Ask Roxie

Having a pet is definitely cool. No argument there, because as many ‘09ers can happily attest, the addition of a furry, feathery, finny nonhuman to the family really does enhance our lives in so many wonderful ways. As a matter of fact, scientific studies have even shown that having a pet can benefit our overall health and possibly lengthen our lives too. Bow WOW!

But when considering the acquisition of the same, what is essential to the equation is that we choose a pet that not only fits our lifestyles and personal situations, but the animal’s as well. Since the decision shouldn’t be a light one, due to the implied long-term commitment involved, what follows are some broad guidelines gleaned from Kathy Hagen, owner and operator of the ZIP’s delightful and extensive Pet Works, and others, that just might help when trying to pick a pet that’s perfect – for all involved. Wag, wag!

Try not to make an “impulse” acquisition. What looks cute, cuddly and irresistible at this moment might morph into a monster after a few days. Don’t rush things before making a decision. Shop around and take some time. Sleep on it!

• Consider your home environment. Do you live in a small apartment? Do you have a fenced yard? If living space is limited, a few fish might suffice. If you do have an outdoor play area, is it enclosed? Small is great for some species, but others that thrive on ample geography will get cranky if cramped. And what about the neighbors or landlords? Are they copacetic with critters?

• How about your personal health? Making a commitment to care for any other living creature can be demanding. Are you physically up to the tasks involved – like house-breaking a new puppy or providing sufficient exercise? All pets come with responsibilities that can’t be shirked – even when you’re feeling a little puny.

• Decide why you want a pet. Is it constant companionship you’re craving, or do you imagine you’ll “need a little space” occasionally? Are you thinking how nice it will be to have something to pet and cuddle? Turtles and tetras might be bad choices then. Do you envision long, invigorating walks with your new cohort? Some dogs exude energy, but just try taking your curled-up cat on a hike.

• Consider cost. All animals require attention and love, but imagine the feeding expenses of a Great Dane compared to that of its petite cousin, the Chihuahua. If it’s birds you’re thinking, creating or purchasing a proper caged home can be a factor. Ditto for a tricked out aquarium. Remember, no pet is ever “cost free,” even if it was a gift.

• How about your personal routines? Are you gone all day? Some pets get lonely. Some don’t care – like reptiles. And some animals are more active during the night. This isn’t so good if you’re a morning person. Make sure your schedule and the pet’s are in sync.

• Research is always recommended. No matter what kind of pet you, or your family, are considering, a little pre-acquisition study is paramount. Some pets can live for decades (parrots), while others are old at two years (rats). Are you looking for a long relationship? Also, certain animals require a lot of one-on-one attention or they get bored, which can bring on unwanted behaviors. Are you prepared to devote a lot of your time toward the animal’s well-being? How about shedding? Are you allergic? Will your children be able to positively interact with your desired pet? Be sure you understand personalities, needs, traits and repercussions before making a selection. Ask friends about their experiences with certain species and/or breeds. Learning beats returning an inappropriate choice.

The take-away from all of this is that having a pet is undoubtedly great, but know what you’re getting into before adding to your household. A good fit is crucial for you and your choice. So ponder before picking to ensure you’ll get that perfect pet! Meow, oink, oink, tweet, tweet, arf (which means thanks in pet-speak)!

By Ernie Altgelt

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