Pet Ownership Is a Commitment, choose carefully

Dog, Cat, Friendship, Play, Funny, Dog

Pet ownership is as much a responsibility as it is a joy, a commitment you make to care for a trusting animal and companion. That’s why it’s important to find the right pet and breed for you and your lifestyle. Choosing a breed simply because you thought it would be fun or because you wanted to make some kind of personal statement isn’t a good way to find a four-legged friend, and it isn’t fair to the animal. Once you’ve researched the characteristics of different breeds, you’ll need to determine how well they match with your living circumstances, whether you can realistically provide the requisite care, and if you have enough time to give an animal the love and attention it deserves.   

Living space: evaluating your home, and preparing it for your pet

The size and dimensions of your home should be an important factor in the kind of pet you decide to bring home. This is where you must use common sense and be honest with yourself - you wouldn’t bring a Great Dane or an Irish Wolfhound home to live in a small house with a tiny backyard. Dogs, especially big ones, need to be able to stretch their legs and move freely, so if you’re in an apartment or small home, a smaller breed of dog or a cat would probably be the best choice.

Whatever size animal you select, it’s important to prepare your home for his arrival. Make sure there’s a comfortable sleep space set aside, a place that’s just for your pet along with his food and water dish. Be sure to lock away any sharp objects, cleaning supplies and medications that could harm an overly-inquisitive animal.

When evaluating your living space, you’ll also need to come up with a plan for cleaning up after your new companion. Dogs and cats are associated with hair; hair on the furniture, the carpet, on your bed, and in little balls in the corners of rooms. A pet owner needs a top-quality vacuum cleaner to keep up with the hair and pet dander, which can aggravate an allergy, cause wheezing or exacerbating an asthmatic condition. Make sure you get a vacuum with plenty of powerful suction and lots of attachments.

One of the nice things about having a cat is that they don’t need to be let out or walked to use the bathroom, but they do require some unique home preparation. Cats are easily trained to use a litter box, though it’s important to find one large enough to accommodate his needs. Consider the Catit Jumbo Hooded Cat Litter Pan, which is easier to clean than standard boxes, and features a special filter for eliminating odors. Cats are also very fond of napping and like having a nice comfortable spot for their frequent siestas. Get your tabby a heated cat bed this Christmas for extra comfort and warmth.

Your schedule

The amount of time you’re able to spend at home should also be a determining factor. Dogs are social animals, and while some breeds do better than others on their own, they need regular attention in order to flourish. If yours is a busy schedule requiring frequent absences from home, a Labrador Retriever, Border Collie, or Cocker Spaniel probably wouldn’t be a good choice. Basset Hounds, Boston Terriers and Schnauzers tend to do much better with less daily attention. Of course, cats are famous for their independent natures and make excellent pets for someone who’s on the go a lot, though they too need regular care and attention. Consider hiring a pet sitter or ask a neighbor to look in on your pet if you’re away frequently.

Good with kids

In general, children love having a dog or cat around. In fact, studies have shown that the supportive presence of a dog can be very helpful to children with autism or socialization issues. However, some youngsters, particularly those who tend to be a little hyperactive, may aggravate or anger breeds with nervous or aggressive temperaments. Be diligent in your research and avoid dogs that are more apt to exhibit aggressive behavior when a child gets too rambunctious. A Rottweiler or Pit Bull is unlikely to respond favorably to a child pulling playfully on their tail. Be aware that some of the larger breeds can be unpredictable and, if you choose to go with a mixed breed, it can be difficult to predict how he’ll act in given situations and interactions with kids.

Rescue dogs

One way to get a good idea of a dog’s personality is to get a dog from a rescue organization foster home. Foster families have had a chance to see how their foster dogs (or cats) react to kids and have a good feel for their personalities. If you bring a rescue pet home, be aware that they may be especially nervous at first and will need time to acclimate. Spend extra time with him, allow him to explore his new surroundings, and be patient with any mishaps that occur in the beginning.

Dogs and cats are excellent companions and quickly become part of the family. Don’t forget that they need regular care, attention and room to play. Look into hiring a dog walker or use a pet sitting service if you tend to be away from home for long stretches.

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