Today's guest pet expert has years of experience in rescuing unwanted animals. She has seen all sorts of bad decisions when people choose the wrong pet for their lifestyles. See what she has to say about picking a pet that fits your lifestyle.
How to Choose a Pet that Fits Your Lifestyle
When thinking about what sort of pet to adopt, most folks consider the obvious: what specie, what size, what breed, what age. While all of those are significant factors, perhaps the most important is lifespan. In other words, what’s the life expectancy of the animal you’ve chosen, and how many of those years are you willing to commit to?
As someone who’s spent years rescuing unwanted animals, I’m forced to conclude that some people didn’t know, when they acquired the critter, just how long the thing could live. It seems that many folks are so busy being influenced by the cute factor of the animal that they don’t stop to ask themselves the critical questions. Questions such as:
- What if I have to move and can’t take Fido with me?
- What if I become involved with someone who’s allergic to Fluffy?
- What if the kids get bored with that bunny and don’t want to care for it anymore?
- What will I do when that cute duckling I put in Junior’s Easter basket gets big and noisy?
In my opinion, if you can’t answer these questions, then you shouldn’t get a pet.
All too often, unwanted animals – whose only crime was outliving their initial cuteness – end up being dumped at shelters, or worse. Just last summer, someone abandoned six large Pekin ducks at a pond near me. The poor things were not happy to be in the wild, but rather, completely terrified by the unfamiliar territory, and the fact that they’d had no training on how to survive without human help. With the assistance of some City employees, I managed to catch all six and re-house them, but that’s a rarity in the rescue business. More often, the abandoned critters are eaten by predators.
While numerous parents would love to surprise their children with a pet at Christmas or Easter, it’s actually a terrible idea to do so. Domestic critters are lifetime commitments, not holiday gifts. Adults and children alike need to fully appreciate the enormity of that commitment: the fact that dogs need to be let out to do their business even on the days when you want to sleep in; the fact that cats require more than just food and clean litter boxes, but also an on-going investment of your time and affection; the fact that those ducklings will need predator-safe housing, daily cleaning of their habitat, and plenty of attention – especially if they’ve imprinted on you.
I once knew a couple who adopted two boxers. The couple didn’t seem terribly interested in interacting with the dogs. They arranged for a border of electric fencing, enrolled the dogs in obedience classes – which the dogs “flunked” – and then they left the dogs to their own devices, thinking, no doubt that having the run of the multi-acre property would suffice. It didn’t. Out of sheer boredom and lack of human attention, the dogs got into all sorts of mischief, up to and including eating glass. Those dogs would have been much better off living with people who would spend a lifetime cherishing them and enjoying their company. The couple would’ve been much better off with a pet rock.
It’s a simple matter to find out what the life expectancy of a given specie is. Your veterinarian would certainly know, and there are any number of websites devoted to such things. Education is just a mouse click away! Cats can live anywhere from 10 to 18 years, while small dogs (10-16 years) tend to live longer than large breeds (8-10). Those adorable little ducklings you see at the feed store every Easter can live as long as 12-15 years, and domestic bunnies can live 7-8. Indoor birds can – and often do – live as long, or longer, than their human companions. That’s a lot of years!
So the next time you’re in the market for a critter companion, or your children clamor for a pet, please think long and hard about the sort of commitment you’re willing to undertake. Do you have room for the size animal you’re thinking about? Do you have the time, between work, relationships, and obligations, to devote to training and on-going care? If the honest answer is no, there’s nothing wrong with holding off until your situation changes. It will make for a much more meaningful pet relationship when you’re finally ready.
-- Kelly Meister, Author
About the Author: Kelly Meister is a writer, photographer and potter. She shares her life with four cats, 11 ducks, and a barn full of ornery horses. In her spare time, she writes a critter-themed blog, advocates for animals in need, volunteers at a horse rescue facility, and waits on the cats hand and foot. Her first book, Crazy Critter Lady, is available at amazon.com.