I would love to hear what you all think about this one. Do kids need pets? Or if not need, do they benefit hugely from having one?

We have just come home from a very wonderful house-swap in Suffolk with a lovely family who keep chickens. Little K loved collecting the eggs and feeding them dandelion leaves. B just adored them. In every, tiny respect. She desperately wants chickens for pets. And K loved the cats too. All four of them!

I’m anti-pets traditionally since the kids arrived. We had a beautiful cat called Hugo before the girls. He was needy and we babied him. We loved him, and made a big fuss of him. He was a dainty kitten on arrival from the rescue, but these days he’s a massive, fat tom-cat (although with the interesting bits deducted).

He definitely has some kind of wildcat in him and from his markings and behaviour we think its possible there’s a bit of Bengal. Every bank holiday weekend, he would get into a fight and end up with terrible abscesses, or scraped paws and humiliation and cost us a night at the emergency vets and a few hundred pounds. He would murder indiscriminately. From slow worms to pigeons. He’s intelligent and capable and learned quickly to open a door using the handle (we had to swap to knobs).

Hugo got very stressed living with us after the kids coming along (and due to building work that went on here for years). He stopped cleaning himself and started scaring the kids; scratching and climbing into cots.

B developed asthma and although we didn’t let him upstairs, we realised her breathing was irritated by Hugo’s dander.

We would never have given him up to a rescue centre – he was our very first baby. But when we heard about his present owner, a woman with every capacity for ‘mad cat lady’ inside her alongside a distinguished career as a vet, a thatched cottage and a yen for a ‘Cat with a personality’; we jumped at the chance for Hugo to have a happier home.

He loves it. She takes him down to visit her flock of sheep on her golf buggy. He comes at the ‘dingaling’ of a bell. He eats buttered chestnuts and all sorts of wildlife. And she loves him sincerely. We get an update every now and again, and I know that we made the absolute best decision.

But of course, our inability to provide Hugo with a forever home, leaves us filled with guilt and very reluctant to take on something else.

We probably have just enough space for a few bantams, but they smell and wreck the garden (we would want them out when we’re out, but would have to keep them in a pen the rest of the time, as there are foxes on the railway at the end of the garden).

I can see that my girls would love something to care for. Anything very furry is probably out of the question due to the asthma. I don’t need anything else to look after, and feel we shouldn’t after we couldn’t manage our lovely boy. Pets aren’t toys.

But do the kids need a pet? I hear wonderful stories of kids and their dogs, rabbits and cats. I hear pet chickens can be tame and wonderful. We love eggs.

The girls have seen a chink in our usually tough no-pet exterior and are trying to work it.

Please. I would love some advice on this one.