Keeping a pet in your home should be a commitment that, despite its many rewards, includes some sacrifices. Whether financial, training, housing or just daily upkeep requirements, you must be prepared for new and often unexpected responsibilities.
Before you ever take an animal into your life, you must ask yourself these two important questions: Are you prepared to provide a pet a place in your household? Can you care for it in health and in sickness?
1. Choose the Type of Pet You Want
What type of pet are you looking for? Short of feeding and water maintenance there is usually no interaction required with fish. Though cats generally tend to be more independent than dogs, both require more of a relationship commitment from their owners. Pocket pets (rats, mice, hamsters, etc.) can make fun little companions, but are usually short lived. Birds with appropriate upbringing and training can also be friendly and entertaining.
You will find that every animal will have its own set of needs for daily care, nutrition, housing, and grooming.
2. Plan Ahead for Pet Care
Pets have expenses associated with them. Veterinary check-ups, preventive care (vaccines, etc.), spay/neuter, and other associated medical costs can become expensive. Veterinary insurance can help defray some of these costs, but food, grooming, boarding, licensing, etc., can still quickly add up.
How about your home? Once grown, would the Great Dane puppy really fit into your second story apartment? What about the uninhibited cat jumping precariously through your crystal figurine collection on the shelf?
3. Find the Right Match
Consider your lifestyle in comparison to the needs of the pet. Some dogs demand their twice daily runs, while others prefer to snooze on the couch. How much time will this pet remain alone at home? The hyperactive terrier will probably not tolerate long stints alone without boredom steering him into trouble. In contrast, a sedentary cat may not mind being alone for a day or two.
4. Consider Time Management
While selecting the right pet for you, keep in mind the age of the pet you wish to adopt. Do you have the time and patience to housetrain a puppy? Don’t forget, some puppies may be more difficult to train than others. Kittens tend to be highly active and really like to climb and play. Adult animals, on the other hand, may come with unknown behavioral issues not immediately noticeable.
5. Commit to a Pet’s Lifetime
Pets have different life spans which vary from species to species. An Amazon parrot, for example, often lives to eighty years and can easily be expected to outlive its owners. A mouse only lives about one year. Different dog breeds have different life expectancies; generally the larger the breed the shorter the expected lifespan.
6. Locate a Reputable Pet Resource
Ask your friends, veterinarians, breeders or any reputable pet resource to help guide you. Research the breeds. Get to know your local shelters. Contact rescue groups. Interview and visit several breeders. Feel comfortable with your source.
7. Get to Know Your Potential Pet
When you are ready to meet your prospective companion, spend time with him or her. This may be the most important research you do. Handle the animal, watch the interactions with you, with other family members or friends and, if possible, with other animals. Is this the personality you wish to live with?
8. Look for Signs of Good Health
Perform a very basic health check on the premises. Monitor for any coughing or sneezing, discharge from the eyes or nose, diarrhea or vomiting, limping, poor coat, inactivity, lack of appetite or any other obvious abnormality. If you have any questions regarding the pet’s health, request for an opportunity to have your veterinarian examine the animal before you commit.
9. Read Your Adoption Contract Thoroughly
Always thoroughly read and understand the purchase or adoption contract before you sign. If you are uncomfortable with the contract renegotiate or find another pet source. Though some have had some surprising and, perhaps unreasonable stipulations, these papers are legal documents.
10. Take Your New Pet for Veterinary Exam
Once you have your special animal companion, be sure to have your veterinarian perform a thorough physical examination and discuss with you preventive care, nutrition, and housing and any other special needs your new pet may have.