As animal lovers we want to see them all healthy and happy. This includes the stray dogs and cats shivering by the side of the road or wasting away in a shelter. However, we can’t save them all, as much as we wish we could.
With so many pets abandoned during the latest financial crisis you need to soberly consider the financial and emotional strain of pet ownership. Pets are not pieces of furniture to be discarded. They are living, emotional creatures that depend on us for everything.
To offer an animal a good quality of life there are several parameters that must be met. Good medical care, good nutrition, grooming, attention and training. Without all of these, the animal will suffer in a number of ways.
Veterinary care means yearly vaccinations, regular worming, treatment of injury and illness and as the animal ages, medications for arthritis and other maladies. Feeding a pet is more than just purchasing the cheapest chow from the local discount store. More often than not, that cheap chow is no better than feeding your pet the packaging it comes in. Even in the wild animals won’t eat like that. (see Recognizing When Your Pet has Food Allergies) Some pets will even require homemade food. This can be very time consuming.
Most animals require bathing and grooming. This process is not just to keep them from smelling poorly. It’s also a means to check for injury, infection, parasites, insect bites, and detritus entanglement, which can cause inguries and infection. Should the pet have long fur, this is especially important. Nails need regular clipping, ears need cleaning and dental hygiene should not be ignored either.
Do you have the space for more pets? The more confining the living conditions, the more the animals will squabble with each other and be in your way as well. Some pets will tend to scent mark within your home if they feel overwhelmed by other individuals. For example, cats will tend to urinate (scent mark) around the house if they feel intruded upon by too many other cats, or even just one cat that threatens their hierarchy position. While dogs often like to sleep near each other, feeding time is a different story. They must have some separation when eating to avoid scuffles and rushed consumption.
Then there’s the attention and training factor. Every pet requires your time. Not just time to feed and take them to the veterinarian; but time to spend with them – playing, training, caressing. These are all very important aspects of pet ownership. The question you need to ask yourself is, “How much time can I spend with each of my pets?” If it’s less than 20 minutes each day, per pet, than you need to stop getting more. And, while 20 minutes per day is the minimum per individual pet, you will need much more time with all of them together. Dogs like having the company of other dogs, but it is normally your company that they prefer. Cats, in particular, prefer the company of their humans over the company of other cats. (Suggestion: If you are very short on time availability then I would suggest a pet rodent, gerbil or hamster. They are fully interactive but do not unduly suffer when their humans lack time for them and there are many available at shelters in need of adoption.)
And, finally, the financial aspect of pet ownership. Can you comfortably afford your pets? Would it begin to strain your budget if you were to get another?
The larger the pet the more they will cost. Here’s a sample list of yearly pet costs:
Veterinarian – $250
Grooming – $450
Training – $250 – $2000 depending on your goals and activities
Food – $360 – $2000 depending on size of animal
Miscellaneous – $500 This category covers toys, bedding, and other items for your pet’s comfort
The last thing you want to do, as an animal lover and advocate, is to overload yourself with pets and become a collector/hoarder. This usually ends up badly, with all your animals suffering. You are far better off giving a few animals a good, quality of life, than trying to help them all. Only someone with unlimited resources and property can offer this, and few of us are in this situation.
Love and enjoy your pets. Give them the chance to also love and enjoy you.