Pet Parenthood as a Mature Adult
Perhaps you grew up with a treasured family fur baby, or when your own kids were young they “bullied” you into the procuring of a puppy with promises of “we’ll look after it.” Maybe it was a cat that provided many years of companionship and now that you are a more mature adult, without the clamour of little ones around, you’re debating the idea of pet parenthood once again because let’s face it – pets are good company. They love us unconditionally, they provide great companionship and even folks who travel frequently are finding that many hotels, restaurants and patios are pet-friendly now, meaning you can take your best friend anywhere you go. But is pet parenthood right for you? To paraphrase Hamlet, “Should I or shouldn’t I? That is the question!
What to Consider When Considering Pet Parenthood
The first thing anyone giving advice will share is this:
Avoid a quick decision. Whether you adopt, rescue or purchase a puppy, cat (or any other creature) there’s a good chance you’ll get caught up staring into those deep, soulful eyes or be distracted by playful, wagging tails the minute you walk in the door of the shelter or visit a breeder. That means you are potentially making a decision with your heart not your head.
Do Your Homework. To avoid heart-led decisions, do your homework first. Ask yourself the difficult questions and be prepared to be honest about your answers. These include:
What type of lifestyle do you lead? Are you out visiting friends often? Do you like to travel? Are you active outdoors playing tennis, golf, camping or kayaking? These questions will impact not only your decision about taking on a pet but perhaps what kind of pet too. Active pet parents will appreciate a dog that requires frequent walking as a means of exercise while those who prefer to stick close to home, or are less physically able to enjoy outdoor activities, might be quite happy to have a cat for company as they require far less maintenance.
Investigate Size, Breed, Behaviours. If a dog is the decision you have made, now it’s time to do even more work! So many animals end up surrendered to a shelter because people didn’t “know” how big the dog would get, didn’t realize it would shed or that it had herding behaviours or is a more vocal breed of dog. After you’ve asked yourself the hard questions about your own lifestyle, start asking the harder questions about what kind of dog best suits that lifestyle.
Veterinary Expenses. What is your current lifestyle and income. Those on a more fixed income might prefer a relatively “low maintenance” pet that is less likely to result in expensive care. There are no guarantees in life – any animal has the potential to get into the garbage and eat something it shouldn’t have or even break a bone requiring emergency care but some are less likely than others! You’ll also want to consider the cost of regular veterinary care such as wellness visits, flea and tick medications, annual vaccinations and more. There is a cost when it comes to pet parenthood and while it might not as expensive as having kids – it isn’t cheap either!
Other Expenses. There are so many options for feeding our pets these days. Raw food diets, gluten/grain free, wet food or dry food or both. It’s hard to make the right decision for your pet and some foods are quite pricey while others more affordable. You’ll also want to consider leashes, collars, safe car travel options like pet friendly seat buckles, a crate for housing them and training purposes. There are pet beds, food and water dispensers, life jackets if you are a frequent canoeist, kayaker or boater. Will they need to be brushed frequently and/or groomed? These too are expenses you must factor into your budget.
Travelling with Pets or Pet Care Options. Just because you chose to become a pet parent doesn’t mean you have to give up travel but you’ll want to consider all of your options before leaving on a vacation or travelling as a “snowbird” from one country to another for a prolonged amount of time. As we said at the outset, there are a number of pet friendly travel options available to travellers these days but you still need to know and be prepared. You might have to pay a premium for a pet friendly hotel and it may limit your choices too. Some pet friendly locations specify “no large breeds” or “no cats” meaning only a lap dog is truly welcome. Visiting another country might require you to have proof of vaccinations and there may be a limit on how long you can stay. Consider the impact of travelling on your fur baby. Airplanes can be a terrifying experience especially if your pet has to be caged and travel in the bowels of the plane. Alternatively, pet care / pet-sitting also needs to be carefully considered. You’ll want to visit available options in your area to see the premises, assess cleanliness and level of care and these places book up fast so if you are a “last minute deals” kind of traveller you may have fewer options. Sometimes friends, family or neighbours can be relied upon but you can never assume so planning ahead is a must especially if you have a larger breed dog that requires regular exercise.
In short, there’s a lot to consider when you are considering pet parenthood but anyone who has ever actually had a pet will likely tell you that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. The love of a fur baby truly is unconditional. They seem to somehow know when you are having a bad day and will curl up beside you to keep you comfortable. No matter how long you’ve been away from home you are greeted with the animal version of a smile, a snuggle, some licks or barks and meows as they “talk” to you and welcome you back home. It’s a form of unconditional companionship that requires very little from us other than food, water and maybe a treat or two! They really do provide companionship so for some folks living alone, an animal has the potential to become one of your best friends and they sure are a lot warmer to snuggle with than “Alexa!” Perhaps pet ownership will encourage you to walk more, get outdoors and to live life – meeting fellow pet owners at the park and engaging in regular exercise are great reasons to think about becoming a pet parent as a mature adult – just remember to do your homework first!