Americans love their pets.
Two-thirds of all households in the United States have at least one. That includes 86 million cats and 78 million dogs, according to the American Pet Products Association, and the total climbs to 310 million when you include all the birds, fish, small animals, horses and reptiles.
But suppose you are in the minority. Should you get a pet? Here’s a checklist.
What’s the real reason you want a pet?
Philip Tedeschi, executive director of the Institute for Human-Animal Connection at the University of Denver, said the motives for getting a pet could be complex. If you don’t fully understand the reasons, that can lead to problems.
For instance, a would-be owner driven by profound loneliness or isolation might be incapable of evaluating whether the pet is being treated properly.
Owners have to be aware of their pet’s social and emotional needs. Otherwise the animal might behave in an anti-social or self-destructive way.
“The old adage that you have to love yourself to love someone else or that you need to be healthy to be in a healthy relationship can apply to our relationships with animals,” he said.
Pets cost money
The average cost of veterinary care per household in 2011 was $375, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Consider, too, the costs of unforeseen illnesses or injuries and the need for extra care.
Add food, boarding, grooming and toys, and you can expect to tack on several hundred dollars more a year in expenses.
It’s a long-term commitment
When it comes to adopting a dog or a cat, “you will probably have this pet longer than your car, your job and possibly even longer than your current relationship,” said Arden Moore, who hosts “Oh Behave,” a podcast on Pet Life Radio.
Questions to consider:
Do you sneeze around animals?
Is anyone at home allergic to animals? How tolerant are you about shedding, dander and pet messes? How much do you value an immaculate home?
Are there children at home? If so, how old are they? Will they be compatible with a pet?
Where will you get your pet? People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals recommends rescuing stray animals or adopting from a shelter.
Do you live in an apartment or a house? Can you provide the amount of space a pet will need to be comfortable?
Would your lifestyle and work schedule allow you adequate time to interact with your pet?
Do you travel often? Do you have friends, neighbors or relatives who could look after your pet while you are away?
We’re in no way trying to discourage you from getting a pet – quite the opposite! – but planning is key in welcoming your new family member into your home!