So, You Think You Want a Pet?
Karen Dugan Holman BS, BSE, MS
According to one of the most famous animal lovers of all time, Dr. Suess says, “Every animal looks like fun, so how in the world do you pick just one?” Pet’s can be life- changing and can impact our well-being. As an example, research has shown, pets can lower your anxiety, blood pressure, and offer companionship. They comfort us when we are sad, listen to our silly stories, love us unconditionally, and greet us like heroes when we enter a room. You may notice that friends who have pets are generally enthusiastic about sharing their pet stories and pictures. This can make owning a pet seem like a wonderful experience. However, before you consider getting a pet, you must honestly consider this commitment.
Pets require a lot of time from their owners, some more than others. Puppies and kittens are adorable, but have high energy levels, that require a great deal of responsibility, commitment and care. How would you describe your lifestyle? Busy, sedentary, active? Changing your lifestyle may be difficult and many pets require daily exercise.
Do you travel or work long hours? If yes, you should consider a pet that does not demand your time. Fish, turtles, or gerbils might be a good pet choice for you.
Many pets cannot thrive while being left alone for long periods of time. For example, dogs, crave human companionship. Behavior issues, such as chewing and barking, may develop when dogs are left alone for many hours at a time. Remember, it is your responsibility to provide care and environmental enrichment for your pet in your absence. You may need to plan for boarding, pay a pet sitter or ask a friend or family member to become the responsible party for your pets, while you are away.
What type of home do you live in? Different pets require specific types of homes. If you rent your home, do they allow pets and if so, what kind and size? Many apartments allow pets, but have pet rules and require extra pet deposits or fees. Many pets can easily adapt to most homes, but others require more space and exercise. Fish, guinea pigs, gerbils, rabbits, birds, cats and some reptiles can be healthy and enriched in a smaller space without access to the outdoors, but require special housing (e.g., lamps, pumps, cages). Also, you must consider pet noises that may be bothersome to neighbors in close proximity. Do you have a fenced yard that will keep your pet safe and secure while outdoors?
Pets require health care, which can be extremely extensive. Vaccinations, spay and neuter procedures, heartworm preventative, micro-chipping, and illness and injuries must be a part of your budget. You must be honest regarding your ability to afford a pet. It is heartbreaking that an animal is surrendered to a shelter when its owner can no longer afford its care. Budget for basic pet care and anticipate extra veterinary needs.
Carefully consider all family members prior to selecting a pet. Try matching the temperament of the animal with your ability to monitor the pet with all family members, especially children. Research the ethology or normal behavior of the animal you are considering. You want to have realistic expectations for your new pet.
Do not get a pet on a whim and certainly do not get one if you cannot commit to making it part of your family and provide love and care for the pet’s entire life. If you decide a pet is exactly what you are looking for to complete your family, then visit the Broken Arrow Animal Shelter. They often have a variety of animals that need a forever family. Petfinder and local rescue groups are other trustworthy adoption resources. Rescuing a pet will save a life and help other at risk pets have a chance to find their forever homes. Remember to spay and neuter all of your pets. This is a responsibility we ALL must share.
OUR shelter needs volunteers. Please contact the Broken Arrow Animal Shelter at 918-259-8311 if you are willing to help. Let’s work together to empty our shelter and provide all Broken Arrow animals a home.