You are Responsible for a Life - Pets are Not Disposable!
When you get a new dog or cat, you're taking total responsibility for a life.
It is not a decision to be taken lightly or made on a whim.
Just what is your pet owner responsibility?
The first thing to say is that when you decide to bring a pet into your family, you're really starting a relationship that should last the whole of their lifetime. This is a serious commitment and needs to be taken as such. It's not one to make lightly, without thought.
I've written before about the realities of giving a puppy as a gift. Thoughts that apply to any animal, regardless of species, size or cost. Getting a pet is something that needs a lot of thought and consideration. You need to be certain it's the right option for you, you're getting the right pet, and you have the means to look after them.
But what does this involve?
Pet Owner Responsibility
I'll just jump in here by saying that this post was prompted by a number of comments on some of my YouTube videos. People saying that their pet developed a minor problem which they found disgusting, and so they just got rid of the pet rather than trying to treat it and solve the problem.
That's not acceptable.
You can't plan for every eventuality and predict the future health of your pet. If though you're not prepared to try and look after your pet when they become unwell, should you be having one?
I'd argue, especially if it's not a serious life-threatening condition that is going to involve an awful lot of money to fix, you should have a commitment to try and treat your family pet to the best of your ability. You should have some kind of reserve fund to pay for basic treatment.
Having said that, I absolutely don't believe that you need to be able to afford every single treatment under the sun.
Veterinary medicine, just like human medicine, is advancing very quickly. There's a lot of treatment options and diagnostic tests and things that we can do now compared to the not-so-distant past. These new tests, treatments, and surgeries though, because of the equipment and expertise involved, can cost an awful lot of money.
I don't think that you have to be able to fund every single option that your pet could need if they become unwell or injured. In fact, I’ve written in the past about how to make vet bills more affordable.
If though they've got a relatively minor medical situation, then you absolutely should be able to afford to give them the treatment that they need. It's not acceptable just to get rid of them, to pass the buck and expect someone else to pick up the slack and treat them appropriately.
The Perfect Pet for You
What else do you need to be able to do if you're getting a pet? You need to be prepared to address their daily needs of course!
Should you get a cat or a dog or a small rodent? If it’s your first pet and your getting something for your children then a rat, Guinea pig, hamster or fish might be a more appropriate choice.
If you choose a dog or a cat, then what's the best breed? Different breeds have different requirements. They need different amounts of space, exercise, training, and they've all got different temperaments.
So which is the best breed for you? Don't just get one that's currently been made popular by the celebrity of the day. To research this more, head over to my post all about the best dog for your family.
Different breeds are also prone to different health problems, and some of those problems are really quite common. If you're not going to be able to afford the treatment for that problem, while it might be that your pet doesn't develop it, there's a reasonable chance and you should be able to cover the cost of treatment.
Your Pet’s Daily Needs
Are you going to be able to brush your long-haired cat every day? If not, then they're likely to get knots and need regular professional grooming. It’s not acceptable to leave them matted.
You also need to be able to pay for their routine care. Those are things like good quality food, to pay for bedding, to have shelter for them, as well as preventative health care at the very least. This includes vaccinations, heartworm prevention, flea and tick treatment, and worming. The exact requirements here will vary, and are something you can talk to your local vet about.
If money is very tight, then basic care does need to include neutering as well because if you're struggling to afford to have a pet in the first place, but you can manage it, the last thing you want is kittens and puppies to have to deal with. They do come at a cost and if you're thinking that you'll have puppies or kittens and you'll make money, then I'm sorry to burst your bubble. It is really not guaranteed by any stretch of the imagination. The last thing you want is to have to find serious money for a middle-of-the-night caesarian section.
I’ve written more here about should you breed your dog or not.
You also need to be able to have an emergency fund available to cover the basic costs if your dog or cat does become unwell. Like I say, I don't think that you need to be able to afford absolutely every treatment under the sun. That's unrealistic, and nobody would have pets if that was the case.
But you do need to be able to cover the cost of a couple of consultations with your vet and some basic medications. Be that antibiotics, skin creams or pain killers for example.
The amount needed to cover this is going to vary depending on where you are in the world. Talk to your vet about how much would be an appropriate and sensible figure to set aside. If that's a struggle or if you would like to do more than the bare minimum for your pet, then that's where pet insurance come in. It is though important you choose the best pet insurance for you carefully. There are several pitfalls to avoid.
Some of the other comments I’ve received have said that the person didn't like animals (or they were allergic to them), but they got a puppy or kitten for their children. Things didn't work out, their children lost interest, and so they were left to care for the family pet. Because of their dislike of animals, or allergies, they simply got rid of the pet.
Tough love here…
You are responsible for your family pet, not your children. You are the adult in the relationship, and you should expect your children to maybe lose interest. They might not walk your dog as regularly as they promised. If you've got small rodents or rabbits they may not clean them out and spend plenty of time with them like they promised to.
You are responsible. If you don't like animals, as nice as it would be for your children to have pets in the house, it's not the best idea because you're going to be the one responsible. If your children lose interest, it's not acceptable for you to simply ship them to somebody else. You need to be the one who's looking after them after your bringing them into your house.
It’s also a terrible lesson to teach children. That living things are nothing more than disposable playthings. Something to discard when the novelty wears off.
Finding a New Home
The final thing to consider is that if you do give up a dog or a cat to a shelter or to a charity for re-homing, then, unfortunately, there is a real risk that they will be euthanized. Even healthy dogs and cats are euthanized because they can't be found new homes.
Every year, millions of pets are euthanized in the shelter system. You might think that "Oh well, they'll get a loving home," but there's a chance that they won't get a home at all and instead they will be killed.
If you do need to re-home your dog or your cat for any reason, and I accept that there are situations where that does need to happen, you need to be responsible to find them a suitable home yourself. Don't just take them to the shelter and assume that they'll get the best home that's most appropriate for them. There is a significant chance that this might not happen.
If something does happen and you do need to re-home your dog or cat, you need to do the best that you can for your pet to make sure that they're getting a home that's suitable for them and where there'll be happy.
I'm probably preaching to the converted here, but I wanted to put down my thoughts on this topic because from various comments it’s clear that for some there's a little bit of a disconnect between having a pet and your responsibility as a pet owner. People feeling that they are disposable objects, just another possession like a smartphone you can upgrade for the latest model or if they're not working, you can just get rid of them.
Pets are living creatures.
You are responsible for their life and it should be a relationship that lasts a lifetime.