So you’re thinking about a new addition to the family? It’s an exciting decision, and sometimes it’s hard not to act on impulse. Before you do, however, here’s the who, what, where, when, and why of choosing a new family member.
WHO and WHAT
A Great Dane in a small New York studio probably wouldn’t be a great idea; nor would a ten-week old kitten if you’re working full-time. A Jack Russell terrier wouldn’t be appropriate if you don’t like to exercise regularly. The bottom line? Breed, size, and age are all essential considerations. Find out if the pet you have your heart set on is right for you; make a list of your lifestyle habits, and compare it with the needs and habits of the new pet.
Another important factor is the outward appearance of the animal. You don’t have to be a veterinarian to be able to tell pretty quickly if the pet you’re choosing is healthy. The eyes should be clear and free of any discharge, and the ears should be clean and odor-free. The mouth and gums ought to be pink, and the hair coat should be glossy with no evidence of baldness, dry skin, or external parasites. Moreover, the pet should be active, bright, and responsive. Puppies and kittens love to play, so beware of animals that hide or appear to be sleeping too much.
Perhaps one of the most important considerations is where to get your new pet. Pet stores, for instance, are not the best bet, even though the puppies and kittens staring at your through the glass are often hard to resist. The dogs and cats from these stores are usually imported from “puppy mills”. These mills are usually overcrowded – and overcrowded quarters are a breeding ground for disease. Parents are also over-bred, which means any genetic disorder is passed on from one generation to the next.
Other, safer options are reputable breeders for pure bred animals, breed rescue groups, and shelters like the ASPCA, Humane Society, and Bide-A-Wee. Animal General also always has cats and adoption and sometimes dogs. Check out our adoption page and read about our adoption process. We always have wonderful kitties available either at the practice or in foster homes. Stop by to meet the crew!
When you should get a new pet is actually two-fold. First, you should be ready for the responsibility. Even the infamously aloof adult cat requires attention and care. Dogs need to be walked several times daily, and many breeds need at least one good run a day to be healthy and happy. Don’t forget about training classes for new puppies, too.
Pets can also be financially draining. Vaccinations must be given every three to four weeks for the first four months, and no later than 6 months the pet ought to be spayed or neutered. Puppies and kittens can also have an array of other minor problems, such as intestinal parasites, and as dogs and cats age, geriatric problems can crop up, such as thyroid disease and diabetes. Everything adds up. To see lifelong healthcare recommendations for a pet, read our Pet Owner’s Manual.
Secondly, the pet should be the appropriate age. The kitten or puppy should be with mom until at least 8 weeks of age. Any animal that is younger is susceptible to health problems and may not develop as well.
Why do we get a new pet? Well, this is the hopefully the easiest question to answer, since anyone who’s ever had a pet understands the love, joy, and companionship they bring to our lives. But don’t forget, it’s a big responsibility to bring a new animal into your home. And be ready for the responsibility to span the approximate 15 years of the life of the pet. Remember the who, what, where, and when before you go out and get this new friend. When you find the right animal for you, you’ll know why day after day.