So you want a pet? There is a lot to choose from. There are more than 6.5 million animals in the US that need forever homes. It is not easy and you need to know the right answers to ask yourself before you make that leap in adding another mouth to feed in your home.
There are many reasons why people choose to adopt. It can be a way to prepare for parenthood, a loving and playful companion, to relieve stress, or specialized placement for people who have specific needs or lifestyles. I even heard one potential parent, say that the pet went well with her curtains. Ugh!
Regardless of the why, choosing to adopt a pet has all sorts of stressful, yet exciting, feelings! Although excitement abounds in the idea of having a new pet (the cuddling, the cuteness, the newness of it all), one must remember that it is not for the immediate gratification of having a new kitten or puppy but a life long commitment. They are with you for life. Are you ready? Have you done your research?
There are a few questions one must ask when looking to adopt a pet.
How do you envision your life in 10 years?
Pets can live 15+ years, so envisioning how your life will be in the future is very important. As I mentioned, adoption is for life, so consider whether you’re likely to be married, have children, move, change careers or undergo other major life changes. How will you help your pet cope with these life changes as you and your pet go through them? How will you deal with medical issues with your pet? Are you prepared to pay for upcoming vet bills, to keep your pet safe? Keep in mind that as pets age, their needs will change as well.
Are you adopting the pet with someone else?
Make sure that everyone is on board with adopting a new pet. And even if everyone is on board with the idea of getting a pet, it’s important for all in the household to express concerns ahead of time.
How much time can you devote to your pet each day?
All pets require time and attention. Though dogs generally require more time and attention than other pets, you should be able to give your pet at least two hours of personal love and attention per day. Also, think about energy levels. How much energy does your pet require? Are you able to keep up? Do you need an older less active pet? What about daily routines? Are always away from home? Do you travel? Do you come home late at night and drop down in front of the TV? All pets need and deserve real engagement with their families, such as playing and walking, in addition to cuddles and snuggles. If you find that you are out, more than home — and the pet cannot travel with you — maybe a pet is not for you.
Can you afford to own an animal?
Outside of the cost to get the pet, pet owners should expect to spend about $1000 on vet bills (spaying, neutering, vaccines, health checkups, etc.) and $2000+ on food, toys, training classes and other items for their pet during the first year of ownership.
Also, contemplate costs that may be coming down the line. For example, pet injuries, pet medical equipment and diagnosis, boarding, pet insurance, buying special or premium pet food? Realizing that as pet’s get older the more care they will need.
Do you have support groups in place?
What will happen to your pet when you are away. What happens to your pet, if you get pet allergies, are working late, traveling, or if something happens to you? Many pet owners have problems as a result from not having a reliable system in place to take care of pets in these situations. Before you adopt a pet, you may want to put into place daycare plans or support in these situations and have your trustworthy ‘best buddies’ support network group lined up to help when you need help in a pinch.
The Young and Restless. How much household destruction can you tolerate?
Pets have accidents, they destroy items in your house. As a pet owner, you must understand that accidents are a given when you bring a pet into your life. How prepared are you? Can you handle the cleanup and costs associated with destruction? Do you have the patience to figure out the problems behind the behavior? Or do you plan on returning the pet as soon as something is destroyed?
There are any number of reasons why pets act out. Young pets need potty training, they go through teething, etc. Older pets have a hard time holding and have to go often. When pet’s get sick they act out by urinating out of the kitty box. Bored pets act out and chew on everything to release the energy. Some of it has to do with training; i.e. garbage raiding. Some of it is a medical problem. There are also behavior problems through misunderstandings and miscommunications. Do you have the patience to understand your pet’s needs? A pet who has the attention of their owner, who knows what their pet’s need, is happier — and so is the family.
Adding more than one pet to a household.
The good news is that most pets, crave companionship — multi-pet households tend to reduce stress and anxiety and foster healthy inter-species behavior. Again, do you have the patience to introduce a new pet? Can you take time off to be with your pets during this transition process? New pet’s cannot be brought home and placed down in the middle of the room and forgotten in a multi-pet household (unless you want the new pet hurt and incur major medical bills). There is a two week acclimation period for all new pet’s added to the household. For further information on how to acclimate a new pet into a multi-pet household, click here.
Why are you adopting? Make a list.
Oh! She is so cute! I want her. She goes so well with my curtains!
Too many pet owners get a pet only to complain that the pet does not fit well with their household lifestyle. Before you adopt, create a list of the activities / questions about your families health, your activities, pet perks (such as playing ball or going for car rides) and pet cons. Write in what you expect from your new pet and what you have to offer your new pet. Truth is in the pudding. Identify expectations and remain realistic about the relationship. Compare and see if it can be done.
Do you have small children?
How will your children react to a new pet? How will the new pet react to your children? Do their personalities go well together or do they clash? Not all pets are created equal. If you have children, show them the rules of safe pet conduct: No teasing, pulling, pushing or climbing on animals. You’ll also need to spend ample time with your children in meeting different animals, so you can observe tolerance levels, responsiveness to training and the ability to bounce back from jarring incidents. The pet will tell you if they are up to the task or need to run for their lives.
Pay attention and trust your instincts
When you meet a potential new pet, pay attention to your gut. Observe the behavior and health of the animal, and pay close attention to any other signs that could be telling you something. You want to bring home a healthy, happy pet that fits in with your family.