Do You Need A Pet?

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Do you need a pet? Examine the pros and cons, the challenges and the costs of keeping a pet in the home, and weigh it against the benefits to see if a pet is right for you.

The other night I was at a friend’s house. She lost her husband a little over a year ago, and then had had to put her poodle down. A rescue puppy came available, and though he has special needs, she jumped at the chance to give him a home. Why? “When I come home, I come home to life.” She clearly needs her pet. If it were only me, I would need a pet too.

What pets do for us

A pet’s job, if you will, is to be a companion.  Animals routinely perforervices of all kinds, but to be pets, they pretty much have to hang out with us and make us feel loved.  In return, they need care and supervision.  Pet owners make this deal gladly.

Although  I know that many kinds of animals serve well as pets, I will stick to dogs and cats.  They are interactive and more popular than other pets.  This is not to run down ferrets, lizards, birds or hamsters–not at all!  Just please research their special needs before diving in.

Dogs love to learn things that please their owners.  It’s a good thing, too, because puppy love knows absolutely no boundaries!  So if you love to teach, adopt a puppy and teach it some manners right off.

Dogs are also the most worshipful of pets.  Dog owners have the love of their dogs, whether or not it’s fully deserved.  That makes dogs vulnerable to abuse.  But if you have the love of a dog, you will know it and it will last the dog’s life long.

Cats, on the other hand, hang out with us to be worshipped, or at least cared for.  Being more independent than dogs, cats feel free to tell you when they think they ought to be fed.  Cats train people.  You can leave a cat alone for a weekend, but be prepared for stink-eye when you come back. (Not to worry, you’ll be forgiven soon.)

But whatever pet you may have will find a place in your heart, and it’s that which makes a pet successful.  With a pet at home, you always “come home to life.”

The costs of pets

If you decide to get one, be aware that pets will cost you money.  Adopting from a shelter can cost $100 or more for a dog and $50 or more per cat.  Buying one from a breeder will cost much more.  If you happen to have a source of free kittens or puppies, you will have early veterinary costs for baby shots and checkups.

As a responsible pet owner, you will continue to get shots for your pet, and pay for spaying or neutering.  These ensure the health of your pet and other pets around him, not to mention your safety from rabies.  Spaying and neutering cut down on unwanted animals who could be left to suffer.

Rabies inoculation and spay/neuter clinics are held in many areas to provide these essential veterinary services at low cost.  Ask at an animal shelter or social service agency.

Your pet, while a part of your family, will need his or her own things.  Human foods don’t always agree with pets so plan on separate food for them.  And toileting comes with its own costs for cats, in the form of litter.  Which, by the way, is heavy.  Pets need toys to fight boredom, and may benefit from their own beds.  A dog who stays home during the day may need a crate.

More expenses

When you go away, a dog will need either a dog-sitter or boarding.  A cat can get by for a couple of days but might also need support after that.  Either costs money to provide.  It’s less of an issue if you don’t travel, but something to keep in mind in case you are hospitalized.

And let us not forget that renters may have to put up an extra deposit for having a pet share an apartment.  Insurance companies also may set some limits as to the breed of dog allowed in your apartment or on your property.

Finally, whenever you leave your home with your pet, he or she should be firmly under your control for the safety of the pet and others.  Dogs should be on a leash, and cats travel best in carriers.  This shelters the cat from things that scare him so he won’t claw his way out of your arms and get hit  by a car.  Leashes for cats are best for walks in quiet, well-known areas with few other animals around.

Some unfortunate downsides of pets

Pets are animals with their own agendas and behaviors.  They don’t always take to human habitations smoothly.  Your pet will want to make you happy, so train him.  Even with training, though, stuff happens.

Dogs like to dig and gnaw, particularly when bored.  They will start in on your shoes or furniture and go from there.  Their claws can destroy screens and gouge the woodwork.  They can pull huge runs in looped carpet. This is a big reason to crate your canine friend when you’re gone, and help him blow off steam when you’re around.  The walking is great  for both of you.

Cats claw things.  They do it to maintain their claws and make their mark on things–scent marking is a big deal with cats.  It’s also why to get male cats neutered before they take up spraying your stuff.

You can get the cat a scratching post and keep reminding him not to claw other things.  Products exist to help you train a cat not to claw on particular objects.  Check a pet supply catalog.  Or you can declaw but that involves amputation of part of the cat’s toes.  It’s easy to learn to trim claws, and that helps cut down on claw damage.

Cats get bored too.  Try games and puzzles with your cat.  My cats used to teach me games with their toys and ran off quite a bit of energy.

Living with a pet

Dogs and cats, being in your home directly, will have their accidents.  As youngsters they’ll have  toileting failures, or course.  They may throw up if they’ve gobbled their food, and they tend to do it on a carpet or rug because it absorbs the barf. Really, they’re just trying to help!  There are good cleaning products to help with spots.  Having pets means having to clean up after them.

Pets can aggravate allergies too, even if you aren’t directly allergic to cats or dogs.  Those who go out and play in the grass will pick up dust and pollen to bring in for you.  They can also bring in fleas and ticks, which carry diseases and aren’t fun when they bite you.  If they establish themselves in your home, you have to poison the place and vacuum like crazy for a while.

Noise is another factor, particularly with dogs.  A dog barks to tell you things like there’s someone at the door.  He may think it’s his job.  Your neighbors may think he’s a pest.   Or they may not be a factor and the barking is a good thing because you want the person outside to know you’re not alone and helpless.

So why would anyone have a pet?

Even with the expenses, the inconveniences, the messes and, yes, all the hair on your black slacks, some of us still need a pet.  An animal with big brown eyes and a wagging tail wanting to go for a walk and meet other dogs and their people may be just the way to get some exercise with a friendly being.  A cat hopping up next to you on the couch and purring may help you relax and enjoy.

In the end we humans have historically partnered with animals for all sorts of reasons but in the end it comes down to unqualified love.  And there’s no shame in needing that.

Where do you stand on pets?

Do you need a pet? Examine the pros and cons, the challenges and the costs of keeping a pet in the home, and weigh it against the benefits to see if a pet is right for you.Do you need a pet? Examine the pros and cons, the challenges and the costs of keeping a pet in the home, and weigh it against the benefits to see if a pet is right for you.Do you need a pet? Examine the pros and cons, the challenges and the costs of keeping a pet in the home, and weigh it against the benefits to see if a pet is right for you.


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