Thinking of adopting a pet

Consider the Following Questions First…
Adopting an animal can be a rewarding experience. However, it is also a commitment for the animal’s lifetime, so making the right match is critical. Before you adopt, you need to answer some very important questions.

Why do I want a pet? Commitment or Impulse?
Many people like the idea of a pet or can’t resist a cute puppy or kitten, but don’t consider the changes it will make in their life. Pets are companions who live with us and depend on us for all of their needs. This is a great responsibility and one that should not be taken lightly. The kind of relationship you build with your pet is dependent on the commitment you are willing and able to make.

For the kids:  Pets teach kids responsibility, right?
Getting any pet must be a family decision and a family responsibility. You will have problems in your household if you adopt a pet under the assumption he/she is for the kids to take care of to learn responsibility. For children to understand the routine of pet care and actively participate in the pet’s care, it is suggested to wait until your kids are at least seven years old. Kids are also excited in the beginning but can tire quickly of the routine of pet care, especially the messy tasks like scooping poop. Remember, in the end the parent is responsible for the pet. You must also consider the life span of the animal you choose as well. Are you willing to be responsible for the pet once your children leave home? Think in the long term, not impulse.

Lifestyle:  What type of relationship am I seeking?
All pets change your way of life. If you are planning on having an (http://www.spca.bc.ca/welfare/campaign-issues/tethered-dogs.html: Tethered Dogs) outdoor dog, think again. Dogs are social animals and crave the company of humans as their “pack.” Leaving a dog exclusively outdoors will lead to behavioural issues and undermine the emotional well being of your dog. Isolation is unreasonable not to mention emotionally and physically unhealthy for dogs. Many people end up banishing a dog to the outside when they underestimate the time commitment and efforts required to make sure their pet is well adjusted or the dog creates more work for the guardians than they anticipated.

Cats, too, are social and are safer and healthier if kept indoors providing they have a stimulating indoor environment. If left outside they are victim to cars, other cats and disease. The life span of an outdoor cat is much shorter than that of an indoor cat.

As for small pets, they are all to be kept indoors. An outdoor enclosure can be built for them so that they have some exposure to the outdoors, but it is not necessary. Remember that store-bought cages are often too small for animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs to live in without plenty of out-of-cage exercise. Always purchase the largest possible enclosure for your small animals.

Timing: Is this the right time for getting a pet?
If you are planning to move, going to school or are not home frequently, this may not be a good time. Pets need stability and routine to feel secure. Consider your future plans and assess if a pet will fit in with those plans. Cats have an especially difficult time adjusting to new environments and often run away from new surroundings unless care is taken to keep them secure until they adjust to their new environment. Getting a pet should never be a spur of the moment decision. Their life is dependent on you.

Stability:  Is my home suitable?
All members of the household should be in agreement of the pet you choose. Also if you are renting make sure pets are allowed and learn what rules and regulations apply. Do you have enough space for the pet you are considering? Most animals don’t need a lot of room but some will require more than others. Surprisingly some breeds of large dogs, like greyhounds, don’t need as much space as people think while many medium breeds need lots of space. Outdoor exercise is important. If you are in a house, having a fenced yard is ideal. However, whether you live in a house or an apartment, taking your dog for walks is a great physical and mental exercise for both owner and pooch.

Dedication: Will I be a responsible pet owner?
Spaying and neutering are very important especially for cats, dogs and rabbits. Not only will it control the pet overpopulation but it helps prevent illness and behaviour problems down the road.

Cleaning up after your pet is necessary whether it be scooping poop in the park or cleaning a litter box or cage. It is important for the health of the animals, you and the respect of your neighbours and their property.

Grooming is also an important part of having pets. Clipping nails of dogs, cats and rabbits is a necessary part of regular maintenance. Brushing animals with long hair is necessary to prevent tangles. This includes both cats and dogs. Dental care is also essential. Brushing your dog’s teeth will prevent dental problems, costly dental bills and improve his/her breath.

Time:  Do you have the time for a pet?
Different animals will require different amounts of your time. The amount of activity you do, the amount of time you are home, what to do when you go away are all factors to consider when choosing a pet. In general, You need to provide a minimum of an hour a day of active play and walks for your dog or cat.

Cost:  Can you afford a pet?
The costs of pet care vary but expect the average dog to cost about $? per year and a cat about $?. You must also consider the initial one-time costs that include the adoption cost and basic items such as leashes, toys and collars.

All pets require an annual visit to the veterinarian. There will also be visits due to illness or accidents and preventative care (fleas, heartworm). Don’t forget that unsupervised puppies and even adult dogs will accidentally destroy items such as shoes, TV remote controls, books, couches and other items. These aren’t figured into totals.

Check on licensing by-laws in your community as well. Many require dogs to have license tags each year, and some areas, such as Toronto, require annual tags for cats too.

Research, research, research prior to adoption, so that you can make an informed decision on the affordability of pet ownership.