Monday, January 17, 2011

Things to Consider Before Buying a Pet

Photo by Cia de Foto

As I sit down to write this, I am yawning.

Tomorrow we begin day three with the new puppy.  The first night, I was up at 2, 3, 4, and 6 am stumbling towards the pitiful, woeful cries coming from my kitchen. It is the only room in the house - other than the bathroom - that is not carpeted. (An important thing to consider when you are bringing home a puppy.) Last night, in exhaustion, I just gave up and picked him up and slept on the couch so he wouldn't keep everyone awake. I only had to get up once at 2:30 to take him outside to potty.

If I weren't a former zoo keeper, the caca would be driving me loca. (Okay, maybe it is anyway.) I take him out, he poops. I bring him in, he poops. Ay, mama. Put it all together and it is like being a new mom all over again.

The first night, we kept our other dog separate and in the laundry room for the night, since they had not really had time to be properly introduced. The next night he ditched us and decided to stay outside and get some sleep. Tonight, he has disappeared again. (My bet is that he is sleeping in the barn.) This is a big monkey wrench in our plans, as we are were hoping to put them together at night so we could all get some sleep.

Anyway, the point of all this is that before you get a pet, it is important to do your homework. Here are some things to consider:

Do your research.

What pet would work best for your family? Is your house a busy place? Or is it often empty? Do you have young children or older ones? Do you live in the country, or an apartment? Do you have time to train an animal? Does your family travel a lot? Is there someone reliable who can take care of your animal while you are gone?

Dogs are probably best suited for active homes with older children and big backyards. Independent, solitary animals (fish, reptiles, and some birds) would probably be best in a quieter home that does not have a lot of room.

Also, keep in mind the habits of the animal you are considering. Remember that rodents are nocturnal animals who like to sleep the day away and play at night. Unless you are a sound sleeper, you might want to consider a different type of animal.

Can you afford it?

A pet is not cheap. Between the food, the flea and heartworm meds, kitty litter, and the routing vet visits, these guys add up. Unless, of course you get something a little less a fish, a hermit crab, or something equally small. But even then, chances are you'll still have to spend a little dinero up front to buy the proper set up.

Are your kids ready?

When kids are really young, bringing a new pet into the home can be really demanding and sometimes there may be some risks associated. Birds, like parrots, can have a nasty little bite, and so can cats and dogs. You can't really blame them, as small children sometimes don't know their own strength and can accidentally hurt an animal, whose instinctive response is to protect itself.

My recommendation? Smaller kids might enjoy fish or smaller birds like canaries or finches. Just remember to keep their cages/aquariums out of reach. And, please be sure to keep in mind that even a small 10 gallon aquarium poses serious drowning danger to young children.

Older children, who are ready for the responsibility of taking care of a pet, are better prepared and equipped to have a dog or cat. But be mindful of the breed, as some are more prone to biting or other aggressive behaviors. Do your research and choose one that will fit your family's needs.

Do you have the time?

Some young animals - like puppies - have a transition period. They've just been taken away from their mother (and possibly siblings) and are feeling very vulnerable and lonely. They are going to want reassurance and physical contact...especially at night when it is cold and dark!

In addition, you'll have to put in the hours to train them properly, or you'll wind up with an ill-mannered pet. Also, dogs that are left alone in a house or apartment for long periods often develop really bad behavioral problems.

Bottom line: DON'T get a dog if you are never around to spend time with it.

Cats, on the other hand, don't require quite as much attention. Neither do fish. (But together they might be a lethal combination!)

ABC News has a great article, that talks about many of these points and more, if you want to explore this further.

If you think you're ready to commit to this relationship, then BRAVO! Your choice to welcome an animal into your home is a wonderful learning opportunity for your children (and you, too!).

Con mucho sueño cariño...


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