Pets are people, too. At least, that’s the way they should be treated by their owners. The sad reality, though, is that a lot people own pets when they’re really not ready to care properly for their little furry friends. Or they just don’t know how to love, clean, and treat a cat, dog, or other animal the right and humane way. What happens to these poor animals? Many end up in shelters, lost and unwanted—to the tune of 6 to 8 million every year according to the Humane Society. At least half of those end up being “put to sleep,” to put it nicely.
When they first start out looking to buy a pet, everyone says that they aren’t like that, that they won’t have their pet end up caged in a pound somewhere. If you want to be one of the people who says this and means it, read on. Your commitment shows you are ready to learn how to own a pet. Once you are trained in the following pet ownership basics, then you can take the next step and find the perfect pet for you.
But before you meet this furry companion, take these following tips to heart:
Go down the list of required health-care needs. This is especially important for puppies and kittens, who need an arsenal of vaccinations when they’re little. But even older pets require regular checkups and the occasional medication (such as for heartworms for dogs). Before you get a pet, locate a trusted veterinarian in your neighborhood and go over all of your soon-to-be pet’s health needs.
Neuter, neuter, neuter. Point blank, this is one of the most crucial things you can do to protect your pet’s health. Remember that number above from the Humane Society (6 to 8 million pets in cages)? Now consider that as many as 100 million other animals, mostly cats, live on the streets. Why? Their mommies and daddies weren’t neutered.
Look into insurance. Believe it or not, pet health insurance is all the craze in employer benefits packages. That’s because it comes in very handy nowadays, considering the importance of pet health and how pet pills and operations seem to be getting just as pricy as people medicine. Even if you don’t get pet insurance through work, look into a package on your own. While you’re at it, consider third-party liability insurance, too, especially for instances such as dog bites.
Tabulate the grocery tab. Perhaps the number one thing people don’t realize when getting a pet is how expensive their food can be. Figure out just how much your pet will eat before you get it, planning always to provide your critter more than enough in proper and balanced meals. Ask yourself, “Can I afford this?”
Pour attention and love on your pet. Why even bother having a pet if you don’t plan to give it affection? That’s the whole point of keeping a critter around, right? So when your little guy (or girl) greets you at the door after work, or wants to snuggle in your lap in front of the TV, don’t push them away. Award them for their faithfulness.
Groom your pet. Grooming counts toward that love and attention requirement, but it also is necessary for the animal’s health as well. Depending on your type of animal, grooming could involve a bath, the occasional haircut, regular hair brushing, tooth exams, and paw inspection.
Hop, skip, and a jump. Animals love exercise. Whether they’re normally cooped up in a cage, an apartment, or, well, a coop, be sure to free them from these confines as often as possible. Dogs don’t just like to take walks to go potty. Cats don’t like to tear up and down furniture just to shred it. They have energy to burn, and will be better off for it.
Teach your pet proper bathroom etiquette. Speaking of going potty, it is essential to train your pet at the earliest possible age to do so properly. Of course, this doesn’t mean training them to put down the lid when they’re done (although supposedly rabbits can be taught to do so!). But it does mean getting a cat to use a kitty litter box, for instance, or a dog to wait until it’s outside. If you don’t know how to train them, learn before you own them. Ask your parents or friends, read a book, visit a chat room, or talk with the vet.
Consider a proper place of higher learning. When training becomes an issue, whether it’s for potty training or how-not-to-chew-up-your-shoes training, consider obedience school. It is not a mark of shame for either you or your pet. In fact, it may be just what your fur ball needs to live the happiest, safest, and healthiest life possible.
To put it bluntly, if you can’t follow these rules, you shouldn’t own a pet. Buy a plant instead. However, if you’re up to the task—and really, most people are—your rewards will be immense. For a little bit of responsibility, time, and money on your part, you and your family will get a lifetime of love and unconditional adoration.