World Animal Day is celebrated annually on October 4. Its mission is to “raise the status of animals in order to improve welfare standards around the globe” (source).
Self-Counsel Press is proud to have published a book on how to improve the well-being of companion animals by adopting a greener lifestyle. One of the green solutions Darcy Matheson, the author of Greening Your Pet Care, suggests is adoption, which she calls the “ultimate recycling.” However, a decision to adopt a pet should always be well thought out as it is a lifetime commitment.
Falling in love with an animal is easy but taking care of it for life is much more difficult. Pets are our companions and family members. They boost our psychological, emotional, and physical well-being. However, being a guardian comes with a lot of responsibility and that aspect is often forgotten during the initial excitement of adoption.
Beyond the daily feedings and playtime, there are many hours of socialization and training required. Your new companion may need several hours of exercise daily to satisfy its physical and mental needs — not to mention saving your home from being destroyed by a bored and anxious animal.
Consider how many years that pet will be around. While dogs have a relatively short life compared to their human guardians, canines still live an average of 12.8 years, says Pets.ca. Cats and snakes can live up to 20 years. And that’s just a fraction of how long some birds live. Large parrots can reach 80 years of age, which is a concern because they may actually outlive their adopters. The Avian Welfare Coalition says all exotic birds, not just the bigger species, will be passed around to an average of seven different homes over their lifetime.
Before you commit to a new pet it’s a good idea to consider the costs. According to veterinary statistics from the ASPCA, the first year of pet guardianship costs between $235 to $1,314, depending on the type of animal. This includes initial vet appointments, vaccinations, spay/neuter procedures, booster shots, training classes, microchips, and city licenses. Other costs, which add up to hundreds of dollars, include food, toys, treats, carriers, crates, boarding, grooming, and monthly health insurance premiums.
While these bills are less expensive for smaller animals, such as pocket pets, birds, and rabbits, it’s worth noting that almost every pet has ongoing costs, whether it’s for annual checkups or flea and tick prevention and food. For reptiles and fish, there are expensive and energy-sucking light- ing and heating systems. The ASPCA says annual care costs range from $35 for a single fish to $300 for a small animal, $670 for a cat, and $875 for a large dog. Those dollar figures increase with the pet’s age, as they require additional vet treatments.
Before you adopt a pet, it’s important to consider whether the time is truly right to become a guardian. Ask yourself these questions:
- How long will the animal live?
- How much free time do I have?
- Do I have someone who can help if I’m away or get sick?
- Can I afford the vet bills when the animal needs care?
- How large will this pet become?
- Will this type of pet be safe around small children and/or grandchildren?
- Is this pet a good fit for my life?
- Will my living circumstance change?
- Does this pet match my energy level and lifestyle?
- Would it be better for me to foster a pet before adopting permanently?
For more tips on adopting as well as caring for your companion animals in a greener way, read Darcy Matheson’s book, Greening Your Pet Care, available on our website, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Chapters Indigo and in better bookstores in your neighbourhood.