Preparing to Adopt a Pet
Are You Thinking About Adopting a Pet?
Your child has been begging for a pet. Or maybe you feel an empty spot in your life that may be filled by a four-legged friend.
Many factors should be considered when making a decision about whether to move forward with adoption. Unfortunately, some people rush into the decision on impulse. Sometimes these decisions have sad consequences - particularly for the newly adopted member of the family.
How many times have you searched postings on the Humane Society website, or - even worse - Craig's List or your local newspaper, to find that yet another cat or dog has been given up for the usual reasons: (1) my landlord doesn't allow pets; (2) we have a new baby; (3) the dog/cat/hamster, etc. doesn't get along with other animals; (4) we can't housebreak him, or (5) health problems or behavioral issues have arisen that the owner simply cannot deal with. Shamefully, many of these surrenders may have been avoided if these people had first considered the long-term demands and responsibilities of ownership. If only adoption papers came with an "until death do us part" promise....
So before you go about asking "How Much is that Doggie in the Window?" slow down and carefully consider the following. If the time is right, and you are ready to make the serious commitment, then you are on your way to a special, fulfilling relationship with your new pal.
Do You Have Appropriate Space for a Pet?
1. Realistically Assess your Living Situation
Are there any restrictions on pet ownership or type?
- Do you live in an apartment or condo? Your very first question should be whether pets are allowed. Don't make the unfortunate mistake of adopting first and asking later.
- Some neighborhood associations are also pretty restrictive regarding dogs left outside and/or barking. You may want to check with your covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs), if applicable.
- Certain breeds (i.e. pitbull breeds, Rottweilers, or other dogs that have received bad press) are banned in some cities and towns. You may want to check local regulations to make sure that you won't be subject to code enforcement by the local municipality if you are thinking of adopting one of these breeds.
- How many pets do you currently have? There are laws against having too many cats or dogs. "Too many" may even be as few as three. Again, this varies from city to city, so you should check your local code.
- Exotic animals are often either banned, or strictly regulated. "Exotic" is usually defined by local code. But use some common sense... a pet tiger is probably not going to be acceptable to your neighbors, no matter how cute it is as a cub.
Is your living arrangement suitable and safe?
- If you live in a house, do you have a fenced yard? Dogs that get loose can end up injuring themselves, or possibly others. Make sure that before you let your pet outside unsupervised, that he cannot get lost or into trouble.
- If you live in an apartment, is there enough room for your pet? Carefully consider size and breed before adoption. Large and/or high energy dogs may be happier if they have a bit more room.
- Does your pet have a place to stay during the day if you work outside the home? Make sure the animal cannot get into things while you are gone. A basement or garage may not be ideal, unless your cat or dog is safely kenneled or caged.
You Will Want One of These Cuties!
Budget Before You Adopt a Pet
2. Can you Truly Afford the Costs of Pet Ownership?
If you are going to take on the responsibility of a new pet, you need to realize that the costs of ownership far exceed the adoption fee and initial veterinary visit. Here is a list for healthy animals. Prepare a budget and multiply that by the average life expectancy:
- Food - what brands will you buy? How large will he get, and how much will he eat? Even with inexpensive dry dog food, costs could reaech $500 per year!
- Bowls/feeding supplies
- Gates - you may wish to invest in gates to keep dogs out of certain areas of your home
- Aquarium and supplies for fish or reptiles
- Bird cage and supplies for pet birds
- Cage and supplies for small rodents, like gerbils, rats, guinea pigs and hamsters
- Toys to entertain (optional, but helpful in cases)
- Treats (optional)
- Regular vaccinations
- Spay or neuter surgery - a must!
- License fees for dogs and cats (annual)
- Identification tags
- Training/obedience lessons for dogs
- Teeth cleaning
Time and Cost Involved with Pet Care
If your pet gets sick, injured or diseased, count on your vet bills to rapidly multiply. What if your dog gets epilepsy, or your cat gets feline leukemia? Be prepared for extra, unanticipated costs of ownership over the years. Some people even consider purchasing special health insurance to defray the costs.
3. Will you Have Time to Properly Care for your Pet?
Some pets are "needier" than others. Cats can generally be happy enough if you work outside the home and are not around much during the day. On the other hand, some dogs actually develop separation anxiety and destructive behaviors while their owners are away. Dogs need regular exercise, some more than others. If you cannot get out and walk him on a regular basis, then you probably should reconsider adoption.
Even lower-maintenance animals still require dedication and regular care. Fish need to be fed, and monitored to make sure that their aquarium is clean, at the right temperature and pH balanced. Gerbils and hamsters need their cages cleaned regularly, fresh water, and food. Birds and reptiles have similar needs: clean cages, good food supply and water.
Do you travel often? If so, make sure there is proper care in your absence. Either arrange for boarding or pet-sitting. As independent as cats are, they should not be left alone for days with only a bowl of food and water. Fish, small rodents, reptiles and birds will need regular care including feedings, and cage/aquarium cleaning.
Cute Puppies Video
Consider Possible Future Changes before Adopting a Pet
4. What does the Future Hold?
Cute and Cuddly - but not Forever!
Puppies and kittens are irresistible, admittedly. Who can deny their snuggly, needy visages? During springtime, some families will cave into the pull of children's pleas for a bunny. Realize, however, that most mammals will not stay the same size as when you acquire them. They will grow, get bigger, and demand more food and water. Look beyond the immediate gratification aspect of bringing home a furry little "toy."
Small breed dogs: 10-15 years
Large breed dogs: 8-12 years
Cats: 12-18 years
Rabbits: up to 8 years
Hamsters/gerbils: 2-3 years
If you are buying a pet for your child, the animal could outlive high school graduation, depending on age and health. Then the animal that your son insisted he would take care of "forever and ever" could suddenly be your burden.
Is your Life Stable?
Consider what the upcoming year might hold. Is there a new baby on the way, or planned? Will you be moving or forced to relocate? Obviously, the more stable your environment, the better you and your new pet will adapt. If your life is in a state of upheaval, it would be best to wait before bringing in another stressing factor.
5. You Are Fully Prepared
If the signs all point to "yes," and everyone in the family is on-board with the decision to bring a new animal into the home, then the best part comes next! Choosing the appropriate pet, naming him, and ultimately enjoying a long-lasting relationship together.