Weeds: The eternal question: Kids or critters?

People come up to me and ask, “Randy, should we have a baby or get an animal?” I’ve raised three human beings and a variety of other species, so am something of an expert. Kids or pets? Either can bring you joy and satisfaction. A lot of inanimate objects can do that for a lot less work. But we’re going to ignore that here.

At various times, we’ve had cats, dogs, horses, chickens, ducks, geese, a hamster, a guinea pig, a gerbil, a gecko, pot bellied pigs, pygmy goats, a hedgehog, two girls, and a boy. Currently, we are down to a cat, two geese, and an occasional grandkid. We think coyotes got some of them. The animals, I mean, not the kids.

Right up front, you should know children are going to cost more. You can run a budget on an animal quickly: feed, vet bills, pet carrier. I’d like to give you some final numbers on what a child costs. We’re still working on that.

A clear advantage to a pet is that you can return it if it doesn’t work out. Or give them away on Craigslist. Once you bring that baby home, you own it. Sure, there is a short amount of fun that goes into making a baby. But that’s about twenty minutes. Twenty minutes of fun in proportion to eighteen years of commitment is a ratio of 20 to 9,460,000. Think about it.

Since kids and pets are in fact animate objects, you’re going to have to feed them. It’s easier to feed animals. Steve’s Feed (now Springfield Creamery Co-op) always had what we needed: cat food, dog food, horse feed, chicken feed, etc. Steve had something in the warehouse to feed anything that Noah had on the boat. Okay, he did have to special order in penguin feed that one time.

Children are more complicated, nutritionally speaking. They need variety. You can’t just reach for a bag of Purina Natural Select Human Food every morning. Plus, they can be fussy. Animals aren’t fussy. The gecko was excited whenever a mealworm showed up in his tank. He didn’t look at us and say, “Mealworms? Again?”

Animals don’t badger you for junk food either. Kids will spend November eating Halloween candy and December eating Christmas candy if you let them. So you have to hide the candy. Or at least eat all the good stuff. For sure the Snickers and Kit Kats.

Children and pets both need to be vaccinated. Neither likes it especially, but veterinarians are gentler than doctors. An advantage cats and dogs have over children is there are no knuckleheads on YouTube telling you that vaccinations cause afflictions like liberal thought and chronic socialism. The good news is kids don’t get distemper, whatever that is. Unfortunately, they do get every cold and flu bug going through daycare and bring it home to pass to you.

Another common trait that children and pets share are certain bodily functions. These are commonly referred to as p** and p**p. (I checked the Journal Stylebook, and the use of p** and p**p is discouraged. But I think you get my drift.)

There is no way to sugar coat two or three years of diapers. Here’s where having a good and useful spouse can make all the difference. Still, there will come a time when child is particularly reeksome, and you will look at your spouse and realize both of you just now thought of some pressing task that can’t be put off. Marriages are made or broken in just such moments as these.

Cats have litter boxes which aren’t exactly pleasant. Dogs can be trained to go outside. You might be tempted to do that with your toddler. House-breaking a kid would save on diapers for sure. But you’d still have to pick up after them with a p**p scoop. (Or should it be p**p sc**p?) Hamsters, horses, chickens, etc. only need to be mucked out every so often. You can wait till you’re in the proper mood for that duty.

At some point, a child will be marched off to school to learn things like algebra and all the stuff you knew once but forgot. Depending on how long your kid stretches out this school thing, it can be quite costly. Here, animals have a distinct advantage. They have instincts. There will be times when your kid is a teenager, you’re going to wish he had some of those. Or even the brains that God gave an earthworm.

There is really nothing comparable to the human teen years in the animal world. Oh, there are days you might wonder why your hamster did something stupid like getting his food dish stuck in the wheel. Teenagers do stupid stuff every day. Animals also don’t talk back to you while they roll their eyes. Geckos roll their eyes to moisten them, but they mean no malice. And they won’t follow an eye-roll with “DA-AD!”

You won’t have to teach your pet how to drive a car. That could add years to your life in reduced stress. An animal is not going to start bugging you to get them a cell phone when they’re eight years old. You aren’t going to have to listen to a whiny gerbil say, “I’m the only gerbil in my grade without a phone!”

As I said, we have a grandkid now, and that is fun. Here’s an advantage for having children vs. getting a pet: a grandkid might even look a little like you. If your guinea pig looks like you, that’s not a good sign. It probably means you should get a haircut or drop a few pounds.

In an attempt to answer once and for all the important question of whether it is better to have a child or get an animal, I have graphed out all the positives and negatives of each option. You can see that at our website babyorpet-smackdown.com. A comprehensive consideration of all the factors leads to a clear conclusion: get chickens. I’ve always loved chickens and am not surprised to see them come out on top.

That said, a lot of you are going to have a baby anyway. And once you get past the drool and spit-up and diapers, they can be highly entertaining. One point heavily in the favor of having a child is snuggling with them before bedtime while reading a book. You can sort of do this with a dog. But it’s not something I’d even try with a chicken.

A final point in favor of children is they might visit you when you’re old and in the nursing home. If your chicken comes to see you, staff might not let them in.

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