Tuesday, 2 December 2008

By Michelle Chiunti, D.V.M.

“How much is that doggy in the window?
The one with the waggly tail.
How much is that doggy in the window?
I do hope that doggy’s for sale!” Patti Page

We’ve all heard the song, seen the doggy, kitten, bunny, etc. in the window or on the internet, and have been tempted by those big brown eyes and cute face. However, emotion should be the final factor when considering the commitment of having a pet.

In the holiday season, some people’s thoughts wander toward giving a pet as a gift. Unless you have lived under a rock for the past 50 years, you should know that this is a bad idea. The first and foremost factor in the decision to have a pet is your ability to make a long-term commitment of time, money, and emotion to the furry, four-legged bundle of joy. The recipient, and/or family, not a well-intentioned friend, should make this decision.

Having an animal in your life is generally a long-term commitment. Hamsters, rats, gerbils, and small rodents are the exception since they generally only live two-to-three years. Rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas fare a bit better, living five to eight years. However, when you get into dogs and cats, they can live, on average, 15 to 18 years respectively.

If, by chance, you are considering a horse, donkey, or pony as a pet, they live between 30 and 40 years. The longest living pets are the parrots, with an age span of 70 years. This becomes a crucial factor when deciding to take on the responsibility of an animal companion.

The other important consideration to animal companionship must be cost. All of our living companions require daily food, water, shelter, exercise, and elimination care. The average cat will cost about $250 annually for food and kitty litter, and a 50-pound dog will cost about $400 annually to feed. These costs do not include flea and parasite control, treats, toys, and the repair of damaged furniture, carpets, doors, gardens, and trim. Many pets tend to find a multitude of trouble that requires veterinary services. On an annual basis, veterinary care represents 0.1% of household disposable income.

Procurement costs of your pet will be the least expensive part of caring for him or her.

After considering time and money, you can bring the big brown eyes into your decision to have an animal companion.

Think about your lifestyle, housing conditions, medical conditions, and personal preferences. Are you a gerbil or a Great Dane type of person? Can you manage a dog, or is a cat more suited to your lifestyle?

One thing is certain – along with responsibility, your new companion will bring much joy and comfort to your everyday life. I personally cannot get through a day without petting some furry, four-legged head – to the point of searching for alley cats while on vacation! If you can positively commit to the human animal bond for the benefit of everyone involved, only then can you say “Yes” to that doggy in the window.

For your information, the Shelter of Hope (Theatre Rd., Port Hope) will provide a gift certificate for Christmas giving that can be used towards the adoption of a pet, or the care of their many charges. The Northumberland Humane Society (Ward St., Port Hope) will also accept donations, and they diligently screen all applicants before any adoption.

Enjoy every day, and Merry Christmas to you and yours!

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