We see it all too often. Pets are given as gifts and then once the novelty wears off, the pet is neglected. Bunnies and chicks given at Easter grow up and are no longer as cute and cuddly. Puppies and kittens grow into dogs and cats, but prior to growing up, they need a loving family and they need time and attention and training. It's a decades long responsibility and not one to be taken lightly when the holidays roll around.
Have your children been begging for a new puppy, kitten or other small housepet? How can you tell if your children are ready for the responsiblity of pet ownership? If you don't have children but are considering getting a pet of your own, how do you know that you're ready for the responsibility?
It's an unfortunate fact that many pets end up in shelters because they were bought on a whim (many puppies were purchased because of 101 Dalmations, sales of Jack Russell terriers soared because of the popularity of Eddie on the television show Frasier, bunnies and baby chicks are routinely given as pets at Easter) If the novelty wears out or the cute puppy grows into a large dog, or the tiny kitten becomes a full grown cat, you need to be able to make the commitment to that pet to raise him from the time you adopt him until he crossed the Rainbow Bridge.
Here are some questions you should ask to determine whether you're ready for the responsibility of pet ownership:
- Do you have the time to commit to owning a pet? Keep in mind that puppies take more time and effort than do older dogs and they also take more time than do kittens. In addition to needing to be kept occupied so she becomes a good member of the family, you will need to housebreak your puppy and leaving her alone for hours at a time will lead to poor socialization. Kittens, while they may require less overall training and maintenance still need company. Other pets such as rodents or reptiles are pretty happy being left to their own devices, but spending time with them when they’re young may lead to them being happier to be picked up and handled when they’re older.
- Who is responsible for the new pet? If it’s a child, is he really ready for all that is involved with owning and caring for a pet? Are you, as the adult ready to step in if necessary? Consider that bringing a new puppy home is like bringing a baby into the house – it needs to be cared for and loved. How long will your pet be home alone during the day? What kind of work schedule do you have? Are you able to get up in the middle of the night to take your puppy out to do his business? All dogs/puppies depending on their size need exercise on a daily basis. Do you have time for that?
- New puppies are cuddly, squirmy masses of joy and comfort but they can try your patience. Do you have the patience to deal with yet another puddle on your living room floor? What if she chews up your favorite pair of shoes? You need to be willing to take the time to housebreak your puppy, show her that it’s not all right to chew shoes by offering alternatives and puppy friendly toys. Patience truly is a necessary virtue when it comes to training a puppy.
- Before you make the investment in adoption of a pet, ask a vet how much you can plan to spend for XYZ type of puppy or cat for veterinary care, spaying or neutering, annual check ups, vaccines, licensing and other pet care costs. Also, you need to figure the cost of food into your weekly budget. Again, the type and size of your pet will determine how much you will spend on food. If you have a kitten that will be using a litter box, don’t forget to figure in the costs of litter into your expenses.
- Will you be bringing your new pet home to be an “only child” or do you have other pets in the house? Have you considered how the other pets will feel about a newcomer? Some older pets have very little tolerance for the antics of puppies and kittens while other older pets are more than patient with them. You need to know your pet’s personality to know whether she will be welcoming of a new addition to the family.
Shelters are filled with adoptable pets of all ages, shapes and sizes but before you go looking for a new family member make sure you are ready for the decades long responsibility that comes with it. While we can’t stress enough how satisfying it is to have a pet in your life and in your home (they are proven stress relievers!) you need to be prepared for the good, the bad and the occasional chewed up shoe!
We’d love to hear your adoption success stories and how you prepared for a new addition.