“I want a puppy for my birthday!”
… words that every parent will inevitably hear at some point during their children’s youth. While visions of your children growing up with a puppy in tow – living out the childhood American dream – dance through your head, it might be a bit easy to forget that someone will have to take care of that puppy… for the rest of its life.
Adopting a cat or a dog might seem like the next natural step in your family’s timeline, but there are some important things to evaluate before you open your heart and your home to a fur baby. Below, you’ll find 5 things you need to consider before adopting a pet.
Who will take care of your pet?
Your kids beg you. They plead with you. They promise you that you can take all of their most prized possessions away if they fail to live up to their duties of taking care of a family pet. After some time, you actually start to believe them. Come on back down to reality, friend! The thrill of walking, feeding, bathing and cleaning up after a new pet will die within your children just about as quickly as Kim Kardashian snaps a new selfie.
So, a week into life with a new puppy, and you’re the one waking at the crack of dawn to whimpers outside your bedroom door. You’re the one feeding him and scrubbing his accidents out of the living room carpet 5 minutes before your dinner guests arrive while your roast is burning in the oven.
Before following your heart’s desires, push the daydreams of soft, furry snuggles and slobbery kisses out of your head, and give yourself and your family a big reality check. Pets are A LOT of work. It’s important to sit down with your family and have a real and honest discussion about all of the physical responsibilities that owning a pet entails.
Decide who will be responsible for walking, cleaning, bathing, feeding, scooping litter boxes, etc. And then decide if everyone involved is actually ready and willing to take on those responsibilities for the lifetime of your pet. In this discussion, the following questions should be answered before deciding if adopting a pet is the right decision for your family:
- Who will care for your pet if you have an emergency or travel often?
- Do you work long hours that would result in leaving your pet alone for long spans of time?
- Do your children participate in a lot of after-school activities that would keep you from devoting time to your pet?
- Do you have a willing friend, family member or neighbor who can take on the responsibilities for you when you are away?
- Are you home enough in general so that your pet doesn’t sit in an empty house all day and night?
Can you afford a pet?
From food to bedding to grooming to vet bills, it should come as no surprise that pets can get expensive. It’s necessary to evaluate how the costs of adopting a pet will affect your income and budget. Sure, you might think that you can buy whatever pet food is on sale week to week, and an annual vet visit isn’t going to break the bank, right?
But what happens if your pet suddenly develops an allergy or sensitivity to the food he is eating? Your vet might recommend a special diet of prescription food. And what if your pet has a serious medical emergency, gets sick or develops life threatening illnesses that require intensive long term medications and veterinary care?
When you choose to adopt a pet, you have to take into consideration that you are caring for a living being. Euthanizing for a disease or illness that is completely treatable and manageable is not fair to your pet who relies on you for its lifelong well-being.
There are a variety of pet health insurance options to consider purchasing if you choose to adopt a pet. There are affordable plans that include minimal coverage all the way to full coverage based on your pet’s health, medical history and needs. It is your responsibility to be able to provide your pet with the medical care necessary for it to live a full, healthy life.
What kind of pet is best for your family?
While you might have had your heart set on raising a certain type of dog ever since you saw it on a TV show when you were little, the reality is, you have to choose a pet that’s best suited for your entire family. Some questions to answer before choosing a pet include:
Do you have small children?
Certain breeds of dogs are great with small kids. They adore attention, are gentle and don’t mind being tackled, climbed on and touched often. Other breeds are better suited for older children, as they desire quiet, peaceful environments and do not fair well in chaotic situations.
According to the American Kennel Club, some of the best breeds for families with small children include: Bulldogs, Beagles, Newfoundlands, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers, Weimaraners, Bull Terriers and Boxers.
The same goes for cats. While some cats are very social creatures, others prefer to be left alone often. Catster lists the Abyssinian, American Shorthair, Birman, Birmese, Main Coon, Manx, Persian and Ragdoll breeds to be best suited for families with children due to their calm, affectionate and playful personalities. It’s also important to note that kittens might not be the best fit for a family with very young children as they are fragile and small during the first year of their lives.
While there is no guarantee that choosing one of these breeds will be best for your family, because each animal will have its own personality regardless, it’s still best to do your research and try to choose a pet that will fit well into your current family dynamic.
