Remember the Tamagotchi craze of 1997? They were a great way to teach kids about the responsibility of taking care of a pet. No mess, and if your pet expired, you could just hit the restart button. Maybe your family wants something more snuggly than a digital pet, but you’re not ready to commit long-term to the real-life walking, woofing, peeing kind. Consider a temporary pet.
We’re not talking about fish. We’re talking about creatures with legs that your youngsters can love and then return. Here’s a roundup of where you can “rent” pets around Seattle.
Volunteering to foster a dog through the Seattle Animal Shelter can be an extremely rewarding experience for the whole family. As long as the dog’s primary caregiver is over 18 and has previous dog-handling experience, children are welcome to participate in the fostering experience. Foster dogs live with a family for an average of two to three months. Note that the dogs needing foster care the most are large, young and untrained, so go in with your eyes open. The Seattle Animal Shelter also needs foster homes for cats and critters such as rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters. The shelter provides all the supplies and equipment needed for taking care of the animal; you provide the space, food and love.
If fostering sounds like too much of a commitment, consider offering dog-walking services and bringing the kids along. Become a dog-sitter on Rover.com and get paid to walk dogs, board them in your home, do in-home visits or doggy day care. You set the schedule and the rate — money maker!
Check out the Facebook group for City Dog Share; it’s an informal, free dog-sitting co-op. Join this community of dog lovers and you might meet some friendly pups — or at least enjoy lots of cute pictures.
If you don’t want to be responsible for anyone’s animal, but want one your kid can pet for a while and give back, try cat visits. Kids ages 5 to 10 can read with a kitty at Seattle Humane, a no-kill shelter in Bellevue. Your kid gets a temporary furry friend while they work on reading skills. Win-win! After completing the volunteer application process, your kids can sign up for a 20-minute reading slot Mondays through Fridays. Free.
Cat cafés are a big thing in Japan, and entrepreneur Caitlin Unsell brought that idea back with her to Seattle. Neko: A Cat Cafe on Capitol Hill offers drinks and nibbles and a dozen or so cats to cuddle. There’s no minimum age for kids, but one adult must supervise every two children under 10. Reservations highly recommended. Be warned that many of the cats are adoptable: if you fall in love, your temporary pet might become a forever pet. $11 per person for 55 minutes.
Backyard chicken coops are as much a status symbol in Seattle as a Tesla in your driveway. They’re not as snuggly, but they are low-maintenance pets that will actually earn their keep; fresh eggs for breakfast! Tukwila-based Hens 4 Hire will rent you two egg-laying hens, a coop and all their supplies. Prices start at four weeks for $240. After your rental, Hens 4 Hire can come pick up the whole shebang. Or if you fall for the ladies (and scrambled eggs), you can buy the whole package.
Reptiles mostly live in their tanks. Many are curious and friendly and don’t mind being handled. The Pacific Northwest Herpetological Society (pnwhs.org) always needs foster homes for snakes, tortoises, turtles and bearded dragons. Fostering gives you a chance to try out a pet reptile without that long-term commitment. To foster (or adopt?), you’ll need to become a member of PNWHS. Annual fee $30 for a family.
Ponies are too big to be city pets, but they’re universally adored by kids. For pony rides, tried-and-true family favorites are Fox Hollow Farm in Issaquah and Remlinger Farms in Carnation. Fox Hollow Farm ($10 per person; surcharge for pony-ride tickets) is a magical place where peacocks and parrots roam free and kids can drive mini-ATVs. Remlinger Farms’ family fun park ($18.19 per person) opens for the season on June 20. It features child-scaled carnival rides and all the pony rides you can stand waiting in line for. When a lap or two just isn’t enough, head to Lang’s Horse and Pony Farm in Mount Vernon. Kids 3 and up can ride a pony through the wooded trails. ($20 for a 30-minute ride, $25 for a 45-minute ride)
It’s a hard truth, but a puppy is only cute until the kids get tired of picking up its poop. Before you find out the hard way that your kids aren’t ready to take on the responsibility of pet ownership, try a temporary pet.
And more on pets and the people who love them: Does your family have what it takes to raise a guide dog puppy?