By Diane Gorgy
It is almost impossible to go onto the internet nowadays without seeing videos of cats and dogs doing funny and adorable things. Which may lead you to wonder; should I get a pet?
Pets can be wonderful companions. They cheer you up when you are down; keep you company and provide a sense of security if you live alone; motivate you to make life-style improvements like exercising regularly. But, pets can also be a lot of extra work and cost . . . like daily dog-walking, litter-box changing, feeding, grooming, poop-scooping, veterinary visits, and so on.
Retirement gives you extra time to spend with your furry companion, but it also gives you freedom to travel, visit friends and family, and to do things that you’ve put off for years. So, how do you decide if you should get a pet or not?
There are a lot of factors to consider when getting a pet. Here are several:
- Physical ability: Are you able to walk the dog multiple times a day? Lug tubs of kitty litter or jumbo bags of kibble from supermarket to house? Have the energy to throw a tennis ball multiple times for a game of fetch? Different types of pets have different exercise needs, so be sure to consider this.
- Home environment: Do you live in a single-family house or do you live in a condominium where dog barking could irritate neighbors? Do you have a fenced-in yard where your dog can get his exercise and do his business? If you are living in an apartment, assisted living facility or age-restricted community, are there regulations on type or size of pet?
- Financial ability: Cost of food, kitty litter, flea and tick medications, and wellness check-ups adds up quickly. Throw in emergency visits, special diets or an illness, and costs increase significantly.
- Your lifestyle: Are you a homebody? Or, do you like to travel? If you want your pet to accompany you on trips, check the airline or train company policies and costs before booking tickets. For a fee, smaller pets can typically travel with owners if they are in a carry-on pet carrier that fits under a seat. Larger animals may need to be kenneled, or arrangements made for in-house care with friends/family or a pet care service. Many hotels are pet-friendly and charge a fee for animal guests, but check their policies before booking.
Once you have decided to get a pet, you need to decide what pet to get. Dog versus cat is a personal preference, and each has unique personality aspects that appeal to pet owners. The breed of a dog or cat determines many key personality traits as well as their adult size, potential health concerns, etc.; so do your research. A mutt can have traits from many different breeds.
Different stages of a pet’s life require different levels of effort from their owners. Younger pets require more exercise and attention, whereas older pets are less active. The age of the pet you adopt will determine how long you can expect to own it. A puppy or kitten will typically live from 8 to 18 years. An older pet will not be with you as long as a younger one, but may be a perfect choice for you and your lifestyle.
Adopting an animal from a shelter or rescue is a rewarding experience. There are also breed-specific rescues that you can contact for available animals. Temperament and health are typically evaluated by trained staff to ensure they will make good pets; and all animals are neutered. If you are buying from a breeder, ensure that they are reputable and have gotten good reviews from their clients. Some animals may have special needs, and if you feel up to the challenge of owning a special-needs pet, you will be saving an animal that others may not consider.
Pets are a lifelong commitment, so be sure you are making the right choice for both you and the animal you are taking home. Once you have made your decision, know that your new pet will appreciate and love you throughout its whole life!
Diane retired at end of 2015. She sold her house in Northern New Jersey after both of her children became independent and moved to coastal Southern New Jersey, where she happily owns three dogs (two of which are rescues), ranging in size from 12 to 50 pounds.