So, you think you want a pet? Great! There are hundreds of dogs and cats in local shelters because of the lack of adoptions, spaying and neutering – and many are euthanized if not adopted.
But before you head to the shelter, there are some important responsibilities you need to consider with your family prior to adopting a pet.
First, analyze your lifestyle. How many hours will you be away from your pet each day? Dogs and cats need attention and interaction. They need exercise throughout the day to thrive and relieve themselves. Where will your pet be during your time away? Locking them in a confined cage creates stress and anxiety. A fenced yard is a good choice, but think twice about that invisible pet fence. Some studies show that many dogs cannot adapt to this unnatural line of demarcation and ultimately become stressed and anxious, which can cause aggression. Definitely something to consider.
Pets are much like humans, and have basic necessities: food, water, sleep, exercise, love and engagement. Take, for example, food. Did you know that bagged dry food has only been developed as a convenience food? Before the early 1960s, dogs and cats were fed table scraps and canned food. Today, many pets have kidney and urinary problems due to dry food diets. Healthy amounts of table scraps will not put weight on your dog or cat. Clean and cold water, just as for us, should always be available to our pets. Oh yes, if their water bowl is not full or fresh, they will drink out of the toilet!
Sleep is one thing pets do best and it’s usually because of boredom. They do need their own special place to call their bed. However, just like us, they like to curl up on the sofa or by the owner to feel safe and loved. As far as exercise, they depend on us to allow them to run and play. If we fail to give them this opportunity, just like us, they will gain weight.
Love and engagement is truly the heart and soul of owning a pet, and that’s important to teach your children. Pets thrive only if you show you care and make them feel special. This can be a great learning experience as a family. I tell my kids to think of their needs and how the pet’s needs are similar. This helps them gain great self-awareness, as well as a deep bond with the pet and compassion for the pet’s needs and feelings. As an educator, I smile, because I know these are life lessons they’ll carry with them forever.