Now that Helpful Buckeye has taken care of getting all those dogs and cats of yours properly groomed and bathed, it's time to move on to the folks who are contemplating the possibility of adding a new pet to the household. Helpful Buckeye has received a lot of e-mails with questions of what to consider or think about when looking for a new pet. Even though new pets are acquired year round, there are two surges in acquisition activity...the month of December (for Christmas presents) and the summer months (when the kids are not in school).
Even if you are one of our loyal readers with enough pets for the time being, you might still benefit from this discussion if you happen to know someone who is contemplating getting a new pet. If you do, by all means pass this blog site on to them...with your highest recommendation!
From the ASPCA, comes this perfect lead-in to our weekly topic:
Top Four Things to Ask Yourself Before Adopting a Pet
So you’ve got your eye on a new pet! Whether it’s the latest addition to your menagerie or your first-ever pet (congratulations!) it pays to think ahead about which species would fit best in your family. Ask yourself these questions before you bring home a new friend.
What do I want most in a pet?
Are you looking for a constant companion, an independent critter or a pet who’s perfect for your six-year-old? A dog is called man’s best friend for a reason, but cats and rabbits can also be very affectionate and don’t require a walking schedule. If you’re looking for something both loving and appropriate for children, consider a guinea pig!
How much responsibility can I handle?
Everyone knows that dogs are a lot more work than your average fish. But commitment to your pet can sometimes mean a lot more than scooping the litter box or serving up a plate of kibble. Can you care for a cat who becomes diabetic? What about a dog who needs help with separation anxiety? Consider how much time and energy your family has to commit to a new pet and how you might handle a rough patch with your new friend.
What kind of critter can I afford to pamper?
Caring for pets can get pretty pricey, especially when you consider possible incidental costs like emergency trips to the vet, hiring a cat-sitter, or replacing a chair your puppy turned into a chew-toy. If your wallet’s a bit light at the moment, your best bet is a fish, which ASPCA research shows can cost as little as $35 a year. A large dog, by contrast, will set you back nearly $900 each year. For more information on the price of day-to-day care of various pets, check out our handy Pet Care Costs chart.
Which species is most compatible with my lifestyle?
Are you a jetsetter, a homebody, a new parent or night owl? Examining when you’re home, when you’re awake, and the size and shape of your family will help you determine which pet to adopt. A Terrier won’t be very happy with an absentee pet parent, but a workaholic could still enjoy caring for a fish. And if you’re up late at night, many kitties would love to keep you company, as would a hamster! They’re nocturnal and make good companions for those who burn the midnight oil.
No matter what species you decide to make a part of your family, make sure adoption is your first option!
Adapted from: http://www.aspca.org/News/National/National-News-Detail.aspx?NDate=20110722&NType=National#News4
If you decide that you are interested in a dog or cat, you need to prepare for the adoption process and what to expect:
The Adoption Process: What to Expect
Shelters and rescue groups ask a lot of questions of prospective adopters for two main reasons: to ensure long-term homes for the animals in their care and to facilitate good matches between customers and their adopted companions.
Getting to know you
Most shelters require adopters to complete an application. In addition to basic contact information, the application is likely to include questions about the following areas:
Your housing situation (renting vs. owning)
The number and ages of any children in your household
The number and type of other pets you may own
The name and contact information of your veterinarian
Your previous experience with pets
Your activity level, lifestyle, and expectations for a new animal
Shelters and rescue groups each have their own particular approach to re-homing animals, and organizations vary widely in the amount of detail they request in their adoption applications. Ideally, the adoption process is structured more like an open conversation than a series of yes-or-no, right-or-wrong questions. The goal is to balance the interests of two different sets of customers: the animals and the adopters.
Why pets end up in shelters
Consider why pets are surrendered in the first place. Among the top five reasons that people give up their pets, three are common to both dogs and cats: landlord issues, moving, and the cost of pet care. For dogs, the other most common reasons include lack of time and inadequate facilities. For cats, it's allergies and having too many cats to care for.
Many animals lose their homes because their owners weren't prepared to invest the necessary money and time to care for a pet. In other cases, families and pets are mismatched. Consider these all-too-common scenarios:
A high-energy dog is adopted by a family that doesn't have time for extensive daily exercise
A skittish kitten is chosen by rambunctious children whose parents aren't inclined to actively supervise their kids
A bunny with a predictable fondness for chewing catches the eye of someone who has no interest in rabbit-proofing her home.
To prevent such painful situations for both the pets and people involved, shelters and rescue groups carefully evaluate adopters in the hope of avoiding these mismatched relationships.
