Pets 101
3 Questions to Ask Yourself and Your Family Before You Adopt a New Pet

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By: Dr. Kwane Stewart, The Street Vet

So many families have found that the one source of unconditional love and support that has been unwavering through trying times like the pandemic has been their pets. Whether that’s a dog or a cat or a fish or a ferret or a bearded dragon, or any or all in between, the problem is that sometimes families don’t really know if they’re ready for a pet, or if they are adopting, which pet is right for them and what questions they need to be asking. 

Is Your Family Ready for a Pet?

When thinking about bringing home a new family pet, it’s important to involve all family members in the conversation because this is a big decision. Sometimes, people rush to bring a pet home; or they’re walking the aisles at a shelter and see a cute dog, and before they know it, that dog is in the car going home with them. But, this is a 10 to 12 to 15 year commitment, potentially. It’s important to bring the whole family together for a conversation about whether now is the right time for a new pet.

3 Questions to Ask: Time, Commitment, and Resources (TCR)

To help guide families in this discussion, there’s an acronym I like to use called TCR. 

  1. T: Time It’s an obvious question. Do you have the time to devote to this new pet? A lot of us are so busy that it’s a fair question. You need to evaluate, can you give the time that this new pet deserves, your love and commitment to it? How might your life change in the future, and will you still have the necessary time to spend with your pet then?
  2. C: Commitment This is a serious part of the TCR, because it’s not just the immediate commitment. We get the new pet home, we’re all excited, and everybody is. The kids are, they’re walking the dog every day, but then it seems to wane after time. Do you think you have enduring commitment to a pet? They deserve it. We’re talking years of commitment. 
  3. R: Resources It’s not to say that if you don’t have the money you’re not deserving of pet ownership, but one frustration I have as a vet are people that go out and buy boutique pets, dogs, they spend $2,500-$3,000 on an English Bulldog, that inevitably is going to have skin and ear and respiratory and mouth issues potentially. But, when they hit that point, they  throw their hands in the air, like, “Hey doc, I don’t have the money for that.” Before you go into buying a pet like that, do your research on it and make sure that you are prepared financially to service the pet when it comes to it. There’s also the need for emotional resource and capability. Not only do pets need that food and water and shelter, they also need a lot of emotional commitment too. Sometimes people think that they’re in the best place emotionally to have a pet, and maybe that’s not exactly the right time for them. 

How to Choose the Right Type of Pet

After you have asked yourself the TCR questions, and after your family has had the family meeting where everybody’s on board and ready to go, how do you decide which pet is right for your family? Which family is a dog family? Which family is a Guinea pig family? Which family’s a snake family?

The discussion about TCR will often direct you down a certain path. Then ask yourself, what kind of pet do you think you’re going to love, and as you say, really give your emotion and time to? If you’re a dog family, and you sort of meet the criteria for the time and the commitment and financial resources, then you should look into getting a dog. Perhaps it’s a cat. Maybe it’s a cat because you don’t quite have the time you think you need to devote to it, or maybe the space for a dog. 

If you’re really short on time and resources, but you want to get a pet for the family, consider a rabbit or a pocket pet. I think pets are remarkable teachers to children, as far as responsibility and compassion and empathy; getting a pet for your kids, a pet that suits your family, really does wonders for helping raise your children. It may not be the right time for a dog or a cat, but perhaps another type of pet would be a good fit. They can all be wonderful teachers to our kids, and the family as whole. It brings the family together in a neat way.

When you do bring home a new family member, make sure to establish a relationship with your veterinarian, because that continued relationship helps us do the best so that you can have that pet for 12, 15, 17, and even 20 years of joy and bonding within your family. Remember, healthy pets visit vets!

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