Is your Facebook and Instagram feed brimming with pictures of cute animals? Do you abruptly pause conversations to point out that there’s a furry friend nearby? Do the dogs and cats in your neighbourhood walk beside you like your entourage? If your answers to most of these questions were yes, then there’s a significant chance that you’re considering getting a pet of your own.
But aside from the cuteness factor, there are a lot of things that need to be considered before you bring home a pet. Pets have more compassion and love in them than most humans, and it’s important you’re willing to continually try to match what they have to offer.
We spoke to five pet parents to help you understand what it means to have your own fur baby—emotionally, physically, and financially. And, here’s what they think every aspiring pet parent must know and consider:
1. Pets Are Emotionally Dependent
Don’t be mad if you come home after a long day to find that your dog’s made a big mess, chewed up your shoes, or maybe even peed in your bed. Pets are emotional. They experience separation anxiety and they show it in a variety of ways.
As Yashna Kapasi mentions, pets are just a part of our lives, but what we need to remember is that for them, we are their whole lives. Unlike designer handbags and branded sneakers, pets are not objects that can be showcased on your social media and then locked away in a closet. They need your time, attention, and patience, especially with younger animals that need time to adjust and familiarise themselves with their new surroundings.
Karishma Roye adds to the discussion by pointing out that when you’re out working all day, a pet is just waiting around for you. So even if you come home irritated and he’s drooling all over you, you need patience. Because you’re all they have. You are their source of food, well-being, playtime, attention, joy and sadness. You are their person. At many points in life, your priorities may not align with the amount of attention a pet needs. Especially in the case of dogs who need human interaction and affection much more than cats, who are relatively much more independent and self-sufficient.
2. Pets Are Expensive
Taking care of your two and four-legged friends can prove to be quite expensive. In between the food, the vaccinations, hygiene products, toys and accessories, expenses can add up to an amount that you may not be entirely comfortable with. On top of that, the visits to the vet for checkups or illnesses, or occasional trips to the grooming salon can also be quite heavy on your wallet. So it is essential to remember that aside from the initial cost of bringing a pet home, the expenses are going to be recurring for the entirety of your pet’s life, and often older pets require additional care and medication.
3. Pets Need Your Time & Attention
Depending on the size of your pet, and especially so if you have a dog, your pet can take up a large chunk of your day. While cats can be trained to use a litter box and do not need to be walked, dogs need to be walked daily and also need to be taken out to relieve themselves.
Pooja Shah says that the hardest thing about taking care of her cats is having to argue with her brother about who has to clean the poop.
Energetic dogs like border collies and dalmatians have lots of energy and need to be played with and exercised often. If their pent up energy is not expended, they start to get stressed and become destructive.
Also, pets require constant monitoring and supervision. Akshita Gupta mentions that she has a webcam installed in her house to keep an eye on her cat while she’s at work.
4. Pets Need To Be A Good Fit For Your Home & Family
As Akshita rightly brings up, it is imperative that the needs and habits of the household should also be considered while making this decision. Check with them to find out if they are okay with having a pet. Some people are afraid of or allergic to pets and this could lead to the pet being ignored or reprimanded in unduly situations, which is emotionally stressful for the pet.
Also, consider your pet’s diet needs. Keeping a pet in a strictly vegetarian household can be tricky when it comes to dogs and cats. Pets need to get their protein and calcium intake to remain healthy. Yashna suggests a workaround in the form of boiled eggs and dry, non-vegetarian snacks, which are much more convenient and agreeable.
In terms of physical space as well, consider the size of your pet and the climate of your city before you get one home. For instance, getting a Siberian Husky to Mumbai or Ahmedabad is cruel. Expecting a Great Dane to live in a 1 bedroom apartment is cruel. Seeing the space that you can give to your pet for them to run/move around and the weather conditions of your permanent address are essential considerations, adds Yashna.
Unsure? Be A Part-Time Pet Parent
If you are still not entirely sure if pet ownership is adaptable to your lifestyle, you can always try fostering, which is a great way to test out the waters. Fostering is usually done for a limited period of time, while the pet rescue organisation tries to locate a forever home for the animals.
Srushti Pathak has a particularly soft spot for fostering pregnant cats and has successfully helped take care of 10 kittens of 3 female cats in the last 8 years. Even when she’s not entirely fostering cats, she always keeps a bag of cat food and her arms open for any cats who might need some love.
You could also opt for low-maintenance pets, to begin with. Take, for example, a pet bird, pet fish, or pet hamster are a lot less demanding than pet cats, pet rabbits and pet dogs.
No Matter How Ready You Feel, Nothing Can Prepare You For This
When asked about the hardest part of having a pet, the answer was unanimous. The passing away of a beloved pet hurts just as much as that of a family member. Your pet is there for you through good times and bad. You make memories together, you understand each other’s quirks and idiosyncrasies. All you can do is be there for them as they move on.
More than a physical or financial commitment, a pet is an emotional commitment. Some people get so attached to a specific pet that they can never go through the same thing with another pet again. While others like Yashna live by the philosophy, it’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. If you’re a good parent, you have the opportunity to give an animal a quality life—one they wouldn’t necessarily have had without you. And that’s something that could make you a pet parent for life.
Perhaps this is what the prolific French poet, Anatole France, had meant when he wrote that until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.