Pet ownership is great—there’s absolutely no doubt about that. Pets provide us with joy, distractions, love, and for some even a reason to exist. There are so many reasons why we should get a new furry friend; but equally, there are a few harsh realities of pet ownership that many don’t understand before a spur-of-the-moment decision to add a new family member.
When you get a new pet, their needs come first. Like when you decide to have a child, pets are a forever decision. You control their life and wellbeing. You are solely responsible to care for them, and give them the absolute best life possible.
This means that a lot of your desires now come second to your pet. You want to go on an overseas holiday for a month? Great, but you have to consider your pet first. Either organise a friend, a boarding house, or a pet-sitting service to look after them. You want to go out to a party or away for the weekend? Great, but look after your pet’s needs first. You can look after yourself—they can’t.
Three years ago, I decided to look after a foster cat who was then somewhat forced onto me for full-time ownership and adoption. At the time, I thought it would be great—but as life got in the way, it became harder and harder to give my precious girl the life she deserved. I was depressed, and while patting her beautiful fur did make me feel better, I realised my choice to keep her had been ill-thought. Eventually, we were faced with homelessness, and my best friend was able to take her in.
You can’t always predict what will happen in your life—but you have to have thought through the emotional labour side of pet care.
Pets are expensive. And once you get one, you realise there are all kinds of other costs. There’s food—usually wet and dry. And you’ll want the best nutrition you can get for your pet, which can often be pricy. Then there’s their bedding, leads, multiple bowls, winter jackets (if required), brushes and all kinds of other bits and pieces. There’s also grooming costs, getting their nails and fur trimmed, if needed. It all works out to be ridiculously expensive, especially if your pet is a fussy eater—and that’s just the bare minimum.
Expect the unexpected, and have a minimum of one thousand dollars in savings specifically for emergency pet needs. Even a short consultation can be pricy, not to mention potential medication and follow-up appointments.
When I was 11, my best friend and dog Mistletoe was run over by a car. She miraculously survived, but her bones looked like a jig-saw puzzle in x-rays. She required months of surgery and rehabilitation as she learned to walk and go to the toilet alone again, costing my mother thousands. But your pet is your responsibility, so despite the financial burden, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.
Pets are messy. Pets cause damage. That’s the way it is. If you have a cat, expect that sometimes they might scratch up the carpet or your furniture. If you have a dog, expect their pee might stain the carpet. We came home once to my dogs biting the walls, trying to get at a wild rat inside them—another expense. Animals chew, fight, do their business and stain, so you have to expect this and be prepared to pay the cost for when they do so; especially if you’re in a rental.
Of course, not all pets are destructive—but they can be, and regardless, you should prepare for that.
A lifetime commitment
While sometimes the absolute unexpected happens, pets are for life. Before committing to their ownership, you have to plan for the future. Will you move? Will you have kids? Do you have savings so you’ll be able to afford whatever happens?
The bond between animals and humans is sacred. You are their entire life. Don’t take that for granted and get a pet without really thinking through the realities of pet ownership.