If you are like most of us here at SPCA, falling in love with an animal is easy. Adopting a pet, however, is a big decision. Dogs, cats and small animals are living beings with needs, wants and feelings just like you and I. They require a considerable amount of time, money and commitment — over 15 years worth in many cases. Pet ownership can be a wonderful experience and very rewarding, but only if you think through your decision very carefully before you adopt. These questions about pet ownership may help you with your decision.
Many pets like puppies and kittens are so cute that many people can’t resist taking them home, sometimes without carefully thinking through their decision. Then, after a few weeks, sometimes days, these people realise the great responsibilities involved in their animal’s care. One of these responsibilities is the time required to care for the animal.
The care of the most common pets such as dogs, cats and rabbits requires considerable time. This is especially the case for dogs as they are not happy if left alone for long periods of time. Pets cannot be ignored just because you are too tired or too busy. They require food, water, exercise, playtime, grooming and companionship every day of every year. If you can’t give enough time to play and interact with your pet each day, do not get one that requires a lot of time.
Consider a pet that doesn’t require as much time, such as fish. But remember, you still need time to clean and take care of fish and their tank. So, part of your family’s research before deciding whether to adopt a pet.
There are many costs involved with pet ownership. Up front costs for cats and dogs include vaccinations, microchipping and spay or neutering. Animals adopted from SPCA already have these things covered. However, you will need to be prepared to pay for ongoing costs associated with food, flea and worm treatments, annual health checks, vet bills, training, toys, bedding, and boarding kennels or catteries – if you go away. These ongoing costs continue for the entire life of the animal. If an emergency or accident occurs, you will also need to ensure you can pay for any emergency veterinary treatment required.
The costs of pet ownership will vary depending on the type of animal your family chooses. Remember that pets are an expensive addition to any family, so whether or not your family can afford these costs is very important to think about before adopting a pet.
Do you know any pet owners? If so, talk to them to find out about how much they spend at their pet’s vet each year.
The average lifespan of dogs and cats is around 12 years, with some dogs and cats living until 15 or even 20 years of age so it's a long-term commitment.
While puppies and kittens are very adorable, you will need to be prepared to provide for an adult animal too and, in the case of some dogs, a much larger animal with considerable exercise needs and often a large appetite!
It is your family’s responsibility, as pet owners, to research the needs of your chosen pet, through all stages of its life. Your family should do this before considering adopting your pet and before bringing your pet home. You need to be well informed about the needs of your pet so you're ready to take good care of it.
First carefully consider if your family can provide a suitable home for your pet both now and well into the future.
Your home size and/or garden size are factors in determining your suitability as a pet owner for certain types of animals.
If you're thinking about getting a dog - do you have a yard? Is it secure? If you don't have a yard, where will your dog be housed when you're not at home? Remember, even if you live on a large property, dogs need a secure area for their own safety and the safety of any other animals on the land.
If your animal is inside, where will it go to the toilet? Can an adult get home to let a dog outside every few hours?
If your family rents your property has your landlord given you written permission to have a dog or other pet? What will happen if you have to move?
Your parents’ working hours, your time at school, club and sports team commitments are all factors that need to be carefully considered before purchasing a pet.
Pets need human company and will always depend on you. You must be sure that your lifestyle can give them this company.
Before you adopt a pet consider their needs. Are you prepared to walk your dog everyday? Are you home often enough to keep your cat or dog company and give them attention? Do you have time to give your puppy or kitten the basic reward-based training it needs? Who will care for your pet when you are away from home?
If so, do you have reliable friends, relatives or money to pay for a boarding kennel, cattery or pet sitter to care for your pet while you are away?
It’s very important that you seek advice about how to introduce new pets to each other. Animals need time and patience when meeting new friends – just like humans. You want to make sure all your animals get along together and feel safe and loved. Don’t forget to talk to your veterinarian about the best way to bring a new pet into your home.
Has your class checked out SPCA’s Cost of having a pet unit? If not, ask your teacher to check it out. In this fun inquiry unit your class will use maths, science and online tools to learn about the time, money and responsibilities involved in owning a pet. Armed with this knowledge you will be able make the call whether or not your family is ready to make the commitment of caring for an animal and if so – what type!