Having been a dog owner since 1979, I’m a total advocate for pet ownership. The benefits that one can get from having a pet are enormous. My dogs have the uncanny ability to help me to start each day right. However, I also have to admit that pets are not for everyone.
So if you are thinking of getting a pet, here are seven factors to consider before you do bring one home. You don’t want to make the mistake of bringing home the wrong type of pet or finding out that your lifestyle is not suited for pets after all.
1. Time for a Pet
Many pets like puppies and kittens are so cute that many people can’t resist bringing them home. However, the realities of pet ownership soon set in when one realizes the great responsibilities involved in their care. One of these responsibilities is the time required for pets.
The most common domestic pets such as dogs and cats require considerable time for them. This is especially the case for dogs as they are not happy if left alone for long periods of time. If you can’t devote enough daily time to play and interact with your pet, do not get one that requires a lot of time.
Consider pets that are less time demanding such as fish. But remember, you still need time to clean and maintain fish tanks. So part of your research should be looking at the amount of time and maintenance required for each type of pet. Be totally honest with yourself as to just how much time you can devote to a pet.
2. Cost of Pet Care
Some pets like dogs, cats and birds can have significant health costs, especially if they get ill or injured. Talk to existing pet owners to find out what their average annual veterinary costs are.
You don’t want to be in a position where you can’t afford the regular and unexpected vet costs for a pet. It is so unfortunate when pet owners have to give up their animals just because they can’t afford the cost of pet care. If these innocent animals cannot get new homes, they are often euthanized as a result.
3. Appropriate Dwelling for a Pet
Different pets require different suitable dwellings. Although cats, fish and gerbils can be happy in almost any type of residential or office dwelling, dogs do better in certain environments. Dogs can be quite happy in both houses and high-rise buildings as long as there is access to outdoor parks or trails nearby.
With the introduction of dog litter boxes, many dogs actually do well in high-rise apartments or condos — but it is still nice to have parks nearby where they can get fresh air and exercise. All of my dogs have been potty trained indoors using either a dog litter box or equivalent. We don’t have to go outdoors if the weather is terrible, and I’m not worried if I end up coming home late. They just go to their dog litter box that is placed in a designated spot indoors.
Of course, not all buildings allow dogs so make sure that you check with your building rules regarding pets before bringing one home. There is the noise factor, as you don’t want your dog to annoy your neighbors. This is the same for birds as well.
4. Amount of Travel
Related to the amount of time you have available for a pet, is the amount of travel you do. If you spend 50% of your time doing overnight travel away from home for work, you might want to reconsider which type of pet might be best for you — or if you should have on at all. If you have other family members or people like pet-sitters who can come and look after your pet while you are away, it might be okay.
However, if you have to end up boarding your animal for two weeks each month during your trips, this might indicate that you should not become a pet owner. A few days of boarding here and there are okay, but anything more is not really fair to your pet.
If you have to travel a lot and still want to be a pet owner, consider having animals who might not miss you as much (fish) and those who are easy to take care of by other people while you are away.
5. Allergies and Children
If you or any of your family members have allergies, certain animals will not be appropriate for your home. Some animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs do really well with children as do cats and some breeds of dogs. However, some breeds of dogs and exotic animals might not be appropriate in families with infants and small children. Again, do your research to assess the suitability of specific animals and breeds for your family.
6. Training Required for a Pet
Another area you really have to be honest with yourself is your own ability and time required to train a pet. Some pets (like dogs) require a lot of training while others (like gerbils) will not involve any training since they stay mostly inside their cages. Many dogs have been abandoned because of ignorant owners who failed to properly train their dogs.
Dog experts claim that there are no bad dogs. Instead, there are bad dog owners who did not adequately provide the right training for their dogs. If you are a potential dog owner, make sure that you get proper dog obedience training, which means education for both yourself as well as your dog. Training also includes housetraining for dogs, cats and ferrets.
7. Do Your Research and Prepare For Lifelong Commitment
Pet ownership should never be on impulse. It’s not fair to the animals especially if they end up getting abandoned and/or abused. Do adequate research on what is required in order to be a successful pet owner and prepare for a lifelong commitment to the pet.
The rewards of pet ownership are great, as I’ve experienced with the four Lhasa Apso dogs I’ve owned so far. However, there are great responsibilities as well and as long as you are realistic about them, the personal growth and happiness you will have with your pet are limitless.
(Photo credit: Young Businessman Holding a Chihuahua via Shutterstock)