What’s good about having a pet?
- Your pet can be a friend.
- You can learn about sharing and caring for others by looking after your pet.
- You can learn about responsibility by feeding, exercising and keeping your pet clean and happy.
- You can learn about the kind of pet you have.
- Your family can all enjoy the pet.
- Playing with pets can help you feel happy.
Choosing a pet
Most people have traditional pets like dogs, cats, birds, fish, mice, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, tortoises, snakes, spiders and rabbits. Some people may have larger pets like donkeys and horses.
Before you choose a pet you have to think about:
- where you live – do you have a house with a yard or do you live in an apartment?
- how much time you and your children have to look after a pet?
- do you have younger children who may not be able to be safe around some pets?
- where will the pet live?
- how big it will grow up to be – puppies and kittens are really cute when they’re small but they could grow up to be quite huge!
- who is going to look after the pet?
- how much it will cost – food, veterinary care, licenses, holiday care, as well as any damage which might be done to homes and gardens by pets which are curious or bored.
You need to think about all these things
- what other pets are in your neighborhood? – walking a dog that is new to the area can be rather noisy and a bit scary, as other dogs will want to check out the new dog.
- what kind of pet will suit your lifestyle – it is a good idea to have a talk with your veterinarian who can advise you on the kind of pet that would fit in well with you and your family.
Keeping pets safe
Before you get your new pet, you need to find out all you can about it – what kind of food, when to feed, when to go to the vet, where is the nearest dog training center (only if you are getting a dog of course.
A well-behaved and trained dog is easier to handle and much more pleasant to have around than a dog which jumps up, pulls on a lead and is a total embarrassment when other people are around. Young animals like to check out anything new to them with their eyes, claws, tongues and teeth.
It’s a bit like having a baby around. You have to think for them and make sure that they can’t get at anything which could harm them.
- Make sure that electric cords are out of their reach, or cover any cords that are near the ground with something they can’t chew through.
- Don’t give them human medicines. If your pet has a cough, your cough mixture could make it ill.
- Keep all medicines – human or pet – out of your pet’s reach. Like babies, they will taste everything they see, and they can’t read the label either.
- Only give your pets treats that are specially made for them. Yes, I know pets think they should share your treats but chocolates and chewing gum can make them ill.
- Look around your yard for danger to your pet. Are there any holes, gaps in concrete, drains or swimming pools that your pet could fall into or get stuck in?
- (If you have a compost heap, it’s a good idea to cover it up, as some pets I have known just love rolling in anything smelly!)
- Make sure there are no poisons, like snail bait (like moth balls) where your pet could go. Snail bait is very poisonous for dogs and cats.
- Be careful to keep your children’s toys away from your pet, as small pieces could get stuck in your pet’s throat.
- Don’t let your pets wander around the neighborhood without you. They could get hurt or catch diseases from other animals. You might have to pay a fine to the city/town if they catch your dog and take it to the RCHS.
- Teach pets to ‘do the right things’. If you let your cute puppy jump onto the furniture, will you be happy for him to do the same when he’s a fully-grown dog? I don’t think so!
- Don’t leave your dog in a car when the weather is hot.
- Give your pet lots of exercise.
- As you can see, there are lots of things to think about before you bring a pet into your home.
Pets can be a great part of your life.
They enjoy being with people and are always ready to play with you or just sit and keep you company. Watch out that children do not share food with pets, and check out that sandpit before young children play there, as cats, in particular, like to use them as a toilet.
Remember that wildlife is the responsibility of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The local game warden is the Point of Contact concerning injured wildlife. They know the organizations and/or individuals who are trained and certified in Vermont to take care of wildlife. You can’t keep them as pets.
Dr. Kevin A. Rushing