Many young professionals are at a point in their lives where they’ve begun to consider taking on the responsibility of pet ownership. In addition to the well-known physical and emotional benefits of being a pet owner, young professionals with pets have the added benefits of improved work/life balance, financial responsibility, and preparation for other major life commitments, like having children.
On Saturday, August 19th, nearly 700 shelters across the country are participating in Clear the Shelters, a nationwide pet adoption drive that helps find loving homes for animals in need. This is an excellent opportunity to take the leap and get a pet! While you may be tempted to run out and adopt the first cute puppy or kitten you lay your eyes on, not doing enough research to find a pet that’s compatible to you is one of the top reasons why pets are surrendered or given up by their owners.
When looking for a pet, here are some things to consider to help you find the right match:
Find a pet that fits your lifestyle. Considering that dogs and cats will be with you for a decade or more, it’s important to ask yourself who you are and what you can realistically handle. If the answer is “not much,” then you may want to start with something simple to care for, like a goldfish. If you’re someone who goes from work straight to the gym and then to a meeting or social event every night, you probably don’t have enough free time to feed, train, exercise and give attention to an energetic dog. A low maintenance pet, like a cat, is much easier to take care of with a busy lifestyle.
Your living arrangement may also dictate what type of pet you get. Are you allowed to own a pet where you live? Are there breed restrictions or costs associated? What is the activity level of the household? How much space do you have? Trying to fit a 90 pound German Shepherd in a studio apartment where it has no space to move around is probably going to cause destructive behavior and frustration, both for you and the dog. Cats, and dog breeds like terriers, spaniels, and bulldogs on the other hand are great for apartment living. It’s important not only to think about your current situation, but a future one. If you get a new job and have to move, keep in mind you’ll have to find a place that will accommodate both you and are pet.
Another very important lifestyle component to consider is money. Can you afford the food, toys, bedding, grooming, vet bills, and all other items needed to own a pet? It takes a minimum of $500 - $1,000 a year to take care of a dog or cat properly. Keep in mind that with medical issues that may arise and with age, these costs can increase.
Pick an appropriate age and breed. Not all pets are right for every household. Puppies and kittens are adorable and great companions, but they have a lot of energy, and with that may come damaged property and sleepless nights. If you’re a runner and are looking for a pet to exercise with you, a younger dog would be a great fit. Someone who likes to lounge around the house whenever they can will do well with the calm of an older cat. The animal’s breed may also determine whether it’s the right match for you or not. Many children wanted a Dalmatian after seeing the movie 101 Dalmatians. While the breed can be wonderful dogs, they are large, very energetic, and need a lot of exercise. If there’s a small child in the home and the dog doesn’t get enough exercise it could lead to the child accidentally getting hurt. Breeds are also relevant in cats. Long-haired cats require more grooming, and Siamese cats are often very vocal and mischievous. Research the breed's traits, needs, grooming habits, and common health issues, to make sure it will work for your life situation.
Find out about the specific pet. Many times people will see a pet online and will purchase it without having met it. It’s so important to spend time with an animal before adopting, because it’s the only real way to know if its personality is a match for yours. While breed information will give you common traits about the animal, every one of them is unique. When adopting a pet, always request a behavior evaluation and information on the animal’s background. This will provide you with information about how they react with other animals and small children, what their energy level is, if they have any behavioral issues (which can often be fixed with training!), and what their likes and dislikes are. Another important thing to request is a medical background. You want to know going in if your pet has a certain condition that will require special treatments throughout the course of its life and if you’ll be able to handle that.
With this information, you should be well-equipped to begin your research. A good shelter will also have you fill out an application and ask you a series of questions to further ensure the pet you’re looking to adopt is a match for you.
I will be volunteering at Our Companions’ Clear the Shelter event in Manchester on August 19 and would happy to help you in your journey for a new pet. If you can’t make it to Manchester, many other shelters across the state, including the Connecticut Humane Society, will be participating. Take a look at the list of participating shelters in CT and start doing your research now so you can find the perfect pet for you!
Stephanie Berman is a member of the Personal and Professional Development Committee and the Social Events Committee.