Oh MOMMY! Can I have a PUPPY?

UPDATED: Nov 14, 2013

Holiday time finds us looking for “just the right gift” for our family and friends – and many of us feel a live animal is the answer. Who can resist a cute puppy or kitten up for adoption or purchase? Their sweet little faces look up at us and their eyes plead with us “take me home!”

But impulse pet purchase or adoption is not ideal when considering that this is a living, breathing creature. An impulse purchase means that there is not enough thought beyond the desire of the moment. Pets are not disposable commodities. They require a lifetime commitment.

As Sandy Robins explained in a recent PHC blog post, you should never purchase or adopt a pet as a surprise for someone. This person may not be prepared for an animal even if they say they would like one. They may want to select their own – which is the preferred way to make such a gift. Instead, give a dog lead, a cat toy or a bird cage to the recipient so they have time to shop/adopt along with you for the right pet.

Don’t buy or adopt a pet “for the children” as the children will not take care of it – no matter how many promises you get from them. If you are considering a pet, be aware that you will probably wind up as primary caretaker (there are some exceptions – but very few) – so make sure it’s a pet you want, too!

There are many questions to ask yourself when you see the puppy or kitten, rabbit or bird in the store or at an adoption shelter. Many adoption groups are wise enough to not allow you to take an animal as a “storefront adoption” – after filling out an application to adopt, they insist on visiting you at your home to see that you are properly prepared to take care of that animal. They should also be able to provide you with a list of supplies that you will need for that pet so you can prepare for it before it comes into your home.

Here are some of the questions you should answer before getting a pet:

  • Do I have time for a pet? All pets must be kept clean and fed, with fresh water changes daily. Some need to be walked.  They need to be played with and socialized. Many need training. Are you prepared for all that time that you will have to devote on a daily basis?
  • Can I make a commitment to the animal? This includes considering the length of time this pet will be with you – whether 15 years for a dog or cat or 50 plus years for a bird. This is a “forever home” you are providing for that animal as they form bonds with their family and should not be discarded like a piece of clothing or furniture after you become tired or disenchanted.
  • Do I have room for a pet? Figure the type of pet you are considering and how much room it will need in your home. Do you have to set up a crate or an aquarium? Do you need a large, fenced in yard? Can you manage a 5 lb. pet or can you provide for a 100 lb. animal?
  • What is my lifestyle? Do you have Persian rugs and antique furniture? Animals can have accidents in the house and mess up your décor. Many have chewed on the dining room table leg – and shed hair on the velvet sofa. They are there 24/7 for you to care for – do you often go on vacation or away for the weekend? Do you have small children – other pets? Which pet will fit your lifestyle?
  • Can I financially afford a pet? Pets cost money – after the initial purchase or adoption fee you have vet bills (at least annually) and food to purchase. You have vaccines for many pets along with flea and tick and heartworm treatment for certain pets. There’s a possibility of emergency room visits and prescription medicines for the animal. Sometimes there is an extra fee for having a pet in your apartment, condo or rental home. If you are often away, it will mean the cost of boarding or finding a pet sitter. All that and treats, toys and other things you will want for your animal. They are so worth the investment, but you have to be financially ready to truly care for the animal you bring into your family.
  • Am I willing to train my pet? Some pets need formal training – some you can train yourself. But a well trained pet is more readily accepted by friends and neighbors than one that is out of hand. This is true of a bird that flies around the room dive-bombing guests or dogs that are aggressive or bold. You need to assume the role of the Alpha creature in the house.
  • Do I want a younger or older animal? A puppy or a kitten is irresistible – and it is fun watching the animal grow from puppy or kitten stages to adulthood — but they have issues as they grow. They need to be potty trained. You will have puppy teeth ripping at your clothing and your skin, and sometimes, possibly, your prized velvet sofa! You will have missing shoes and laundry – and knick knacks can often be knocked over with “happy tail.”  Can you deal with this for the first year or so of your pet ownership or do you want an animal more accustomed to living in a home?
  • Do I have a car big enough to transport my animal? Should you need emergency medical care or just routine vet visits – or if you need to evacuate due to a hurricane, tornado or flood – do you have room in your vehicle to take the animal(s) that depend on you?
  • Have I done my research? Have you taken the time to read about the pet you are considering purchasing or adopting? Do you know how big that puppy is going to get when full grown and are you cognizant of the behavior and needs of that particular breed of dog? Do you know where the local vet is who is familiar with that type or breed of animal? Have you located your emergency vet in case it’s necessary to rush there at 3 o’clock on a Sunday morning? Do you know how much grooming the pet needs – where a professional groomer is located nearby? Have you investigated day care or pet sitters in your area?

How you go about making this important decision with your family along with what preparation you make for the new family member will enable your children to realize that this is a wonderful experience for all of you – one that lasts the lifetime of that pet. That will not only teach them about loving a pet, but about what true commitment looks like for someone (or pet) you pledge to care for!

-Photo Credit: Image from flickr by jervestson

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