Are you thinking of bringing a new pet into your home? Adopting an animal is a wonderful and 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 ask yourself some important questions.
- Impulse or commitment: Why do I want a pet?
Many people like the idea of a pet or can’t resist a cute puppy or kitten, but don’t think about the changes it will make in their life. Pets are companions for life. They 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 to make.
- For the children: Pets teach kids responsibility, right?
Problems more than likely arise in a household if you adopt a pet under the assumption that he/she is for the children to take care of in order to learn responsibility. Getting any pet must be a family decision and a family responsibility. For children to understand the routine of pet care and actively participate in the pet’s care, it is advised to wait until they are at least seven years old. Kids are also enthusiastic in the beginning but can tire quickly of the routine of pet care, especially the messy tasks. Remember, ultimately the parent is responsible for the pet. 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?
- Lifestyle: What type of relationship am I seeking?
All pets change your lifestyle. If you are planning on having an outdoor dog, think again. Dogs are social animals and crave the company of humans, their ‘pack.’ Leaving a dog exclusively outdoors will lead to behaviour issues and undermine the psychological well-being of your dog. Isolation is unreasonable. Many people end up banishing a dog to the outside when they underestimate the time commitment.
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 animals and disease. The life span of an outdoor cat is much shorter than that of an indoor cat.
- Timing: Is this the right time for getting a pet?
If you are planning to move 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 evaluate 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: Are my living arrangements suitable?
All members of the household should be in agreement of the pet you choose. Also if you are renting, make sure you have permission from your landlord. 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 don’t need as much space as people think, while many small and medium breeds need lots of space. It is the outdoor exercise and play area that are important. If you are in a house you need to have a secure fenced yard if you get a dog.
- Dedication: Will I be a responsible pet owner?
Cleaning up after your pet is necessary, whether it be scooping poo in the park or cleaning a litter box. This is important for the health of yourself, your family, your animals and the community. Bathing and grooming is also a key component of looking after most pets. Brushing animals with long hair is necessary to prevent painful matting and tangles. Dental care is also essential.
- Time: Do I have the time for a pet?
Different animals will require different amounts of your time. The amount of extracurricular activity you do, the amount of time you are home, and how often you go away on holidays or work trips, are all factors to consider when choosing a pet. It is recommended that you provide a minimum of one hour a day of active play and walks for your dog or cat.
- Cost: Can I afford a pet?
The cost of pet care can vary but expect the average dog to cost a minimum of $1800 per year and a cat approximately $1100. This doesn’t include the initial one-time costs including the adoption/purchase fee and basics such as leashes, collars and toys. Remember you will also need to register your pet with the local council and this will be an ongoing annual cost. All pets require an annual visit to the veterinarian. There will also be visits due to illness or accidents and preventative care (fleas and worming). Don’t forget that unsupervised puppies and even adult dogs can inadvertently destroy items such as shoes, TV remote controls, books, couches and other items.
- Additional pets: Will my new pet get along with my existing pets?
Are other animals in the household likely to accept a new pet? Not all dogs and cats are willing to share their homes and owners. Consider the additional work, time and cost that owning an extra animal can cause. You will also need to investigate the maximum number of pets you are permitted to own in your council area. This can vary between councils and for additional animals, the council may charge a fee for a special permit.