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Is It Time For a New Pet?

Is It Time For a New Pet?

Pets With a Mission Inc: Is It Time For a New Pet?

Lately, you have been thinking about getting a new pet.  Before you hop in the car to go shopping for a pet, there are many things to carefully consider before deciding to bring an animal into the household.    

A good place to start is, do all members of the household want to get a pet?  If the answer is no, it probably is not a good time to obtain a new animal.   Have a discussion about why the person does not want a pet.  Discussions may resolve concerns such as:  Who will take the dog walking?  Who will clean the cat’s litter box?  Who will be responsible for feeding the hamster?  Will certain parts of the house be off limits to the animal?  If one person does not like cats, would they be willing to allow a rabbit to join the family?   If a person does not like reptiles, would they accept an iguana living in a climate-controlled shed in the backyard where they would not have to see or interact with the animal?  Fear of an animal is another issue.  Around age three or four, many children go through a period where they are afraid of dogs.  A dog should not be brought home to “help” them overcome their fears.  The child should not be afraid in their own home and it would be an uncomfortable situation for the dog.  Often, by the time the child is seven or eight they have decided they like dogs.  Then, the family could look at bringing a dog into the family.   What about a family member who has allergies?  Many people are allergic to cats.  No one wants to be miserable in their own home and getting allergy shots might not be a reasonable option.  Maybe there is another species they could be around without triggering an allergic reaction.  It is a difficult situation when only some family members want a pet.  There are times when waiting to get new a pet is the best option for the whole family.

If there is already a pet living in the household, how will they react to another pet in their territory?  My first Blue Heeler was a very social dog who enjoyed playing with other dogs.  But she was happy to leave them and head back home.  She would have tolerated but not been happy having another dog in her space.  As a result, she was an only dog.  Other animals may welcome a companion animal or two.

Are you willing to devote time and effort into a new pet?  Getting a pet is a life-long commitment so the decision to get a pet should never be impulsive.  Most dogs live twelve to fifteen years.  Cats kept inside may live twenty years or more.  Canaries may reach 15 years old while parrots live forty to fifty years.  So, getting a pet definitely is a long-term commitment. 

Domesticated animals are not meant to be put in a cage, pen, or backyard and left alone for the majority of time.  They need more than spending five minutes with them at feeding time or taking them on a ten minute walk every few days.  Left alone, they will find their own entertainment that you may not appreciate:  digging holes, excessive barking, destroying lawn furniture, or becoming an escape artist.  However, the more time you spend with them, the better for both of you.  The companionship is great and animals can help relieve stress.  Short training sessions of basic manners or teaching tricks can become a fun bonding time. 

Another concern is the cost of having pets.  At a shelter, the fee for a pet may be under $100 while a rescue organization may charge several hundred dollars.  If you purchase a pure bred from a responsible breeder, the cost might be several thousand dollars.  Even if the animal is free, there are still costs.  Dogs need a collar, harness, leash, bowls, bedding and toys.  Cats need a collar, litter box, bowls, and bedding.  Fish need an aquarium with an air filtration system.  Guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits and birds need cages, bedding or nesting materials, and food and water containers.  Of course, all pets need good quality food that is made for their individual nutritional needs.  In addition, some animals such as rabbits need regular quantities of hay in addition to pellet food and they will appreciate some fresh greens or fruit from time to time.  Almost all pets appreciate a few treats, too.  If you travel for work or take vacations without pets, you will need to factor in the cost of boarding or paying for a pet sitter.

There is another cost that adds up over time – healthcare.  Dogs, cats, and ferrets need routine rabies and distemper vaccines.  Other vaccines may be recommended based on the animal’s lifestyle.  In addition, dogs and cats in most areas of the country need regular heartworm and flea and tick preventatives.  If you obtain a dog or cat from a shelter or rescue, it is likely that the animal will have had spay or neuter surgery before adoption.  However, if a younger animal is adopted the cost of surgery will be paid for by the adopting family.  Of course, we do not want to think about it, but animals do get sick and need veterinary care.  It might be a one-time condition that is resolved with inexpensive medication.  But maybe it is something more.  Some animals have diabetes and need insulin.  Some damage knee ligaments and need surgeries.  Other animals develop cancers which can be treated with surgery or chemo therapy.  As expected, veterinary treatment can be very expensive and may require a family member to take time off from work to take the pet in for medical treatment.

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