Desperately seeking feline
I should conclude that I was successful thanks to The London Humane Society (I'd much rather help a poor unfortunate soul, than purchase a pet store animal), but this article is not about my personal life, nor is it about the characteristics of my new cool cat. Rather, with the Christmas season fast approaching, and therefore many people potentially considering purchasing whiskered companions for themselves or their relatives, I felt it absolutely necessary to review some pet ownership basics. The inspiration behind this piece, you ask? Well, quite simply, when I began my search for D'arcy Wretzky's new feline bro (yes, I name all of my creatures after famous figures!), I was appalled by the “free to a good home” ads that I came across on sites such as kijiji.ca.
Few of the animals listed in said ads had their shots up to date, or had valid health records available for their new owners. Further, among the ads I viewed for kitties, next to none of them had been fixed. Yet, I might add, their owners claimed that “spraying” was not a problem. For anyone who has ever had a male cat that was unfixed and over six months old, you'll know that this is a blatant lie! For those of you who have been lucky enough to have owned an unfixed pretty female kitty, I'm sure you, too, have tons of “heat” horror stories.
Based on these ads, I could only reasonably conclude that, irrespective of the rationale stated as to why these pets were “free” in the first place, it seemed to me that their owners thought of them as “problems,” as opposed to “family members,” and were attempting to pawn them off onto other people. As a pet owner who feels my animals should eat and live as well as I do, this really upset me.
In the odd circumstance in which you find yourself becoming a “crazy cat lady” (or lad) because you've decided to temporarily take in a multitude of strays, this type of pet neglect is somewhat justified as tending to the needs of one animal, let alone many, is an expensive endeavour. However, with that said, my number one rule for anyone who is considering pet ownership is that if you don't take very good care of yourself, then you should absolutely not, under any circumstances, bring a little guy or gal into your household. It is not fair to them, and in most cases such as that just described, the pet owner begins to resent their animal(s) because they underestimated the responsibilities that go along with caring for what is essentially (particularly in the case of dogs), a two year-old child.
I very much am one to assert that if you think you are ready to give birth, try owning a dog first - it's quite the wake-up call. Similarly, if you think budget-wise you're ready for a furry friend, ask yourself how well you'd be able to manage a car with its weekly fuel costs, bi-monthly oil changes, tune-up and maintenance requirements, along with the occasional unexpected fender bender? What I'm trying to get at is that owning a pet is not only a BIG responsibility, but it also can be quite expensive. And neither of these two points should ever be downplayed - I don't care how cute that, “doggy in the window” is.
On top of fulfilling obvious needs such as food, water, and a clean, reasonable home environment, as a pet owner you are also in charge of cleaning up after your animals, ensuring that they are provided with adequate exercise (dogs typically require at least two 45 minute walks per day, but this will vary with breed and size), and staying on top of their veterinarian essentials, which will at the bare minimum, include: annual shots and flea treatments, spaying/neutering, regular heartworm and other disease checks, nail trimming, teeth cleaning, and grooming. Dog owners might also want to consider obedience training, while as a cat owner, particularly if you are attached to leather furniture such as I am, the additional expense of de-clawing will be a must. I should note that NONE of these services come cheap! And then there's love…
Even if you have the budget and know-how to become the world's best surrogate parent for your pet, if you don't have the time, don't bother. Pets require love and affection, just like everyone else, and you need to ensure that you are at home frequently, and for long enough periods of time, to establish a bond with your cuddly creature. So, how much time are we talking here? Well, if you're working 40 hour weeks (or equally attending school full-time), and you like to party on your weekends, owning an animal is out of the question. If you don't have the time to establish a relationship with your critter, you will not be able to be adequately attentive to his/her needs, and with cats, especially because they tend to be mysterious and secretive when they contract ailments, this will be a problem. A good pet owner, because of the time they devote to their pets, is able to tell right away when their cat or dog's usual spunkiness isn't quite up to par.
Aside from the aforementioned tasks that go hand-in-hand with owning a pussycat or hound, you'll also need to consider boarding or recruiting a house sitter for your pal, when you go on vacation or are out of the city for more than six to eight hours consecutively. Again, neither of these services typically come without fairly substantial fees, but thankfully, many vets such as my own, offer discounted temporary housing services for their clients'.
And finally, if you think that you can handle all of the previously outlined duties along with regularly bathing your pet, and of course, providing him/her with fantastic toys you're definitely on the right track. BUT that's not all there is to consider. At the end of the day, just as we are all uniquely suited to different career paths based on our own individual strengths and weaknesses, not all of us, in reality, have what it takes to be good parents whether we're talking gerbils or Gerber babies.
I cannot stress enough that patience (especially if you decide to undertake the personal responsibility of training a dog from the get-go) plays a MAJOR role, but that's not all. The best pet owners, in my view, are considerate, affectionate, devoted, observant, health-conscious, stable, and loving. They think of their pets as children they themselves birthed, and are willing to do everything in their power to ensure that their “child” is happy, healthy, and always out of harm's way.
In saying all of this, I sincerely hope that this article has impressed upon you the importance of responsible pet owner. After all, Cesar Millan already has his hands way too full!