflicts many millions of people across the globe, mostly of African heritage and including some 100,000 African Americans in the U.S.



Researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) say they have used gene therapy techniques to add a “corrected” gene for healthy red blood cells into the bodies of nine test patients, replacing their diseased red blood cells caused by sickle cell anemia and effectively ridding them of signs of the disease.

NIH Director Francis Collins described the trial results as seemingly “spectacular”.

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“When you look at their blood counts and their blood smears, it looks like they don’t have it anymore,” Collins said on Monday (March 11) from his office at the NIH in Bethesda, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C.

Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder that causes protein crystals to form inside red blood cells, changing their shape from a flat disk into a crescent or sickle shape that then clogs up the small blood vessels and results in terrible episodes of pain and organ damage.

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But they believe the basic premise of introducing a corrected gene into the body holds promise for Africa provided a simpler, cheaper and less toxic delivery system than bone marrow transplant and the accompanying chemotherapy can be found.

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