It’s that time of year again! Time to start thinking about gifts and giving, about finding the perfect thing to show your loved ones how much you care. For many people, this is the time when they discuss getting a pet. What could be more adorable than a child unwrapping a box and having a kitten pop out? And wouldn’t your significant other light up to find a puppy wearing a bow under the tree?
While these Hallmark moments may sound warm and fuzzy (literally and figuratively), they are often just that: moments, and not reality. The reality is that giving a pet as a present is a significant undertaking, and one that many gift recipients may not want or be prepared for.
Before you give anyone in your life (even yourself!) a pet, please remember these basic tenants of pet care. (This list is also great to share with children who may be begging for Santa to bring them a pet!)
What all pet owners should be prepared to do
- You must be able to feed the pet at least once/day. This means not only being present to give food, but also having the money and resources to provide healthy food, every day, for the next 10 years or more.
- You must be able to walk a dog or let dogs out to go to the bathroom at least two times/day. For puppies, this can be more like once/hour for several months. You need to have the type of job and work/life balance that allows for you to be home, and/or the type of yard that allows the dog to get outside every morning and evening, if not more often.
- You must be able to keep a pet and their living spaces clean. Though there are a lot of innovations in cat litter products, you’ll still likely need to clean a litter box at least a few times a week. Most dogs (and cats) require regular coat maintenance, including brushing and baths. And if you have a puppy, you’ll be cleaning up a lot of messes those first few months.
- You must be able to take the pet to the vet as a puppy/kitten, and at least once/year for the rest of his or her life. Baby animals require a series of vaccinations and exams to grow into healthy pets, and all pets should get annual well-check exams and vaccinations. Additionally, cats and dogs should be spayed or neutered. Pets also require heartworm medications, flea and tick control, and possibly other medications or treatments throughout their lives.
- You must be able to have your pet cared for when you’re not home. If you travel often, this means having a reliable place to board your pet, a pet sitter, or the ability to bring your pet with you. If you work long hours, this may mean hiring a dog walker.
- Your new pet must get along with other members of the family. A pet becomes part of household, and thus must get along with adults, children and other animals. Introducing pets to children and other pets can take time and effort. And you need to have a plan in place if pets or people don’t get along.
- You must be able to spend the time and effort to train pets. This is mainly the case for dog owners. You cannot expect dogs to behave well without training. Expect to attend training classes, hire a dog trainer, or put in the work to train the dog yourself. This requires time, consistency and some hard work, but will make a significant difference in overall happiness and quality of life with your dog.
- You must be able to provide some basic pet products. Dogs and cats don’t need a lot of toys or items to be happy, but they do need the basics: a clean place to sleep, a place for cats to safely scratch, something safe for dogs to chew on, collars, ID tags, a dog leash, and a kennel for car travel/visiting the vet.
We realize this list makes pet ownership sound incredibly difficult. It’s not that difficult, however, if you’ve planned for it, set aside resources, and made time for a new member of the family. Pets can bring a lot of joy, love and happiness to a home, as long as the home is ready to take on the responsibility.
Give pet support, not pets.
So if you’re looking to spread some joy this holiday, maybe a pet is a good idea. But we recommend that instead of surprising a loved one with a pet, purchase a gift certificate to a pet store with a note that a new pet is on the way. Then take your loved one to pick out the pet he or she truly wants (at a shelter, rescue center or breeder), and spend the gift certificate on the necessary food or gear to go with it. This way you’ll ensure everyone is happy and feels loved – including the new pet.
If you have a new pet needing vet care, or want some advice on pet ownership, feel free to call and make an appointment at Animal Clinic of Woodruff.