Picking out your Best Friend
During one of my Focus 580 programs, the topic of pet selection and knowing what to expect in the cost of ownership of a pet kept coming up. If you are thinking about getting a pet, of any kind, finding out about everything in responsible pet ownership is important. Selecting a pet is an important step that should not be rushed. There are many considerations in adding a pet, and everyone's ability to care for this pet should be considered.
Unfortunately most people do not know much about what type pet would really fit their lifestyle. They may decide on a dog or cat based on features such as soft fur to touch. Other factors such as time to train, time to clean the litter box, total cost of care, feeding, boarding or grooming of the pet are unknown and not anticipated. Our shelters are filled with 6 month old and older dogs and cats due to new owner’s frustrations with these factors in pet ownership. Planning ahead before you get a pet can save a lot of potential problems.
First of all, take a realistic look at the amount of time you have to feed, exercise, groom, and take care of toilet needs for a pet. For dog lovers, even with a fenced in yard, you may have to go out in rain and snow to encourage your dog to potty. Basically dogs need at least 2 leash walks a day off the property for 15 minutes minimum for exercise and mental stimulation. Puppies need to play for at least an hour a day, 5 minutes of basic training daily and adhering to routine for feeding, play, and training. If your schedule is not routine, a dog would not be a good fit. Consider an alternate pet such as a cat or a bird.
Cats are less regimented to a schedule, but still need daily care. Litter boxes have to be scooped out daily to keep the cat happy about using the box. Cats do need play bouts of 5 – 10 minutes of play with the owner to prevent mischief, and maintain a healthy weight. You will need to provide places for your cat to perch at various heights and a place for them to look out the window. Cats do need to claw to mark their territory. If declawing is not an option, provide multiple scratching posts and other places to claw.
Birds are less demanding for their care, but do require special diets. Cages need to be cleaned regularly, they do need to be handled and have their beaks and claws maintained. Some of the larger birds tend to be noisy and may purposely scatter their food out of the cage. Some people are more allergic to bird’s feathers than cats or dog dander.
Small mammals such as guinea pigs, rabbits and hamsters are easy to care for, do not take up as much space and do not require as much veterinary care. They do need to have cages cleaned at least once a week, possibly more and there is an initial cost to getting the cages and wheels etc. The small mammals do not live as long as dogs or cats, yet we are seeing some live over 4 years now. These "pocket pets" do give a lot of companionship and affection and are a joy to their owner.
Having a pet is a commitment for the life of the pet. Consider contacting your local veterinarian when considering adopting or purchasing a pet. Many veterinary practices such as ours offer pet selection advice. Pet rescues will also spend time with you to be sure that the pet you are interested in will be a good match. Please follow the advice of these professionals when you consider a pet. Too often we see the cute kitten or puppy become the surrendered 6 month old unruly adolescent dog or cat.
- written by Dr. Sally J. Foote