How Much is that Doggie/Kitty in the Window?

An older song, but a very reasonable question, how much is that doggie/kitty going to cost over its lifespan?  Money wise, a significant amount for veterinary well care, sometimes emergency care, daily essentials and what about feeding costs?  More significantly, how much TIME can you as an owner devote to the care and well being of your pet?  Before investing time and money on what is essentially a lifetime commitment, make sure you do your homework prior to bringing a pet into your home.

Try not to adopt or purchase a pet on a whim or inspiration.  Make it a deliberate, well thought-out decision.  Buying a pet at a pet shop because it looks so adorable might not be a good way to add a long-term member to your family.  Don’t be impulsive.

 Do your groundwork and take the time to learn about the kind of pet you are considering buying or adopting.  A new pet can change the structure of a family and needs to be acceptable to all family members.  If you are purchasing a dog, learn about the special attributes of the breeds, as dog breeds are as different in their personalities and needs as people are.

 Here are a few questions you should ask yourself prior to making that decision:

Why do you want a pet?  Is this pet going to be a child substitute?  There is nothing wrong with that, but you may want a dog or possibly an unusually affectionate cat.  Your personality traits are very important when making a choice; should my pet be independent with little contact, an energetic companion who likes to jog or run or play Frisbee, or something in between?  Do you want to play with and caress it? Do you want to teach it tricks and interact with it?  Many families purchase/adopt a pet to be their children’s companion, but owning a pet and having a young child being forced to care for it does not instill responsibility; you need to be prepared to do more of the care yourself.

 Is this the right time in your life to get a pet? If you already have another pet, how well do you think they will interact with each other, how stable are your human relationships and how good is your health?  Quite a lot to consider; and, there’s still more.

How long do you expect your pet to live?  On average, dogs and cats live 12 – 16 years, sometimes even longer with proper veterinary care.  Small parrots live 8-14 years; larger ones 35-60 years.  Are you able to meet a pet’s specific needs, such as time to feed and clean it?  Many pets get bored if they do not have enough interaction; boredom can lead to a host of undesirable behaviors.  Match your pet’s needs to your home environment, whether you have a large backyard or a two-bedroom apartment.

If a specific breed of dog or cat is unimportant, consider these alternatives to purchasing at a pet store or breeder.  Go to your local animal shelter, there are plenty of pets waiting to share your home with lots of love and appreciation.  Your veterinarian may have adoptable pets in their office.  Consider a breed rescue group, they almost always have adoptable pets and you could possibly foster an animal to see if a pet is right for your home.

Choosing a pet, whether dog, cat, guinea pig, lizard or bird, is an important decision.  Do your research and make wise decisions.  When that new pet arrives at your home, all it will take is a wag of the tail, a soft purr or an appreciative look that lets you know it was all worthwhile.

(written in part by Judy Serrapica excerpts from Ron Hines DVM PhD


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