There is nothing better than imagining your loved one opening up the large, beautifully wrapped gift box, and positively squealing with joy when they find the cutest, fluffiest puppy (or kitten!) inside. I would be lying if I said this wasn’t my secret wish every holiday…this year I’m dreaming of a kitty (hint hint!)…
For many lucky people this year, this picture-perfect moment will become reality. For the luckiest, this picture-perfect moment will only be the beginning of a beautiful, life-long adventure.
Sadly, the weeks following the holidays are typically the busiest weeks for animal shelters. Too many people dream of that perfect moment, bring home their furry friend, only to abandon the helpless and voiceless animal weeks later.
Why does this happen?
Well, pets are expensive, in every aspect of the word. They cost time, money, physical labor, and mental energy. They are capable of making messes, of destroying your favorite shoes, of knocking your small children over, of scratching or nipping at you. They can bark or whine all night long, they need a minimum of twice-daily walks, they track dirt inside, they shed, may have medical issues, they smell…you name it. For some people, these realities of pet ownership prove too much to handle.
Before you bring home an animal for the holidays, please be mindful of everything that pet ownership entails.
- Make sure that everyone in your home, particularly the adults, wants the pet in the first place, and is prepared for the responsibilities. Also, make sure everyone has been exposed to animals, and is allergy-free!
- Plan a budget. Factor in the expected costs of the initial fee, veterinary bills, food, pet fees required by your landlord, toys, kennels, beds, etc. Also consider any boarding costs, training classes, grooming expenses, and dog-walking services. Examples of pet budgets are easily found if you search on an internet search engine. For example, Google “Annual Cost + Golden Retriever”. Keep it safe, and overestimate the expenses.
- Set aside an “Emergency Pet Fund”. This is in addition to your already planned budget.
- Consider Pet Insurance. You can never accurately predict the veterinary expenses for your pet. Pet Insurance, which seems to average around $20/month, is a brilliant way to safeguard your bank account from the high vet bills following serious illness or injury. There are lots of different companies to choose from – I suggest talking with a qualified veterinarian, researching online, possibly contacting different shelters or rescues, and seeing what will work best for you.
- Carefully consider the specific breeds, and choose what will work best for your family. For example, if you have a relatively quiet, relaxed family, then look for breeds that are happy to lay at your feet and cuddle all day long. If you lead a very active lifestyle, look for a young, athletic, high-energy breed (such as a Boxer, Border Collie, Visla, etc.) There are some breeds that are considered better with children than others, so if you have young children in the house or are planning on expanding your family in the next few years, research child-friendly pets.
- If you plan on adopting an animal over 1 year old, have the specific animal evaluated by an animal trainer or behaviorist that IS NOT ASSOCIATED with the rescue or shelter. The personality of pets can drastically change after bringing a pet home, even 6 weeks after the transition, and you want to be as confident as possible that the pet is not at risk for becoming aggressive.
If you have come to the conclusion that adopting and keeping a pet this Holiday season is right for you, congratulations! If you are at all hesitant about any item on that list, then consider an alternative this year.
- Volunteer for a shelter or animal rescue organization. They take volunteers for just about everything! In college, I was unable to care for a pet of my own. One of my favorite activities was heading to the local no-kill animal shelter and walking their dogs. All the fun and minimal responsibility!
- Purchase tickets to an animal-show, or even passes for horseback riding lessons instead. You can expose everyone to the animals, and become involved before taking one home.
- Turn your love for animals into a charitable family activity. Plan to sponsor a pet for the holiday season, or walk around a local pet store with your family, and let your pet-crazed children pick out items to donate to a local rescue or shelter.
It is my holiday wish to keep all animals and animal-lovers safe, happy, and healthy this season! If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me. You can leave a comment below, email me, or contact me via Twitter or Facebook.