Do your homework
Many shelters and rescue groups have information about their adoption process on their websites so you can know in advance what to expect. If possible, it's helpful to examine the adoption process thoroughly before going to the shelter.
You'll have a relationship with your pet for many years to come, so it's worth being patient and taking your time to carefully consider what kind of pet—big or small, energetic or relaxed, older or younger—is right for you. Before you head to the shelter, ask yourself some questions that will help you figure out exactly what kind of critter will best fit your lifestyle and personality.
Adapted from The Humane Society of the United States: http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/adopt/tips/adoption_process_what_expect.html
If there is a child involved anywhere in this question of acquiring a new pet, these are words of wisdom:
When not to get your child a pet
The guilt-ridden mom remembers the moment she caved and got the puppy. Her little ones sat desolate, on a swing set, watching another child play with his dog. She asked them what was wrong.
"We're just going to sit here and watch that boy play with his puppy," her 4-year-old son said.
That night she told her husband they were getting a dog.
And so she joined the ranks of countless well-meaning parents who are emotionally manipulated into getting a pet before they are ready to add responsibility for another living thing into their lives.
There is a special agony experienced by children who live in a pet-free home. They are quick to remind their parents of this gaping hole in their empty lives. My daughter has been reduced to tears when asked to write a journal entry at school about her pet. (All she has is a younger brother.) My niece has begged my sister relentlessly for years for a dog. Her daughter's pleas in her ears, my sister passed a seller in a flea market offering a 5-day-old baby quail chick for $1.
It was so fluffy and cute, she thought.
"I thought it would be easier to care for than a dog," she said. She bought a wire bird cage from Craigslist and a 20-pound bag of chicken feed.
My nieces were a little confused when she brought their new "pet" home, but they were excited.
"They weren't expecting a farm animal," she said.
The chick has turned out to be a lot more work than expected -- from making sure it has enough food and water all day long to cleaning out the cage and protecting it from other stray animals that want to eat it.
"We've started putting it in the garage at night," my sister said. But her daughter has taken this "pet" to heart, training it to eat out of her hand and remarking recently: "It's pecking just like a grown woman now."
(The chick was sold as a female but is actually a male, which has created some lingering gender confusion and two sets of names.)
The poor girl has no idea that her father has other plans for the fowl, which is growing rapidly in size.
Plans that involve a cooking pot.
The family with the puppy has also run into trouble. The young boy, who was so eager to get a pet, was a little too fond of hugging the doggy a little too tightly, a little too close to its face. After a couple of years of one too many hugs, the dog snapped and bit the boy on the face. The mom, who had repeatedly taught her son how to properly treat the dog, was horrified. They found the pup a foster family until it is adopted.
"Not until the kids are 10 years old," the mom said recently, is she willing to consider a new pet.
Another mom confessed that she had driven by a "Found: Lost Cat" sign in her neighborhood for a week, knowing it was a picture of their cat who had developed a habit of relieving itself all over the house.
"It's obviously found itself a good home if they're willing to make a sign for it," she rationalized.
Eventually, she called and claimed the kitty. But unable to cure the cat of its bladder control issues, the family made "a very generous" donation, so the cat could live out its remaining days in an animal sanctuary.
Pets have the ability to teach children amazing lessons about life, love and death. But, they cannot be impulse buys.
The way we care for them once they are no longer as cute or convenient teaches our children just as important a lesson.
Sometimes, it's best to stay strong.
Don't fall for the baby chick unless you want to raise a chicken.
Adapted from: http://www.nwitimes.com/niche/nwiparent/family-life/article_90abad36-5e11-525c-90bd-1c806cf7cbf1.html
Once you have decided to get a pet dog or cat, there are many considerations that will help you determine if you are ready for responsible pet ownership:
Deciding to get a pet
Deciding to become a pet owner requires very considered thought and planning. All potential pet owners need to be sure they are really ready to take on the responsibility of owning a pet before going ahead and making a choice of breed of pet.
The first question you must ask yourself is "Can I look after a pet properly?" If the answer is "Yes", the next step is to make the right choice of pet in accordance with your lifestyle and priorities.
The average lifespan of a small dog is 11 years and, 12 years for a cat. This means pet owners need to be prepared to dedicate this many years (maybe even more) to properly looking after their pet.
If you are part of a family, the decision to get a pet should be a combined one, as all family members will come into contact with the pet, and should be involved in looking after it.
Important things to consider before deciding to own a pet include:
- Are you prepared to care for a dog/cat for over 10 years?
- Can you afford to own a pet with costs such as registration, vaccination, general health care, vet bills, food, grooming, de-sexing, obedience training, and boarding?
