I grew up around a lot of animals, although not all of them were pets. We had dogs that came in and out of the house, cats that mostly lived in the barn, and horses, chickens and peacocks that obviously stayed outside. They were all well taken care of, especially once my parents got a clue about getting the barn cats spayed before they had a chance to get pregnant.
These days, I have four cats of my own. Throughout my adulthood, I have had anywhere from two to five cats at once. The ones that are gone lived long, pampered lives. Unfortunately, many pets don't have that luxury.
When I do volunteer work for a local pet rescue group, it makes me very unhappy to see how many people fail to take pet ownership seriously. I thought I'd make a list of the things that a responsible pet owner must do:
- Understand that you're taking on a commitment that lasts for the pet's entire life. My cats have all lived to be 16-18 years old. Not all of them have behaved perfectly, so in some cases I've had to deal with their various issues for almost two decades. If you aren't in it for the long haul, don't get a pet.
- Get your pet spayed or neutered. The world is full of wonderful animals with great personalities. There's nothing special about your particular pet's DNA. If you had any idea how many pets are euthanized in shelters each day, you'd never dream of facilitating the birth of yet another litter.
- Provide regular medical care for your pet. They need vaccinations every year and any illness they get is best handled sooner rather than later. If your vet is too expensive, shop around or investigate low-cost clinics.
- Give your pet wholesome food and fresh water at all times. However, don't overfeed. Do what you can to keep your pet at an optimum weight.
- Make sure your pet receives the proper level of companionship and activity. Some breeds of animal do best with an animal companion. Others require a lot of attention from humans. Some animals need lots of exercise and others can be content with toys.
- Provide a safe environment for your pet. Make sure they're sheltered from extremes of temperature and secured to prevent them from running off and getting injured.
- Discipline gently. There's no excuse for treating an animal with harshness or violence.
That's really about it. Not so hard, right?
I have pets in my life because I love and enjoy them. I wish everyone felt the same.