May 22, 2019 3 min read

February is Responsible Pet Ownership Month, and in the spirit of this important month of observation, we are going to cover what it really takes to be the best pet parent you can be.

There are several important factors that go into welcoming a pet into your family, and none should be taken lightly. Choosing a pet should never be an impulsive decision, and all parties involved should be considered when making it. Make sure that what you really want is a living, breathing animal, and not a stuffed toy or lawn ornament. Be prepared for all of the responsibility and commitment that goes along with caring for an animal, and don’t be selfish. By keeping everyone’s needs and happiness in mind (including the animal’s), you will end up with the perfect pet for you!

Here are the four main guidelines to take into account when it comes to being the best mom or dad to your future furry family member:

Select the Right Pet for You and Your Lifestyle:

Picking a pet is like picking someone to date. You want to make sure that your pet is compatible with you, your lifestyle, and your goals for the future. For example, if you currently live in a rural area, but your dream is to move to New York in the next five years to try and make it as a writer, then you should probably reconsider getting a husky puppy that requires a lot of exercise and wouldn't do well in a small apartment in a big city.

Things to Consider:

  • Lifespan
  • Exercise needed
  • Enrichment needed
  • Socialization needed

Monetary Investment Over Time:

After you consider what type of pet would fit perfectly into your lifestyle, you must determine how much are you willing to spend to ensure that your pet is receiving the best quality of care possible. Just like when researching for a car to buy, you don't just consider the sticker price, but the cost of maintenance and gas. It is important to give the same amount of consideration, or even more, to the cost of a family pet. Research the average cost of care of the pet that you are interested in, and be sure to look into any health problems that they may be predisposed to. That way you can allot for the treatment of potential illnesses in the future.

Things to Consider:

  • Vet expenses
  • Grooming
  • Boarding/daycare
  • Spay/neuter
  • Food
  • Toys
  • Licensing
  • Treats
  • Medications (preventative and in case of unforeseen illness)
  • Emergency medical expenses related to unforeseen illness or accidents

Investment of Your Spare Time:

Being able to afford all of the monetary costs of caring for your pet means very little if you can't afford to sacrifice the time needed to give them the level of attention that they require. Be mindful of any time constraints that you have when selecting a pet. For example, if you live on your own, work over 40 hours a week, and enjoy going out on the weekends, then a dog might not be the best fit for you. In that case, a more low-maintenance pet like a cat would be better suited for the amount of time that you can spare. It is important to always keep both you and the animal's happiness in mind when deciding on a pet.

Things to Consider:

  • Training
  • Enrichment activities
  • Exercise
  • Cleanup
  • Socialization
  • Feeding
  • Outside Bathroom Breaks

Prepare for the Unthinkable:

Last, but certainly not least, is preparing for every potential scenario before getting your new pet. Be sure that you cover all of your bases and have plans ready to put into action when any situation arises (your health declines to the point that you can no longer care for the pet, the pet's health unexpectedly declines, you no longer have the financial means or living situation to support the pet, etc.).

Things to Consider:

  • Make prior arrangements for your pet in the event that you can no longer care for him or her.
  • Be ready and willing to make adjustments to your care based on your pet’s needs, if/when their needs change.

Why is this so important?

Responsible pet ownership is an integral part of the fight against animal cruelty, neglect, and re-homing. Approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. Shelters every year. Out of those 6.5 million, about 710,000 are returned to their owners and 3.2 million are adopted. That means that 2.6 million animals remain in shelters each year, unclaimed and unadopted. Each of these innocent animals has a different story, but they all share the same common denominator; if their owners had just followed these four guidelines to responsible pet ownership, then they would not be sitting in a shelter today.

Don't let your pet be a part of this statistic; treat them like the family that they are.

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