With this issue of the wonderful world of pets, I want to explore a few things that many pet owners wishes they’d researched a whole lot more before committing to the life of being a pet owner. Pets are amazing, and their main job is to bring love into the world, particularly for their owner(s). I currently own a Norwich Terrier, and he keeps me alive, vibrant and oh my God, running. If you saw the brilliant Christopher Guest’s Best In Show, then you know the Norwich breed. He was the terrier that took best in show. youtu.be/DC_PACr5cT8
A few questions, tips and suggestions before you become the owner of a pet. An animal will change you forever, and their love and eventual loss will be some of the most intense feelings in your life.
- What kind of pet is best for you, your lifestyle, your preferences, time, eccentricities, and a reciprocated joyfulness day to day?
- What will your life be like in five or even 10 years? This is important to strongly consider regardless of your current age. Will there be a lot of moving? Will your life and career be taking you to many places? If you are a millennial think about 10 years from now and imagine you and your pet. If you are aging what kind of pet may be lower maintenance for you in your mature years? Do you need a pet for safety reasons, for a constant companion? If your work requires you to travel a great deal, who will care for your pet?
- Do your research, both online as well as through live sources. I’m going to shift to dogs now for awhile. Most people see a breed they adore physically, and then they throw their heart and head completely for that breed. Keep your distance. Examine the type of diet, exercise, lifestyle, longevity, specific health issues the breed is notorious for, and then make your decision more fully informed. If you are rescuing a pet, sometimes that is not your option, but do the best to you can to understand all you can about the breed or mix you are taking into your life, because your life will change in many significant ways.
- A dog or cat can live 15 or more years, so envisioning how pet-friendly your life will be in the future is important. Consider whether you’re likely to be married, have children, move, change careers or undergo other major life changes. Keep in mind that as pets age, their needs change as well.
- Will you be adopting the pet alone or with someone? If you have a roommate or spouse, make sure that he or she is totally committed to a new pet, otherwise expect drama. I’ve seen many couples fight openly over the care of their pet. And even if everyone is on board with the idea of getting a pet, it’s important for people in the household to express concerns ahead of time. For instance, if shedding is a problem for someone, you may want to aim for a dog or cat with a shorter coat.
- How much time can you dedicate to your pet each day? Though dogs generally require more time and attention than cats, you should be able to give any pet your undivided attention. Dogs and cats who don’t receive daily interaction have a greater risk of developing behavioral problems, anxiety and obesity. And don’t forget energy. If you regularly come home late at night only to plop down in front of the TV, that’s not a good sign. Pets need and deserve real engagement, such as playing and walking, in addition to cuddles and snuggles.
- Can you afford to own an animal? Even if the cost of the pet itself is negligible, you need to factor in food, supplies and vet visits. According to the ASPCA, dog owners should expect to spend about $1,500 on a dog during the first year of ownership; cat owners should set aside at least $1,000 for that crucial first year.
- If you plan to split the costs with someone, make sure you’re all in agreement about the amount that will be spent on the pet. “Talking about costs in advance helps avoid surprises,” Shain says. “For example, is everyone on board with buying premium pet food? Do you want pet insurance?” While we’re on the subject, I advise owners to consider insurance when pets are young. It can save you thousands of dollars should a medical crisis arise, and they do.
- Do you have support from others if you’re working late or traveling? Many behavioral problems and even bladder infections result from not having a reliable system in place to relieve pets who are confined indoors. Imagine not being able to use the restroom for 14 hours. Look into boarding facilities, sitters and daycare before you adopt or own. Secure a network of people who can help you in a pinch. Make sure you have trustworthy friends and neighbors who will be there for you in an emergency.
- How much household destruction can you tolerate? Accidents are a given when you bring a pet into your life. There will be misunderstandings, miscommunication and missed potty breaks. Be patient. Within a few weeks of regular training, you’ll be well on your way to a dream relationship. The real question is how prepared an owner is to commit to early and consistent training. Destructive behavior, like garbage raiding, can be hazardous to your pet’s health. A pet who’s well-mannered and focused on toys is sure to be happier — and so is the family.
To summarize, here’s a quick list of questions anyone with a pet or considering a pet must grapple with.
If you already have a pet, is that animal likely to accept a new housemate? What do you hope to get out of the relationship? Do you have the time and resources needed for proper training? Do you have small children? Are you ready to make a long-term commitment? Do you live alone? With a partner? Are you ready to change your lifestyle? Do you live in an apartment or a house? Do you rent or own your home? Are you ready to accept that there can be slight damage to your property? Do you suffer from allergies? Are you financially prepared to take care of an animal? Do you know someone reliable to take care of your animal during your vacations? Can you spend quality time with your companion? Cat or dog? Other pets?
Take your time, do your homework, then take the leap toward immeasurable love in your daily life.