Bringing a new pet - cat or dog - into your home means adjustments to your lifestyle and living arrangements. It's not just a matter of your pet adjusting to you, but of you and yours making changes to help create a good fit for all those involved - two-legged and four.
To say there is an exact formula to follow . . . . Well, there isn't. However, there are some common sense guidelines to consider before taking such a big step.
I had a dog/cat growing up, so I know what I'm getting into . . . .
I hear this all too often. Having a dog or cat when you were growing up is very different from being an adult and being responsible for one every minute of every day. What you thought was fun when you were a kid is not necessarily the same today.
Firstly, your living space is different.
Most people don't live where they grew up.
You now may have different people as part of your life.
You have different likes and dislikes.
Are you ready to walk your dog in a snowstorm? Pouring rain?
Ready to clean litterboxes regularly?
How you spend your time now is not the same as when you were a child.
Then there's your work, family, life obligations . . . .
How's your bank account? Ready to empty some of it on a regular basis?
Too often people don't realize that each aspect of their lives impacts the rest of their 24 hour day in some way. Extra time is needed when you add a dog or cat to the plan. Each needs your care and love, some more so than others. They aren't pieces of sporting equipment you can just set aside. If you do, expect to have undesirable consequences. It might not happen overnight, but it will happen.
Some people actually expect a dog to train itself (scary), because the dog they grew up was "the best." Unfortunately, people tend to forget that the adults of their childhood fed and trained that dog while they themselves were off playing with their friends or busy with school or sports, or whatever occupied their time.
Unfortunately, when people do realize that having a pet is far more than they bargained for, Phydo or Sweet Cheeks, the cat - through no reason of their own - gets dumped at a shelter with a lame excuse so that the owners can keep from feeling guilty.
You'd be surprised what a major rescue organization told me about what people think is acceptable when breaking their dog or cat's heart after the animal bonds with them and they get dumped at their shelter.
Disgusted, the rescue board compiled a list of over two hundred different excuses offered by people surrendering their pets. Pretty darn sad. Shameful, in fact.
Unfortunately, too many animals are being "dumped."
Mainly, it's because people are not doing their homework beforehand, or they aren't being realistic in their expectations.
Here's a few thoughts:
Not all dogs/cats are a perfect match for you and your family (no matter how cute they are.)
Simply put, if you have cat dander allergies, don't get a cat.
If you're allergic to dogs, don't get one. Yes, that's right, a dog might not be for you either. (But there are several breeds that don't shed that you might want to consider if everything else is a "go.")
If you don't have the time or ability to exercise a dog properly, get a cat.
If you don't have a lot of time or ability to exercise your dog, don't get a working breed! (That's how we ended up with our Freya - former owners worked long hours, had no time for her and they lived in a condo in a major metropolitan area. Unfortunately, I discovered there was also some abuse and a lot of neglect, which created issues that I had to address. But she's ours now and we love her!)
Not an active person? Adopt a low energy adult dog or an adult cat. NOT a puppy.
Don't have a lot of time? Look into adopting a young or adult cat.
Kittens, just like puppies, can be a handful!
Understand that puppies of ANY breed are active and might have more energy than you have.
Dogs and cats don't care if your couch cost $5,000 or $69, and will use it for all sorts of activities when your back is turned. If this bothers you, be prepared to do some POSITVE training.
Don't have the budget for vaccinations, food, bedding and equipment or any vet emergencies? Don't get a pet. Period. (However, CareCredit can be a consideration, but you will be obligated to repay all charges.)
Rent your home or apartment? Don't get a pet! Your landlord might be okay with your dog or cat now, but if you move, it can be extremely difficult to find another considerate landlord.
Dogs don't know the difference between your "good" sneakers and your old ones, or anything else you hold dear.
Dogs as well as cats have their own personality. All are different. (We even have a furry wild child - Ali Cat.The boy even has his own videos on YouTube)
Lastly, cats have their own agenda and it is rarely yours.
I can add to the list above, but you get the idea. I've helped with rescue animals, rescuing animals and have worked with rescue organizations all of my life. In fact, all of my pets since childhood have been rescues, even my purebred dogs.
Currently, my husband and I share our home with four rescue "kids" - Freya, Tarzan, Ali Cat and Cinders (the new kid). Lamentably, we lost our Old Guy, sweet Fred, last month to old age.
But knowing what I do and having experienced every aspect of being a pet caregiver, foster mom and rescuer, I urge people to think first, resist that cute look, then embrace the joys of having a pet in your life. It will make you want to pull out your hair, cry, laugh, but best of all, it will make your heart smile as never before.
RIP, Fred, the Old Guy. 18 years old. He is missed.