Pet Talk: The Responsibility of Pet Keeping

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While pets are abundant in our culture, it’s easy to forget that owning pets is a luxury that requires a lot of responsibility and time commitment. We all want the best for our pets, which is why it is important to remember the time, emotional, and financial obligations that are associated with pet ownership.

According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans spent just over $60 billion on their pets in 2015. This number likely includes food, training, grooming, toys, veterinary care, and formal kennel services, Dr. Christine Rutter, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences said. However, this number probably does not include carpet cleaning, replaced shoes, furniture repair, or paying a friend to watch your pet while you travel, Rutter added.

While owning a pet may seem like a good idea, Rutter suggested considering all the expenses of keeping a pet, including veterinary visits and pet services and supplies. “A pet may be a small aspect of a person’s life, but the pet owner is everything to the pet,” she said.

Before choosing a pet, Rutter suggested considering factors such as the amount of time you can spend with the pet, money for veterinary care and supplies, and the space you have available for exercise. She said, “It is good to put some serious thought into whether or not your life is compatible with the needs of a pet before adopting or purchasing a pet.”

Additionally, potential pet owners should think about what is the healthiest environment for a specific type of pet. Each type of pet has different needs, whether you are caring for a beta fish, gerbil, cat, or dog. Rutter suggested pet owners do their homework by researching their pet’s environmental, grooming, nutrition, and housing needs. For example, a cat or a fish may be best suited for someone living in an apartment, while a bigger breed of dog may be more appropriate for someone with a big backyard. Your veterinarian can also offer you advice and guide you in your research.

Dog and cat owners may wonder if it is best to keep their pet inside or outside—or even allow their pet to choose between the two freely. Although outside environments can be potentially more dangerous, Rutter said some animals, such as certain breeds of dogs, require regular exercise in the great outdoors. If you plan to keep your pet outside, be sure to keep the yard area clean, put away all dangerous chemicals and sharp objects, bring your pet indoors during bad weather, and take your pet to the veterinarian for regular checkups to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Although pets that are kept indoors may be at lower risk for injury or illness, they should still be taken to the veterinarian for regular checkups.

Giving animals as gifts also requires special consideration. The idea of someone happily receiving a cute puppy or kitten with a red bow on its collar can be appealing, but giving a pet as a gift to an unsuspecting recipient can be problematic. Those who are not prepared for a pet may not be financially and emotionally ready to properly care for the animal. If you are considering giving a pet as a gift, make sure the recipient is ready to care for an animal. Giving the recipient some pet supplies in addition to the pet may help the new owner and pet’s relationship get off to a good start.

Owning a pet should be taken seriously. There are responsibilities of pet ownership that should be considered in order to give the animal the happiest and healthiest life possible. If you are considering adopting or purchasing a pet and are concerned about providing proper veterinary care and a healthy environment for them, consult your veterinarian for guidance.

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Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/pet-talk.

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