by Tyler Williams, DVM
While sharing your home with an animal companion can be one of the most rewarding and enjoyable experiences of one's life, it is important to remember that pet ownership is also a big responsibility! Pet owners must be committed to providing for all of a pet's needs for the entire life of that animal. This includes housing/shelter, food & water, training, grooming, exercise and veterinary care. It is essential that you take the time to thoroughly research the basics of pet care and make sure you are familiar with the unique attributes of the breed before acquiring a new pet to ensure you are well prepared to meet of all your pet's needs.
Acquiring a pet should never be an impulsive decision. Tragically, animal shelters receive thousands of unwanted/abandoned animals each year as a result of inadequately considered decisions on pet ownership. Before you make the decision to become a pet owner, review these considerations to help ensure you can provide a good forever home for a new family member:
Can I afford a pet?
The costs of pet ownership will vary depending on the animal you choose. Remember that there are many costs involved with pet ownership that are often overlooked. Up front costs for puppies and kittens include adoption/purchasing fees, frequent veterinary exams, vaccinations, de-wormings, training, leashes/collars, microchipping and spay or neuter surgery. You will also need to be prepared to cover continual expenses for adult animals associated with feeding, boarding, bedding, toys, grooming, training and annual health checks and veterinary care. You will also need to ensure you can pay for any emergency medical treatment required in the event of injury or illness. Some of these costs can be mitigated with a Pet Health Insurance plan, such as ASPCA Pet Health Insurance.
Do I have enough time for a pet?
Caring for a pet takes a considerable amount of time each and every day. Training, exercise, feeding, grooming, socialization, and playing are all fundamental aspects of pet ownership. Some pets require more of your time than others - puppies and kittens are a particularly large time investment - but every pet requires daily care so you need to be sure you have time available or have someone you trust be able to take the time to meet these daily requirements for your pet.
Can I commit to a pet for its whole life?
Pets are a long term commitment. The average lifespan of a dog is 10-12 years and cats can live 15-20 years and their senior years often require additional veterinary care to keep them healthy. Also remember that young kittens and puppies will be constantly growing so be prepared to provide for the animal when it is a full grown adult too. This includes appropriately sized bedding/collars/harnesses/leashes, larger food volumes, and larger space requirements.
Will a pet fit into my lifestyle?
Daily working hours, relationship commitments, vacationing, and social life events are all factors that need to be considered before owning a pet. You'll have to consider if your own housing accepts pets and when you need to move, your options may be limited by having a pet. You must be sure that your lifestyle can accommodate all of your pet's specific needs as they rely on you completely for their care. Before you own a pet, get to know the breed you are interested in and do enough research to be familiar with what kind of schedule you would need to keep in order to meet its needs. Some animals are high-energy and require lots of regular exercise while others are more sedentary and can be self sufficient if left alone for longer periods of time. Make sure you can make accommodations for pet care if you ever need to be away from home.
Is my home pet friendly?
There are many aspects to consider when determining if you can provide suitable accommodations for a pet. Don't forget to factor in the size of your home, access to a yard or park, proximity to the "bathroom" area, permission to keep a pet in your residence, potential health complications of all people in your home (i.e. allergies), and temperament of any pets already established in the household.
Be mindful of the dangers that common household items can pose to pets. It is important to go through your home before you bring in a new pet to identify and eliminate potential hazards. This includes access to cabinets and counter tops, human medications, toxic plants, electrical cords, cleaning chemicals, small toys, curtains, etc.
Obviously, we love our pets. They bring us joy, they can be sources of comfort and loyal companionship. If you are committed to making sure they have that in return, we look forward to meeting them! It's part of our mission to be advocates for the needs of our animal friends and the best way we can do that is through education. We want you to provide the best life you can give your new pet - and help you along the way.