Pets: Three things to consider before buying

No rational human being can resist the appeal of a tiny puppy or kitten. It triggers the deep rooted biological programming of nurturing the young and defenceless, plus they are (arguably) much cuter than the average baby – with no screaming to boot. What's not to like? Well, as a self-confessed dog fanatic, (I own 5 and have had many in the past) I obviously heartily recommend pet ownership. It is easily one of the most rewarding experiences you can have. Having said that however, I feel like the responsible thing to do here is not waste your time with a sales pitch about how wonderful it will be when your pet arrives. Instead I've elected to be a little more sterile and realistic in my questioning of whether a pet is really the right decision for you at this point in your life. I know it is a bit of a drag, but if you truly care about the welfare of your future pet, you owe it them to ask these questions before you make your purchase.

Are you allergic?

I bring this up because it's something that I've dealt with personally. During my younger years our family owned a bichon frisé. A particularly fully breed of pooch. I didn't know it at the time but they are a popular breed choice due to their coat being non-allergenic, so at the time I made the assumption that I simply didn't have an allergy to dog hair. This all changed when I purchased my own first puppy years later – a French bulldog. Now don't get me wrong I love that dog with all my heart, but within 5 minutes of cuddling with him I've erupted in hives all over my arms. It turns out that certain dog hairs can really do a number on you while others can have no real effect at all. I endure it because I love my pup too much to care but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't unpleasant and I wish I had been a little more thorough in my research before committing to this breed.

Can you afford the vet bills?

When you get a pet you're making a pretty big financial decision in several ways, there's the obvious feeding and grooming costs sure – but these are generally pretty predictable and manageable. The danger comes when you have to deal with a serious health problem your pet is suffering. If you can afford to pay the insurance premium each year for your pet then great – there's no real issue as long as you can cover the initial excess payment which tends to be quite reasonable. However I wasn't one of these people who had the cash to spare to continually have my pet insured. My opinion has changed since my initial reluctance to take out the insurance policy due to a massive pay-out I had to make trying to save the life of one of my dogs. When you care about an animal like it's a family member you stop caring about the money and just want a miracle cure – the problem for me was I simply didn't have the money to make these cures happen. In my desperation to settle the vet bills I ended up taking out a loan from the website. I wouldn't recommend getting yourself into a personal loan situation at all as I hate the feeling of being stranded in debt. So to avoid a similar scenario either make the annual insurance payments or be share to saving up a personal 'emergency fund' that you can dip into for occasions such as this.

Do you have the time?

This may be the most important question to ask yourself. You must understand that a pet has a life outside of fulfilling your interests when you have the time to devote to it. I have friends who own animals that go unattended for most of the working day as they are in a 9-5 office job. You have to ask yourself if you believe this is really ethical treatment for an animal. If you still really want a pet in your life but are limited on time then the only responsible thing to do is ensure you have someone else to help you care for the animal when you are unavailable – there are entire industries built around 'doggy daycare' to help you with this.


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