You see a cute tiger-striped kitten with white paws and green eyes, just begging for your attention. Or maybe it's a handsome, tail-wagging Labrador mix who couldn't be friendlier and has those irresistible puppy eyes.
If you're like most of us, falling in love with a pet is easy. And no wonder! Sharing your home with a four-legged friend can be one of life's greatest joys. Dogs, cats and other pets give us unconditional loyalty and acceptance, provide constant companionship, and even help relieve stress after a hard day's work.
Adopting a pet, however, is a big decision. Dogs and cats are living beings who require lots of time, money and commitment - over 15 years' worth in many cases. Pet ownership can be rewarding, but only if you think through your decision before you adopt a companion.
Things to Consider
The fact that you're thinking about adopting a pet from an animal shelter, rescue league or humane society means you're a responsible and caring person. But before you make that final decision to bring a furry friend into your life, take a moment to think about these questions:
•Why do you want a pet?
It's amazing how many people fail to ask themselves this simple question before they get a pet. Adopting a pet just because the kids have been asking for a puppy usually ends up being a big mistake. Don't forget that pets may be with you even after your children leave home.
•Do you have time for a pet?
Dogs, cats and other animal companions cannot be ignored just because you're tired or busy. They require food, water, exercise, care and companionship every day of every year. Many animals have been given up because their owners didn't realize how much time it took to properly care for them.
•Can you afford a pet?
The monetary costs of pet ownership can be quite high. Licenses, training classes, veterinary care, grooming, toys, food, kitty litter, and other expenses add up quickly.
•Are you prepared to deal with special problems that only a pet can cause?
Fleas, scratched-up furniture, and accidents from animals who aren't yet housetrained are just a few of the inconveniences that you will face.
•Can you have a pet where you live?
Many rental communities don't allow pets, others have restrictions. Make the necessary inquiries before you bring a pet home.
•Is it a good time for you to adopt a pet?
If you're a student, in the military, or travel frequently as part of your work, waiting until you settle down may be the wiser choice.
•Are your living arrangements suitable for the animal you have in mind?
Adopting an energetic dog or a breed that is unsuitable to share your small apartment (a Border collie for example), is not a good idea. Choose an animal who will be comfortable in your surroundings.
•Who will care for your pet if you go on vacation?
You'll need either reliable friends and neighbors or money to pay for a boarding kennel or pet-sitting service.
•Will you be a responsible pet owner?
Having your pet spayed or neutered, obeying community leash and licensing laws and keeping identification tags on your pets are all part of being a responsible pet owner. Of course, giving your pet love, companionship, exercise, a healthy diet and regular veterinary care are other essentials.
•Are you prepared to keep and care for the pet for his or her entire lifetime?
When you adopt a pet, you are making a commitment to care for the animal for his or her lifetime.
Get an Animal for Life
Sure, it's a long list of questions. But a quick stroll through the animal shelter will help you understand why answering them before you adopt a pet is so important.
Please, think before you adopt. Sharing your life with a companion animal can bring incredible rewards, but only if you're willing to make the necessary commitments of time, money, responsibility and love for the life of the pet.
Much of the information for this article was contributed by the Humane Society of the U.S.