Does anyone in your home have allergies to animals?
While some cases of allergies due to pet dander are mild and manageable, there are many cases of serious pet allergies that make it nearly impossible for certain people to cohabit-ate with pets. Before making the lifelong commitment to adopting a pet, it’s best to have any family members you suspect might have allergies visit an allergist for a quick scratch test. This will help determine exactly what type of animal, if any, they are allergic to and exactly how severe the allergy might be.
If you discover that a family member is allergic to cats, you can opt for a dog or even a hypoallergenic breed of feline. Many people are under the misconception that pet allergies arise from the animal’s fur, but they are caused by certain human immune systems being ultra-sensitive to common proteins found in an animals saliva, urine and dead skin cells. When the animal grooms himself, the saliva and dead skin cells combine to create microscopic cells called dander.
This dander can then stick to the animals fur, on surfaces and furniture in your home and float through the air. The misconception is that the fur itself is what causes allergies. While dander can stick to the fur, the fur absolutely does not cause allergies. Therefore, the amount of fur an animal has actually has no relevance to whether or not a person might develop an allergy to it.
While there are no truly hypoallergenic pets, there are breeds that produce little to no allergy causing proteins, making them more ideal options for people with sensitivities.
Allergy-Friendly Feline Breeds
Balinese, Oriental Shorthair, Javanese, Devon Rex, Cornish Rex, Sphynx, Siberian
Allergy-Friendly Canine Breeds
Afghan Hound, American Hairless Terrier, Bendlington Terrier, Bichon Frise, Chinese Crested, Coton de Tulear, Giant Schnauzer, Irish Water Spaniel, Kerry Blue Terrier, Lagotto Romagnola, Maltese, Miniature Schnauzer, Hairless Peruvian Inca Orchid, Poodle, Portuguese Water Dog, Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, Spanish Water Dog, Standard Schnauzer, Xoloitzcuintli
For more information and tips on managing pet allergies, check out:
Will you adopt a rescue animal or a pure bred?
While pure bred cats and dogs make great family companions and can fit certain allergy and lifestyle needs, it’s important to consider rescuing a shelter animal. According to the ASPCA, approximately 7.6 million animals enter shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 2.7 million are euthanized annually because the shelters are too full or they simply aren’t getting adopted.
According to the American Humane Society, the biggest reasons already established family pets are relinquished to shelters are because of allergies, moving to a residence that does not allow pets, death of owner and simply not having enough time to care for them anymore.
Those statistics are heartbreaking.
That is why it is absolutely vital to consider the depths of your decision to adopt a pet and whether or not your family can truly commit yourselves to it for a lifetime. Many of those animals who end up getting euthanized at shelters once started out as a child’s plea to get a puppy for his birthday, and a family not fully understanding the sacrifice and responsibility of pet ownership.
What will your pet’s lifestyle/dietary needs be?
After considering time, care, family-friendly breeds and potential allergy issues, the last thing you should research and discuss is your pet’s lifestyle and dietary needs. While there’s no way of knowing what health and dietary issues your pet might develop throughout its life, especially if you rescue a mixed-breed shelter animal, you can prepare yourself by intensely researching breeds and their specific needs. Certain breeds of felines, like Persians for instance, have small noses that often contribute to breathing issues. Therefore, they need to live in a home that has clean, smoke-free air and should be monitored more closely than certain other breeds.
There are a variety of both dogs and cats that might require special diets to thrive, based on their size, breed, activity level or health issues. Some breeds of dogs require more exertion of energy than others, so those breeds might best be suited for active families or those with large backyards. Whatever breed of feline or canine you are considering adopting, you should first speak with the veterinarian you will be using about that breed’s specific requirements and needs.
All of the questions above are important to discuss and answer with your family and trusted veterinarian before you make the life-changing decision to bring an animal into your care and your home. Remember that adopting a pet is a lifelong commitment to love, nurture and care for it for the entirety of its life. While pets can add immeasurable joy to your life, you have to be committed to the responsibilities that come with pet adoptions, in every aspect.
Now that you’ve decided to welcome a pet into your family, visit our PETS section for tips and advice, including: