Once children reach the age of six or seven, pets come on their radar screens in a big way.
Deciding whether to give in to their pleas to adopt a pet, whether feathered, furry or scaly, is no small matter.
First, there’s the time commitment.
You not only have to think of the pet (cleaning, feeding, walking), but also the impact on your regular household cleanup duties (vacuuming stray hairs, carpet stains).
Second, there is a financial commitment. Some experts estimate that a medium-sized cat or dog could end up running you between US$7,000 and $13,000 over its lifetime, and most will cost a minimum of $300 a year.
But, just as those wonderful MasterCard commercials proclaim, a pet’s contribution to a family can be priceless. If your family is seriously considering taking on “pethood,” know that organization will go a long way to ensuring you are all ready for the big adventure.
“Think About Why”
As a spontaneous type, I can completely relate to people who see a puppy or kitten, fall in love and bring it home on a whim.
But research shows that people who leap into the role of pet owner are more likely to become frustrated with the commitment and reject or abandon it down the line.
Before you buy or adopt, think about why each family member wants one in the first place.
Pets need to become part of the family. Is everyone prepared to give the pet a good home? If the answer is yes, then take the time and look for a pet, and perhaps even more importantly, a breed that is well-suited to your family’s temperament and activities.
Alicia on “Trial Run”
My daughter, Lucy, and my husband, Adam, have been clamouring for a dog for months. But I know that once the novelty wears off, the responsibility for taking care of the dog will land in my lap.
To quiet their demands, and put their pet commitments to the test, I let them get a pet fish. I knew my busy schedule would at least accommodate quick fish feedings and a once-a-week tank cleaning.
Sure enough, after only a month, if I didn’t have “feed the fish” and “clean the tank” on my to-do list, the poor little guy would be out of luck. Now when the whining starts for a new puppy, I can point to our little goldfish, Ollie, and say, with conviction, “You’re not ready.”
Here are additional thoughts on how you can get prepared to welcome a new family member into your household.
1. Make It A Family Investment — Pets can be expensive, especially in the first year.
One way to get the entire family to demonstrate readiness for a pet is to have everyone — and we mean everyone — put their money where their mouth is. Start a savings account and set a dollar amount that must be raised to get the pet (a good rule of thumb: one year’s estimated cost).
Assign a dollar contribution amount to each family member, and only when everyone has reached the goal can you bring a pet home.
2. Pre-Assign Chores — Before you bring a pet home, think seriously about how pet chores can be divided more equitably among family members.
If you have more than one child, give one child the responsibility for morning feedings, and the other evening feedings. Rotate walking or cage-cleaning chores so everyone has some chore time and some off-time. If you don’t plan, chances are Mom will have one more thing on her overflowing plate.
3. Pet-Proof Your House — Pets can wreak havoc on your home. Before you bring one home, consider a few questions: Is your pet OK being confined indoors for long periods? How will you keep your pet confined? Will your pet be house-trained? Will your pet have claws that could scratch furniture and floors? Do you have wall-to-wall carpet that urine could ruin? Will you need to have semi-gloss paint on the walls so you can easily wipe off scratches and spittle? Will your screens hold up to a 5.5-kg cat crawling up them? Go through each room and think about the potential pet impact.
The writers are co-founders of Buttoned Up, a company dedicate d to helping stressed women get organized. Send ideas and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org