- Do you have time to care for a pet? eg: daily exercise, grooming, obedience and play.
- Who will look after your pet when you're away?
- Do you live in a suitable location and type of housing for a pet?
- Do you have adequate space for the pet you are considering?
- What hours do you work, and will the pet have any company during the day?
- If renting accommodation, are you permitted to own a pet?
- If buying a puppy/kitten, can you provide care during the day and meals at regular intervals until it is six months of age?
- Does a pet fit in with your lifestyle, activities, sporting pursuits and priorities?
- Are you prepared to confine your cat (in the house or an enclosure) at night, or even 24 hours a day as required by some councils?
If you can properly look after a pet, you need to carefully research and consider which breed or breed mix of dog or cat will suit your lifestyle and surroundings.
Some do's and don'ts…
• Read up on the type of pet you are considering purchasing. Contact dog and cat associations (eg: Dogs Victoria or Feline Control Council) who can put you in touch with breed clubs who can provide information on particular breeds;
• Contact dog obedience clubs, local vets and speak to people you know or meet who own the particular breed or breed mix you are considering; and
• Take into account factors like the size of your yard, the amount of exercise you can give a dog, or the type of nature you want in a dog or cat to help determine the exact breed that is suitable for you.
• Choose a breed just because it is popular or fashionable; this can lead to unhappy outcomes for both the pet and the owner;
• Buy a working dog (eg: kelpie or cattledog) if you live in the city, unless you are prepared to give it plenty of daily exercise; and
Remember that puppies which look adorable in a pet shop window could grow up to be big dogs that need a lot of exercise, food and space.
Where to purchase
All domestic animal businesses are legally required to be registered with the local Council, and must follow strict regulations under the Domestic Animals Act 1994. These requirements are from an Australian location but similar restrictions will apply in any of the United States.
Domestic animal business refers to any place where animals are kept and sold. This includes pet shops, breeders, animal welfare shelters, and government approved cat and dog associations.
The regulations set minimum standards for the housing and sale of animals and require the business to sell every pet with a certificate of good health, which guarantees it has been vaccinated and wormed.
The certificate protects both you as the new owner of a pet, and also the business that sold it to you.
It is illegal to sell pets from casual markets. It's not unusual for these animals to have received no suitable veterinary examination, and as a result, they may not be free from physical defects.
Without a certificate, there is no guarantee covering the animal's health, and if you decide to return to the seller to ask questions about your newly acquired pet's health, you may find the seller has moved on (some sellers have just one or two litters to sell and then disappear). Never purchase a puppy or kitten that looks unwell.
Once you have decided that you can give a pet the care and attention it needs, the next important decision is to choose the right pet for your lifestyle and priorities. These decisions are the basic building blocks for responsible pet ownership, which is good news for you, your pet and the wider community.
Adapted from: http://new.dpi.vic.gov.au/pets/choosing-a-pet
If there has been a younger child involved in the decision to get a new dog, it's never too early to to educate these children about the need for a sense of safety around dogs:
Remind kids about safety around dogs
Hardly a day goes by when there isn't a news story about a dog attack somewhere. When school starts, children may become especially vulnerable, walking and biking through their neighborhoods to class. That's why every year we like to remind parents to review safety around strange dogs with their children.
To be fair, dogs aren't the biggest risk that children face growing up. Organized sports, for example, are 10 times more likely to result in a child's trip to the emergency room than are dogs.
And although in most cases the dog involved in a serious attack is the family's own, it's also true that many neighborhoods are not safe for walking or biking because of a dog. These animals are accidents waiting to happen because their owners either don't know or don't care that their dogs are a public menace.
The experts say the signs are usually there long before a dog attacks. The dog is typically young, male and unneutered. He is usually unsocialized, a backyard dog with little to no interaction with the family. He is often inadvertently trained to be vicious by being kept full time on a chain or in a small kennel run.
Is there a dog like this in your neighborhood – or in your own yard? If it's the latter, call your veterinarian and arrange for your pet to be neutered, and then ask for a referral to a behaviorist who can help you rehabilitate your pet. Don't put this off: Your dog is a danger, and your own family is at risk.
Of course, you can't control what other people do with their animals. That's why you have to make sure your children know how to behave around dogs to protect themselves. Here's what everyone should know, and what parents need to teach their children:
• Never approach a loose dog, even if he seems friendly. Dogs who are confined in yards, and especially those on chains, should also be avoided. Many are very serious about protecting their turf. If the dog is with his owner, children should always ask permission before petting him and then begin by offering him the back of a hand for a sniff. Further, they should pat the dog on the neck or chest. The dog may interpret a pat from above as a gesture of dominance. Teach your children to avoid fast or jerky movements around dogs, since these may trigger predatory behavior.
