Things to Consider Before Buying a Pet

ByABC News
November 17, 2003, 2:04 PM

Nov. 25 -- Maybe it's their big eyes and cuddly fur coat. Maybe it's their eagerness to please or the desperation behind a voice you hear through telepathy as it begs, "Take me home."

Pets are popular gifts, especially around the holidays. But often, pet owners or gift buyers are unaware of the difficulties and intense commitment involved in raising new companions.

Experts say the following factors should be considered before you adopt or buy a dog or a cat for yourself or someone else. If not, the furry new member of the family on Christmas could wind up homeless by the following Thanksgiving.

Be prepared for a commitment that will last the animal's lifetime. Pets may live as long as 15 or 20 years and prospective pet owners should be prepared to provide food, shelter, health care and all the other essentials every day for the rest of the animal's life.

Can you afford to take care of a pet? Pet food is not cheap, and cats and dogs often can have unanticipated medical issues and high veterinarian bills. The American Pet Manufacturers Association estimates that dog owners spend more than $1,000 annually on pet care. "You cannot be on public assistance and own a pet," said Marge Stein, spokeswoman for North Shore Animal League America in Port Washington, N.Y. "Honestly, if you're on a fixed income and you have to struggle to get by, to feed yourself, you should not have a pet. Food for pets can add up. You must be honest with thyself."

Do you have the time care for a pet? Cats and, to a greater extent, dogs need the time and attention to be house-trained properly and to be nurtured. People who have jobs that involve a great deal of travel for long periods of time or long hours where pets are left alone may want to think carefully about their pet choice. Many animals, especially puppies and kittens, do not adjust well to solitude. Dogs constantly left alone can develop severe behavioral problems.

Ask yourself why you want a pet. Bending to the demands of children who have been longing for a puppy or kitten is not good enough. Make sure the time and environment would be right for a new pet.