You see them on TV in commercials, in the park, your friends and family have them, you’re tempted, but you wonder “Is a pet right for me?” Does my lifestyle and living situation have room for a pet? If so what kind?
People have wondered that for as long as pets have been around. They are a commitment and will require some sacrifices.
I volunteer at an animal shelter in Southeast, GA. I have also volunteered at a Greyhound rescue in NH. I was inspired to write this and another article because we keep getting pets returned due to “moving, training problems, inconveniences, and various lifestyle changes.”
I had been a pet lover all my life, so I can’t imagine my life without one, but after working at the animal shelter, I now know that there is much more to consider than I had thought about. It is a good idea to do a deep evaluation in your life to avoid heartbreak later.
There are many pets out there that need different levels of care. There is everything from fish to reptiles. How long they will be with you, the budget for the pets, how they fit in with children and your lifestyle, are all some of the factors in the decision.
Let’s tackle lifestyle first-
Try to envision your life for the next five years? Will you be moving? Are you getting married? Are you going to have a baby, or already have children? Will you be traveling frequently? Will you be taking classes? If the answer is I don’t know, then you may have your answer. This may not be your time for a pet and that is okay.
Pet’s are not like a new car or phone you don’t trade them in every few years for the sake of convenience. They are living breathing companions, who, for the most part, have more emotions than we currently have the technology to understand.
If you will be moving, you will need to account for things like finding a home that accepts pets. If you are renting you will probably be asked to give a pet deposit, if pets are allowed at all. If you are buying a home you will, most likely, need to find a place that has the space for your pet and find out if there are any breed restrictions or other unusual rules that pertain to your pet. For example; many people consider a pig a pet, but the local definition of a pet may have it classified as a farm animal, check and double check.
If you are getting married, congratulations! If you dated your fiancé for more than a few minutes they know you have a pet as a part of your life and they should accept your life, which includes your pet.
If you will be traveling, how will your pet fit into these plans?
Do I have the time for a pet? -
You may have the time to say hello and feed it but not time to walk it and play with it. Okay, so you are fish person. They need to be fed, have the water changed and tanks cleaned periodically, and they like it when you say “hello” to them.
Birds, reptiles, cats and dogs will require more of your time. I have a friend who travels quite a bit for work and the cat does fine with the food and water, but he lets her know he is not very happy with her prolonged absence. A dog will need to be fed and walked or let out into a yard several times a day.
If you anticipate your family is changing make sure the pet and the new changes will work well together. Getting married and having children will be a huge change to the lifestyle you have. All too often we see animals brought to the shelter due to having a new baby or the animal and the new child don’t get along.
Many people often are surprised by the cost of a pet. There are many items you forget when you first get a furry friend. (please check the links for budgets)
You must factor in medical care, if you are on a tight budget, a pet emergency can break you. Talk with a vet first and ask about the average cost for care of the pet you are interested in, to determine if that fits your budget,and plan for those costs. Just like people, they require vaccinations and checkups to keep them healthy, as well as flea/tick or other parasitic control, which all varies depending on the animal, of course.
Reptiles will need a heating stone and a glass aquarium. Dogs and cats need their space to play and sleep, guinea pigs, mice, rabbits will need a cage; and they all will need cleaning up after and medical care.
Once you have answered some of these questions you are now ready to answer the big question of “Is a Pet Right for me?” If the answer is yes, then you need to figure out which pet is the right fit. While going through the questions you should have been able to rule out the ones that won’t work and rule in a couple that will.
When the answer is I don’t know or no-
There are many ways you can try pet ownership or help without owning a pet.
Many rescues need fosters. This is when you have the pet in your home and you care for it and train it as though it is yours, but the rescue usually takes care of the medical costs. Since the pet is not yours you will have to follow the rules of the rescue. Should the animal get adopted you will have to say good bye, which many people find tough. You may, however, find it’s a good fit and adopt it yourself, like my husband and I did.
Many people need service dogs. You will have to go through some training, but you can be a puppy trainer for dogs who will be a service animal. These animals start at a young age and usually have more than one person training them. This is a short-term commitment for each dog and like fostering you must follow the rules of the training organization. This will give you an idea of what it takes to own a pet.
You can also help by volunteering at an animal shelter. There are many positions to fill for this it ranges anywhere from bathing the animals to working with them to be a good pet for their new family, to doing dishes and cleaning cages. Many also have websites that need to be updated and let’s not forget a good pet photographer to catch the pets at their best.
Do you want to help but maybe you have allergies or some other reason you can’t get close to animals? You can still help. Most shelters and rescues operate on a shoe string budget. You can hold a fund raiser, donate food and supplies, run errands and more.
Many children in the community do fundraisers, some come and help fix the yard. All these jobs are important to the animals that need adoption.
Many adults and businesses sponsor animals. Still others hold classes and educate people on how to be good pet owners.
There are many ways to help animals of all kinds.
You and your pet or pets can have a great friendship when the time is right. The memories you make will bring a smile to your face, and the love you get in return is priceless.