• Be a tree when a dog approaches, standing straight with feet together, fists under the neck and elbows into the chest. Teach your children to make no eye contact, since some dogs view eye contact as a challenge. Running is a normal response to danger, but it's the worst possible thing to do around a dog, because it triggers the animal's instinct to chase and bite. Many dogs will just sniff and leave. Teach your children to stay still until the animal walks away, and then back away slowly out of the area.
• If attacked, "feed" the dog a jacket or backpack, or use a bike to block the dog. These strategies may keep an attacking dog's teeth from connecting with flesh.
• Act like a log if a dog knocks you down: face down, legs together, curled into a ball with fists covering the back of the neck and forearms over the ears. This position protects vital areas and can keep an attack from turning fatal. Role-play these lessons with your children until the instructions are ingrained. They may save a child's life.
Discuss safe behavior with your children and role-play how to approach dogs, when not to approach and what to do if confronted or attacked.
You don't need to scare your children, but you do need to make sure they're ready, just in case. And going over the "what ifs" isn't a bad idea for you as well.
Adapted from: http://www.sacbee.com/2010/08/31/2993551/pet-connection-remind-kids-about.html
There is similar advice available concerning cats and your kids:
Good behavior for kids with cats
Any advice about cats for a family with three children from preschool to fourth grade? We're adopting a shelter cat – our first "big" pet after success with hamsters and guinea pigs – but we don't want anyone bitten or scratched.
Children and cats are natural together, but you need to lay some ground rules for the safety of both from the moment your new pet comes home. Kittens can be injured by the loving attention of children, especially young ones. And with about a half-million cat bites reported every year in the United States, you can clearly see that some cats give as good as they get.
The key to keeping children and cats together safely is to make sure that their interactions are supervised and to teach children how to handle and respect cats.
Toddlers can really try a cat's patience, even though they aren't being anything but normal. Young children can't understand that rough poking, squeezing and patting aren't appreciated. Although most cats figure out quickly that children this age are best avoided, your child could be bitten or scratched if your cat is cornered or startled. Keep an eye on all interactions, and consider putting a baby gate across the entry to a "safe room" for your cat, so he can have a place to go where he isn't pestered.
From the time a child is in school, he or she can start learning to care for a pet and take on an increasing amount of responsibility – under supervision, of course. One way to teach younger school-age children to play carefully is to play the "copycat game." If your child pets the cat gently, stroke his arm gently to show how nice it feels. Teach your children, too, how to hold a cat properly, with support under his chest and his legs not left dangling. A cat who feels secure and safe is far less likely to scratch or bite.
Adapted from: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/04/05/3527513/model-good-behavior-for-kids-with.html
Let's assume you have decided on getting a dog. Do you suppose you might have dog-breed bias? For more on this aspect:
What Is Your Dog-Breed Bias?
We know you love dogs. All dogs. But there are so many different breeds, so many variations among the species, only a liar could claim to love every sort of dog equally. It's OK to admit it: you have a dog-breed bias. We all do. The "Doggie Dish" understands that, and they think we should be open about it, so they're leading the discussion.
The "Doggie Dish" is a site for dog lovers where dog bloggers from across the web come together to talk about the issues that go along with their beloved pets. In this "Doggie Dish" video, discussing their most favored and least favored dog breeds are Amelia Glynn of the San Francisco Chronicle; Bernie Berlin from A Place to Bark; "Stunt Dog Guy" Chris Perondi; Dr. Robyn Barbiers, President of the Anti-Cruelty Society; and Matt Drew of Drew's Pawspective.
To watch this informative and entertaining video, go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UxriEAHqLUk&feature=player_embedded#at=59
Adapted from: http://www.pawnation.com/2011/06/24/the-doggie-dish-what-is-your-dog-breed-bias/
By this point, you should be pretty well zeroed in on whether you want a dog or a cat. Helpful Buckeye will follow up this advice in next week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats with more information on what first time dog or cat owners should know, finding the "perfect" dog or cat, and locating a veterinarian you can feel comfortable with to take care of your new pet.
You might not imagine a humorist commenting on the wonder of summer days, but James Dent, humorist and cartoonist, weighs in right here: "A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, ...and the lawn mower is broken."
As soon as Desperado and Helpful Buckeye throw that dart at the map of Arizona, we will begin chasing that perfect summer day...and we don't even own a lawn mower (or have any grass, for that matter).
~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~