by Yvonne Vasquez
Owning a pet is an experience that brings many rewards in exchange for a lifetime commitment to an animal. However, the benefits of pet ownership come with serious obligations.
In reality, responsible pet ownership means much more than just furnishing food, water and shelter for your pet. The additional requirements of pet ownership range from providing proper veterinary care and exercising to spending enough time with the animal and making sure your home is “pet safe.”
Remember that an impulsive decision to acquire a pet without seriously thinking of the consequences could result in frustration and disappointment. To ensure a happy outcome for all, several factors should be carefully considered.
Many prospective dog and cat owners underestimate how much time, effort and money is needed to own them.
A pet can provide comfort, offer emotional healing and enliven the spirit of a home. Children can also learn the benefits of responsibility by taking care of a dog, cat, fish or other animal.
Typically, cats call for less care and are more self-sufficient, but they are also less social than dogs. Dogs demand significantly more care, such as grooming, training, exercise and physical time to keep them healthy and stress-free. Larger dogs call for more of everything to properly maintain them.
If you have children or plan to have children, consider their needs carefully when choosing a pet. Do plenty of research, assess your home and then decide which pet would best fit your family’s lifestyle. Above all, make sure your children meet the pet you are planning to adopt to make sure they are compatible.
Apartment living may be more ideal for smaller pets, while a home with a yard is well suited for larger or more active animals. Some breeds shed more hair, and frequent grooming is necessary. Other breeds get bored quickly if left alone for long periods and can wreck havoc on the furnishings in a house or apartment. Consult with a veterinarian, trainer or other animal expert before making your final selection.
Don’t assume that your kids will take care of it, since that is often not the case. After the initial excitement wears off and the children get involved in other activities, their involvement in the animal’s care may become sporadic, leaving the care up to you.
Children will need some general guidance regarding your pet. They should be taught to pick up small objects or items that should not be chewed. Families should also prohibit tail pulling, hitting or yelling at the animal.
“The most important thing to teach kids is basic compassion for animals,” says Shannon Sledge, Humane Education Coordinator with the Humane Society. “We hold several educational camps for children of all ages where kids can learn the importance of caring for animals.”
Parents should also explain to children that many human foods could be toxic to pets, so they should never feed them without asking their parents. Kids should also be instructed to never strike an animal, as this does nothing to train the animal and only results in fear and aggression.
Yvonne Vasquez is a San Antonio freelance writer and mother of one.