The Pet Prescription: Is It for You?
Owning a pet can reduce stress and improve many aspects of your health. But not everyone is cut out for pet ownership.
What's Your Lifestyle?
Look at your lifestyle to determine whether a pet will be a joy or a burden.
If you're on the go working and traveling, you'll have to make arrangements for
someone to look after a dog, and to a lesser extent, a cat. Physical
limitations may prevent you from taking a dog for walks, especially in the
winter months. And a dog that barks at everything may add to your stress (not
to mention that of your neighbors). Family members or friends with allergies
may decide your home is off-limits. If you pride yourself on a clean house, dog
or cat hair will become your nemesis, not to mention that a dog will track mud
inside on a rainy day and a cat doesn't care where she spits up a fur ball.
Finally, be aware of costs, not just for spaying or neutering, shots, bed,
carrier, toys, and food, but also for the unexpected things. Talk to pet
owners, and you'll find at some time their cherished pet chewed a keepsake
photo album or urinated on an heirloom loveseat or ruined some other valuable.
Then there's the problem of illness. Medicine and trips to the vet can be
Lessons From the Pound
The two main reasons people take pets to the pound are 1) the
owners move, and 2) the pets' behavior is a problem, according to Mo Salman,
Professor of Veterinary Epidemiology at the Colorado State University College
of Veterinary Medicine. He led a study of why people relinquish pets. "One
thing that surprised me about the study was finding the short turnover of dogs
and cats relinquished to shelters," he said. "Average time was less
than a year. My interpretation is that people just didn't give it thought
before getting a pet."
The study also revealed people were more likely to give up a
pet if they received it from someone else as opposed to getting it on their
own. "I think well-meaning friends and family should recognize the person's
ability to accommodate the pet's needs," Salman says. "Some matchings
are perfect, but others are dangerous. Perfect matching is giving an elderly
person who mainly stays at home a sweet, older cat that's always been a house
cat. A risky match would be giving her a puppy. There's a balance. People need
to consider both the animal and human needs."