Little Cindy descends the stairs, rubbing her eyes. It's Christmas morning! And there, underneath the tree ...
"A puppy!" or "A kitten!" An adorable little pet, complete with a bow around the neck. Cindy is delighted for an entire hour
Two weeks later, no one's happy. The puppy chews, the kitten scratches. Neither reacts well to being squeezed too hard; sometimes one will nip. No one wants to bother spending time on the play the kitten needs or taking the dog on required walks. Little baby Jimmy is possibly allergic, and Dad kind of hates that damn animal, and Mom is annoyed that what she hoped would be a lap pet really isn't. The adults resent how much money
the damn thing costs, and that's even considering that they would never spend a dime on medical care because it's "just an animal".
Six months later the pet is abandoned in a box in a swamp
in the country, one day away from being a coyote's breakfast. Or wandering the streets, pregnant. Or run over by a car. Or taken to the vet to be "put to sleep" because it's just too expensive and inconvenient, so might as well kill it for those sins, but only by proxy and with euphemisms.Don't do this
. Don't be that person. I like to think anyone who would read my journal already knows better, but a reminder is worthwhile. Companion animals shouldn't be given as gifts, and they should never
be a surprise. Dogs and cats in particular have personalities — some are terrified of adult men, some are lap pets, some bounce off the walls, some need to be the only pet, some have siblings they shouldn't be separated from, some get bored in five seconds and need both companionship and active play, some are great with kids and some terrible, on and on and on.
If you want a pet, approach adoption as the project it is. Meet the prospects, with the whole family. Know what you're looking for. Find out what you're in
for. See if there's any chance the animal you're considering can spend a few days in your home as a trial. Recognize that you're adding a developed (or developing) personality to your family, as a lifelong commitment.
And be prepared to spend money. Consumerist reminds us
According to the ASPCA, a cat costs $1,035 over the first year of ownership and $670 thereafter, while a large dog generates $1,843 in bills the first year and another $875 each subsequent year. The association also warns against the idea of surprising someone with a pet, as these often end up in shelters because the recipients either weren't prepared for pet ownership or are not pleased with your choice of pet.
If any of that sounds too daunting, or if you're at all unsure, buy a video game or a book or a movie instead.
I volunteer at a cat shelter. Trust me, there are more
than enough discarded pets to have the place overflowing. (That includes the three beautiful, playful, friendly, precious kittens who were dumped at that aforementioned swamp. I hate people sometimes. Luckily they were discovered before they died — yes, we do have coyotes and foxes, as well as large and vicious racoons many times the size of these kittens.) Some of those cases are unavoidable, such as cases in which the owner died or the family lost their housing and just couldn't find other accomodations that allowed pets. Some are questionable. And some are inexcusable. Don't contribute to this. Please.(And don't even get me started on Easter chicks and bunnies.)