Woof, Woof…Meow, Meow…WE LOVE PETS!
By Alicia Stevens
Eighty-five million families in the US own a pet, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Whether it crawls, hops, swims or walks…whether it is hairy, furry, slimy or prickly…whether it barks, meows, quacks, chirps or hisses…either your home, or a home near you, contains a family pet or two or three!
According to the American Pet Products Association, 44-percent of these homes have dogs, and 35-percent have cats. The American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA) estimates 13-percent have specialty or exotic pets such as rodents, reptiles or amphibians.
This may be for good reason, and with great results. Psychology Today reports over 22 studies have proven the positive benefits pet ownership has on child development, including improvement in social skills, fewer behavior problems and fewer learning problems. Children also tend to be more physically active when there is a pet in the home. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) highlights lower blood pressures and cholesterol levels for adults. Pets can also provide companionship, exercise, and opportunities for socialization.
Choosing to own a pet requires several considerations. The AVMA advises families consider the cost of pet care, including annual physical exams, vaccinations, food, shelter, emergency supplies, activity and grooming. Also be mindful of restrictions your home or community may have regarding pet ownership. Some animals require more attention than others, especially as they go from very young to very old; consider your availability to provide this attention. Additionally, think about pet placement when you are absent from the home during work hours or vacations, and consider what safety plan you could put in place for your pet in the event of bad weather or personal emergency.
The AVMA also stresses that a pet requires financial and emotional support for its entire life. Lifespans for animals can vary dramatically. For example, some birds live a few years, while some large birds can live over a hundred years!
Additionally, the ASPCA states a common reason animals are turned over to shelters is due to unmet expectations. For instance, if you’re looking for a hunting dog, there may be some breeds better suited for this than others; do your research. Your local veterinarian can be a source of great information to help determine if a pet is good for you and your family.
The Humane Society of the United States lists several reasons why a shelter pet might be a good option. First, millions of dogs and cats are euthanized in the U.S. due to overcrowding; a life could be saved with this choice. Second, most of these animals are already housetrained. It also costs less to adopt from a shelter, but adopting from a shelter supports efforts to decrease puppy mills and make room for other animals. Also, shelter workers know the temperament of the animals, so they can help best match you to your newest family member.
After bringing your pet home, the CDC advises caution with care between kids and pets. There is a risk, albeit low, that some pet diseases can transfer to humans. To decrease this risk further, take your pet to the vet regularly. Make sure you wash your hands after play or feeding, and always clean up after your pet. Don’t let kids kiss pets in their mouths, and always supervise children around pets since even unintentional scratches or bites can lead to infection.
With careful consideration, a new family pet can be a joy, and make a wonderful addition to your home.
Alicia Stevens, a resident of Pearl River County, is a freelance writer, wife and mother of two who enjoys travelling with her family and friends.