Pets Are Family Too

By: Kristie Franks, MS

With Christmas right around the corner and the New Year bearing down on us, we all get to spend time with family and reflecting on things we love and maybe even things we want to change. Christmas brings gifts of all kinds into our homes and a lot of times these gifts are pets of every type imaginable. Kittens, puppies, birds, reptiles and pocket pets are all given as gifts. Owning a pet can help teach kids responsibility and time management, but ultimately the care falls on the adults in the household.

Pets are not novelties. They should be a lifetime commitment and not an impulse purchase. Pets require planning and adjustments to make sure they are comfortable within the household. Research should be done prior to their purchase to know what all is required for proper care and what all this may cost. Food, housing, vet care and training costs can add up, but it is our responsibility to make sure the animal we chose to bring into our house is considered an important member of the family. Does this mean pets should be treated just like humans? No, but we should be good stewards for them since WE chose to bring them into our homes. Does the lizard you bought need a heated rock or lamp? Does the parrot’s diet need to just be seeds? Does the kitten need vaccines and preventative care for parasites?

There are many things to consider when you get a pet. Will you be moving soon or are you prepared to own a parrot for the 20+ years? Many people fall in love with an animal because someone else owns it. You see the well cared for and fully trained animal and want one just like it and don’t stop to think of all the work that goes into it. I had someone tell me once “We need a dog like you girl” because she is so good with kids. I told them that she is a product of constant training for the first couple of years of her life and continual socialization and training since then. It is a give and take relationship. The pets do not come ready made to interact and behave well. Behavior modification seems easy, but if you have never done it, it is harder than it seems.

Another Christmas present is horses and ponies. Usually, most have done their homework before buying a horse, but at the same time, many fail to recognize the monthly costs of feed and hay alone. Every horse is different. They all have their own unique personality and not every horse loves people though it may be good at its job. If purchasing a horse, make sure you learn how to properly place the tack on the animal and know what kind of bit or hackamore best suits the animal. Not all saddles fit every horse. Learn those differences and learn what kind of veterinary care they may need each year.

Pets should never be looked at as an object. They are living, breathing creatures that deserve to be treated well and trained properly so they can have a long happy life in our homes. Always consider what it is going to take to make the new pet a part of the family. Pets can add so much joy to our lives, but it is our responsibility to provide them the necessary tools to fit in as best they can. Take the time to think through the entire process before purchasing a Christmas pet so you can ensure they live a long and happy life with you and your family.