To have a pet . . . or not?
Thursday, 24 May, 2007
Rescuing an animal in need and giving them a home for life is a rewarding experience. You'll receive a lifetime of unconditional love from your new companion.
But whether you've grown up with a variety of pets, or you're thinking about getting a pet for the first time, there are some things you will need to consider.
Animals make extra work, cost money and are an ongoing responsibility for 365 days a year.
If you’re thinking about getting a pet, pay a visit to your local SPCA and meet some of the animals needing loving homes.
Some things to consider...
Are you very houseproud? Pets such as dogs and cats bring in mud and leave hairs on the carpets and furniture. Young animals need housetraining, while birds spill their seed all over the place. Young dogs are often destructive, they chew things and dig holes in the garden. People who are used to animals take such things in their stride, but we are not all cast in the same mould and sometimes a family finds itself in considerable strife over such issues.
Do you live in a rented property? If so, you may need to postpone obtaining a dog or cat until you own your own home. Some landlords will allow a dog and many more will allow a cat, but the problem may come when you have to move and the next landlord has a ‘No Pets’ clause in his agreement. A pet is not a disposable item, it is a member of your family, so bear this in mind if you are renting a home.
Do you like to go away often? A pet ties you down. It is a responsibility. Suitable arrangements must be made for it if you are not there.
Is it hard to balance the budget? If so, look carefully into the cost factor first. Kittens and puppies are often advertised as 'free' but the food and veterinary care they will need is anything but free! People who give you a puppy or kitten for a present do not always stop to think that their well-meaning 'gift' is going to cost you, the receiver, a considerable sum of money to vaccinate, desex and (if a puppy) to register!
Do you really want a pet? Many parents decide to get a pet because the children press for one, but pets are not toys to be cast aside or given away when the novelty has worn off. It must be realised that the responsibility for the welfare of that pet lies with the parents - usually mother! Some parents expect their children to look after their pets themselves, but such responsibility should never be placed upon young children. By all means encourage them to help, but when daily routine tasks become a 'must' they are often resented, and it is the pet that suffers. Even older children need reminding from time to time as other interests take precedence.
The best way for a child to learn about the care animals need is by example, but in order to set that example, parents themselves have to want the pets as part of their family and enjoy caring for them. Children who observe their parents feeding the cat, walking the dog, going to the vet and so on, will grow up accepting that this is all part of normal family life - caring for each other. In fact, it is the same care that they themselves receive from their parents. This is the most basic lesson which children can begin to learn from their earliest days. By observing the family pets receiving love and care they are learning a valuable lesson without realising they are being taught.
So when it comes to making a decision - to have or not to have a pet - remember that the person who will do most of the work and who must accept the responsibility for that pet is YOU. Think about it carefully.
When is best?
Some of you who love animals may be looking forward to the day when you will have one as part of your family, but perhaps that time is not right now. Please remember that owning a pet means investing time and money in its care.
Cute kittens must have their litter boxes cleaned regularly, need several small meals each day and must have vaccinations each year. Cuddly puppies must be trained, walked regularly, and registered with your local council yearly - and forgiven for muddy paws now and then.
Cute kittens and cuddly puppies grow into cats and dogs, that will breed many more cute kittens and cuddly puppies unless you desex them in good time. So, if you are a compassionate and responsible person, you will wait until you are in a position to give your pet the care and attention it will need.
In the meantime, wild creatures may provide some interest and pleasure. A bird table is decorative and even the smallest child can help to feed the birds. A trip to the local park to feed ducks and swans is a delight to most children and from such simple pleasures an interest and concern for living creatures can evolve.
What sort of pet shall we have?
For some people this question poses no problem. They have had pets before, and they know what they want and what is involved. To others, especially those who are not accustomed to sharing their homes and lives with pets, the answer requires some thought.
Dogs and cats are by far the most popular pets. They play a larger part in family life and children have constant contact with them. Physical contact is important to them. Remember how a cat purrs when you stroke it?
A dog is the most demanding of the domestic pets - and it is also the most expensive, on top of which it needs training, companionship and regular exercise. It is important to select the right type of dog for your lifestyle and conditions. Small or large, lively or placid, short coat or long?
Perhaps a cat would be more suitable? Puss will eat less and no registration fee is involved. Neither do you need to take it for its daily exercise. Cats need care and affection, but they are less demanding and less expensive to keep than dogs.
Bear in mind the life span of the animal you are contemplating. Dogs and cats often live for 12 to 15 years or longer, by which time your children may have left home, so are you happy to keep the pet to the end of its days?
If a dog or cat is not for you, then perhaps a bird? Budgies, canaries and cockatoos and so on make interesting pets and can be very responsive to human contact. Birds are, of course, much happier living in an aviary than in a cage.
Rabbits, guinea pigs or mice may appeal? Some children may enjoy a decorative tank of fish, or a turtle. All need suitable cage or tank accommodation, and daily feeding and cleaning.
Whatever pet you decide upon you are making a commitment. Every year thousands of pets, particularly dogs and cats, are euthanased not because they are ill, or old, or because they have done anything wrong, but because the novelty has worn off and they have become inconvenient. Please think about it carefully.