It’s tough to resist the cuteness of a puppy or kitten – or even an adult dog or cat. They look at you with imploring eyes, their ears erect and their heads cocked, begging you to scratch them behind the ears, throw a ball or dangle a string in front of them. And when you come across such a being in need of a place to live, it’s difficult to walk away.
But adopting or purchasing a dog or cat is not something that one should do on a whim, especially if you have never been a pet parent before. Pets not only need food, shelter, medical care and attention, they also need someone who will commit to caring for them for years – sometimes decades. Depending on size and breed, a dog can live anywhere from 9 to 15 or possibly even 20 years. A cat – especially one kept indoors – can live more than 20 years.
It may not be your entire lifetime that you must commit to the animal you bring home, but you should at least be willing to commit to the animal’s lifetime. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that 6 to 8 million cats and dogs end up in shelters each year and of those, the shelters euthanize about half. Many of these are animals that were once someone’s pet and that someone decided he or she no longer wanted to or was able to care for them.
Clearly, most people who buy or adopt a pet have good intentions, but many don’t do the proper research or think clearly about the commitment they’re making. An animal is a family member. They get as attached to their people as their people get attached to them – sometimes more so. They are not objects that you can give away or sell without consequence.
Consider your future plans. If you plan to have children and don’t think you have the energy to devote to a newborn and a pet, don’t get a pet. If you don’t want to take the time to train your pet to handle new situations that arise, don’t get a pet. And, finally, keep in mind that a puppy or kitten will become an adult dog or cat. They get bigger, they sometimes seem less cute, but they are still living creatures in need of love and attention.