Friday, November 14, 2014

Pets are for life, please prepare accordingly

As we get closer to the holidays, many consider giving pets as gifts, and all too many of these pets find themselves homeless just after Christmas. Pets should not be a surprise. Talk through decisions like this with the whole family and make sure that everyone shares the idea of what should happen and how.

Deciding to get a pet is fun, but also a big responsibility. When picking a type of pet you should naturally try to find something that fits with your lifestyle and expectations, but it is also wise to consider its expected life span. Many older pets end up in shelters because their owners were unprepared for the pet's old age.

Good questions to consider include:

  • Are there expected changes in your life that will make it impossible for you to care for the pet?
  • Will you be able to carry the cost of food, vet bills, vaccination, toys, and so on?
  • As the pet ages, costs for veterinary care and special food can increase. Will you be able to handle that?
  • Will someone be there to care for the pet through all of its life? 
  • If something happens that makes it impossible for you to keep your pet, do you have someone else that can step in?

Indoor cats normally live between 12 and 18 years, but many get much older. The world's oldest known cat lived to be 38 years old. When it comes to dogs, the size and breed makes a big difference in expected life span. Smaller breeds generally live longer than larger breeds. The world's oldest dog was a sheepdog from Australia, and he lived for over 29 years.

Other types of pets can also have long and rich lives. You might not associate goldfish with longevity, but Tish the goldfish was recorded as the oldest goldfish in captivity 43 years after he was won as a prize. Normal life expectancy for goldfish is between 10 and 20 years.

Rabbits have an average life expectancy of 5-8 years, but they can become much older. The oldest known rabbit lived for 16 years.

The Chinchilla is another popular pet. They normally live around 15 years in captivity, but some make it well into their 20s.

Many avoid getting cats and dogs because their lifespans are so much shorter than ours. We're often closer to our pets than to other people, and the demise of a loved pet is difficult to bear. On the other hand, it's not so good if the pet outlives its human, and this is definitely something to take into account if you're looking at a bird or a tortoise. Parrots are known to get very attached to their owners - and they can live well over 80 years. Some types of tortoises live more than 150 years.

~ Maria Sadowski ~

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