Do I Really Want a Pet Cat or Dog?

Oct 14, 2022

Even though the experts tell us never to adopt a pet on a whim, that’s how I got involved with my two cats, Spenser and Rupert. Spenser followed an ex-girlfriend of mine home on a cold and rainy night. The cat was allowed in, fed, had a basket made up, and that was that. Rupert was discovered in a dumpster some weeks later, abandoned. He was tiny, about the size of a clenched fist, but rapidly grew into one of the smartest, naughtiest cats in history.

Although my experience with pet adoption was based on improvisation (I had only ever had one pet, a Black Lab acquired by my parents when I was a boy) I quickly realised that the ad hoc approach to pet ownership is a mistake. I was lucky – Spenser and Rupert grew up to be companionable and healthy – but many people make elementary errors when they embark on pet ownership and live to regret them. What follows are some do’s and don’ts that should guide your thinking.

Choosing a Pet – and Where To Get One

Why do you want to adopt a pet? For your kids? Out of boredom? On a whim? Does anyone in the family have allergies? Ask yourself a few questions before making your decision. You have to consider your needs, your living situation, your lifestyle, and, most importantly, your budget, because pets are expensive and will be with you for a long time, depending on the species or breed. A cat or a dog can easily cost you $20,000 to $30,000 over its lifetime. Something to think about!

From a Breeder

Reputable breeders often have a waiting list of more than two years. If you’re promised an animal in two days, there may be a problem! To avoid unpleasant surprises:

  • Do your homework on the breeder.
  • Ask for references and a health guarantee.
  • Insist on seeing the breeding parents at the breeder’s facility. You’re more likely to have a healthy pet and less likely to be dealing with a puppy mill, where profit comes before animal well-being.
  • Verify the registration for any purebred dog. Under Canada’s Animal Pedigree Act, it is illegal to sell a purebred dog if the breed is not one that has been accepted in accordance with scientific genetic principles.

From a Shelter

Prefer to adopt from a shelter and rescue an animal? That’s fantastic – just make sure the animal doesn’t show any signs of undesirable behaviours that you won’t be able to correct or live with. Ask lots of questions and spend time with the prospective pet if you can. If the animal was found on the streets, you may have trouble getting information, but if the previous owners brought it to the shelter or it was brought there as a new puppy, you’ll know more about its past. A rescue pup or cat may turn out to be the best pet you’ve ever had!

Preparing Your Home for the Arrival of a Pet

Whether you’re preparing to welcome a dog or cat into your home, the following few pieces of advice may go a long way in helping your help them (and you) adjust and stay safe.

  • Remove fragile or dangerous items, such as plants (some are toxic), electrical wires, and knickknacks.
  • Eliminate small toys and choke hazards especially if you have a new puppy. They’ll chew on anything and everything.
  • Show your pet its bowls, bed, and toys so it feels at home.

Choosing a Veterinarian

Ask your friends and neighbours if they can recommend a good vet. Consider how far away the clinic is and its hours of operation. Of course, the professional must also inspire your confidence. Fees will vary depending on the location (urban or rural) and the services offered, such as emergency care.

When Should You Consult a Veterinarian?

Ideally, you should take your pet to the vet within a week of adopting it. The vet can assess your dog or cat’s health, vaccinate them, and even treat for parasites, if necessary, as well as set up an appropriate appointment schedule with you. A sudden or gradual loss of appetite or interest may mean your pet is sick. If this happens, consult a veterinarian immediately.

Protect Your Pet

Keep your pet away from chocolate (especially dark chocolate), grapes, cannabis, macadamia nuts, bread dough, detergents, medications, certain toxic household plants, and garbage bins!

Saving on Veterinary Expenses with Pet Insurance

Getting insurance for your cat or dog is a great way to save on veterinary expenses and, above all, help you avoid high and unexpected bills.

Training Your Pet

While cats quickly learn to use a litter box, puppies take up to six months to be house trained. Dog training methods emphasise encouragement rather than punishment. Start off by rewarding your pet with treats if they go to the bathroom in the right place (or for any other good behaviour!), but also with gestures of affection.

If you have a new puppy, you may want to consider:

  • Socialising your dog by having it groomed or taking it out for frequent walks on a leash, as well as introducing it to other dogs at designated dog parks, but only after he or she’s been fully vaccinated.
  • Going to puppy classes. Again, a great place to socialise a young dog.
  • Taking group training and obedience classes with a dog training specialist.

Ultimately, having a pet or pets is one of the most rewarding relationships we can have in our lifetime. In most cases our pets are considered part of the family and are sorely missed and mourned when they pass away. They capture our hearts in so many ways and provide a special kind of companionship quite unique and unlike those relationships we have with other people. If you do decide to adopt a pet cat or dog for the first time, you’ll discover what we mean!



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