When it comes to getting a furry family member, please don’t make it a snap decision: “Oh, that puppy/kitten is just so incredibly cute. I must have him now!” That cute critter, if cared for properly, will be a family member for the next 10 to 15 years, perhaps longer.
Most of us cannot foretell the future, but we can try to anticipate what might lie ahead. If your work requires relocation every couple of years (sales? heavy construction? military?), think how that might affect your future pet. Perhaps you’ve just retired, can spend lots of time with your new friend, but have a very limited and fixed income. Like aging humans, older pets also require more veterinary care, which can be very costly.
If you live with a spouse, significant other or housemate, make sure that they’re on board as well. If a spouse or significant other, this means total commitment to the pet’s well-being. That includes shared care: feeding, exercising, playing, cleaning up after and providing veterinary care. A housemate must agree to treat the pet with kindness and reinforce the owner’s training when needed.
Even after all parties agree about a new pet coming into the household, discuss all concerns before taking the final step. For example, someone may be put off by shedding fur because of allergies or for housekeeping reasons. If that’s the case, then do some research to find types of dogs or cats who shed little or no fur.
How much time can you devote to your pet? Although cats don’t need as much one-to-one time as dogs do, both need daily play time and exercise — along with hugs and snuggles — with you. Deprived of this, both dogs and cats have greater risk of developing behavioral and physical problems. If your workdays are long and all you want to do is lie on the coach when you get home and click that remote, then perhaps a pet shouldn’t be in your life.
Can you afford the care that should be given to a pet? Let’s say that this new family member was free (no shelter-adoption or breeder fee). There are, however, still the costs of food, supplies and veterinary care. According to the ASPCA, in the first year expect to spend $1500 for a dog and $1000 for a cat. Quite a sum of money, isn’t it?
Here is a brief list of what that buys: initial veterinary checkup, all vaccinations (even if your kitty lives strictly indoors), spaying/neutering, food, a cushion for sleeping, toys and so on. Buy the best pet food that you can. Your pets (and your wallet) will thank you in the years ahead because they will be healthier, thus fewer vet visits. If splitting the cost of care with others, discuss beforehand how pet-care funds will be spent.
Then there is the possible destruction of your household. Kittens may climb curtains and claw furniture. Puppies may raid the garbage or destroy pricey pillows. Most kittens quickly learn how to use a litter box, but puppies take longer to housetrain, so there will be multiple accidents. Are you up to the task of consistent training on a daily basis? If not, then perhaps a pet shouldn’t be in your life.
There are easily at least a half-dozen important questions and concerns that you should consider before bringing a new pet home, but space does not allow including them. The ones given here, however, leave plenty to think about.
As a final note to this week’s article, time is running out on your chance to win a tree! So please stop by Flower Tree Nursery to buy raffle tickets ($1 each or six for $5) for a gorgeous floribunda crabapple tree (valued at $81.99!). All proceeds from this raffle benefit the dogs and cats in our care. Tickets can also be purchased at the shelter during normal business hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The drawing will be held on May 31 at Flower Tree, and you don’t have to be present to win.
This week’s article was contributed by Betty Duncan, a member of the CAPS board of directors.