Women Love Pets. Thinking about getting a new pet? Here’s what to consider.
If you are considering a new pet, whether it is your first one or an addition to the pack, you are not alone. The American Veterinary Medical Association reports that in 2018, over 48 million households in the U.S. included dogs, and nearly 32 million included cats.
There are certainly a variety of benefits to having pets. As demonstrated by millions of videos across social media, there is no shortage of entertainment to be found in our furry, feathered and scaled friends! Dogs by nature may motivate their owners to exercise more, and visits to the dog park or other dog-friendly activities can add dimension to a dog owner’s social life.
Perhaps the most important benefit of pet ownership is companionship. But animal companions are more than just someone to talk to and snuggle with; according to the National Institutes of Health, studies have shown that interacting with animals can lower blood pressure and decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Companion animals can also boost one’s mood and combat feelings of loneliness.
Even with all the potential benefits, there are several things to consider when adopting a pet. Here are a few:
Age and Energy Level
Kittens and puppies are universally adorable, but upon settling into a new home they can turn out to be destructive little terrors. If you fall for the wiles of a tiny, helpless kitten, you may later find it to be a ball of endless energy with a need to destroy everything in sight. And if you care for an elderly cat that is always lived a quiet life as an only cat, a kitten could be an unwelcome addition to the family. In either case, consider adopting two rambunctious kittens; they will entertain each other for hours (including while you are away from the house), hone their social skills together and double the entertainment they provide for your family. Or consider looking at more mature but equally deserving pets available for adoption.
If you have a sedentary lifestyle, living with a high-energy dog could become a nightmare. Likewise, if you like to be on the go but have a dog that can barely keep up, you may both be in for a lot of frustration. Take some time to get to know your potential new pet, and talk to the current caretaker about its personality, energy level and compatibility with your family, including other pets you may have.
Where To Adopt
There is no shortage of animals in need of homes, but some potential pet owners may be attached the idea of owning a pure breed. If you decide to purchase a pet from a breeder, do your research. Ask to visit the facility where the animals are kept. Request vet records to ensure the health of the pet is being accurately represented. Ask for references or search online for reviews.
If you are fond of pure breeds but prefer not to buy from a breeder, you may be able to find your ideal breed, or something close, in an animal rescue organization. Many organizations list adoptable animals on their web sites, and Petfinder.com has a search engine that allows you to search adoptable animals in your area by breed.
Whether your next pet comes from a breeder, a rescue organization, or a local municipal shelter, don’t be afraid to ask questions. How does the pet respond to children? Is the animal social or a little more reserved? And if you and your pet do not turn out to be a good match for each other, can the animal be returned? Many rescues will offer behavioral advice and education to help pets remain in their homes but prefer to take back responsibility for the pet if a situation cannot be reconciled, as their goal is to find permanent, compatible homes for as many animals as possible.
Before committing to the care of a companion animal, take a close look at your budget and determine whether you are prepared for the expenses ahead. Vets usually recommend annual check-ups for younger pets, increasing that frequency to every six months as they age. The cost of a routine exam alone can rage from $50 to $250 depending on the type and health of the pet. That does not include the cost of vaccinations, medications, dental care, or additional testing, not to mention treatment of new illnesses.
Quality pet food is not cheap, and if your pet is found to require a prescription food your costs will increase dramatically. Other ongoing expenses to consider are boarding (especially if you travel often), training, grooming and litter.
Then there are unexpected veterinary bills for accidents or major illness. You may want to research pet insurance policies and consider whether one may be worth the cost. Or you can establish an emergency savings account just for pet expenses. Being prepared for the unexpected can give you a lot of peace of mind.
The cost of caring for a pet is not only significant but also long-term. Larger dog breeds tend to live 8-12 years, while smaller dogs may live 12-17 years. On average, the life span of an indoor cat is 10-15 years. Some cats may live 20 years or more. If you are ready to make room in your heart and home for a companion animal, you must also be ready to make room in your budget for the inevitable and increasing expenses over your pet’s lifetime.
A Lifetime of Love
Adopting a pet is a certainly long-term commitment, but the reward far outweighs the cost and effort. If you carefully consider the above and other crucial factors ahead of time, chances are you’ll find the companionship of a new pet will enhance your life tremendously for many happy years.
Katy Baldrachi, Operations Manager
Advance Financial Lighthouse