Ah, disposable pets…or should I just say “pets” as the terms seem interchangeable for so many? After all, they’re cheap and easy to dispose of when no longer cuddly or too much a “chore.”
First, pity the goldfish bought to “teach children a valuable lesson,” only to be flushed within the month, and perhaps replaced with a lookalike, so no one is the wiser. Then, the hamster, a fluffy interactive handful, soon relegated to a corner and ignored, until found stiff as a board. Next, maybe a floppy-eared rabbit, a colorful bird, or an exotic reptile. But, more likely, a cat or dog is next on the shopping list.
Unfortunately, that purchase is often impetuous. Many are bought on whim – oh, it’s so cute! – with little thought to the commitment involved, until Fluffy soils the carpet, chews on a shoe, or shreds an armchair. Or, Max needs more exercise and attention than is convenient. Or, gosh, time to move and taking Buddy is such a hassle.
Then the unsuspecting animal ends up cycling through homes and shelters, abandoned roadside, or dead.
Flushed like the goldfish. Dumped like the trash. At best, recycled like an aluminum can.
I’m not talking about cruelty but about the casualness in which many view animals as consumer goods. No animal is disposable. As in having a child, you make a commitment to its well-being. Fluffy and Max are relying on you for food, water, basic care, and training. And cats and dogs are as innocent as any child, adoring you from the first moment, loyal, trusting, and ever so dependent on your good will.
Doesn’t a child require attention? Would you toss aside a child for misbehavior? Would you leave a child behind because you were moving and the potential new landlord didn’t like children?
So, what about that list of complaints?
One, be aware upfront that animals take time and patience to train. With the right approach, an animal can be trained within hours, if not days, to behave as desired. Need a little direction? Do a Google search on correcting a behavioral problem, or sign up for a training class to train you. It’s all about positive reinforcement.
Two, set aside a half-hour a day for your pet. Skip a TV show and go for a quick walk or toss a ball around the yard. We all have time; it’s just a matter of how we use our time, which reflects our priorities. If not for your pet, do it for yourself per the American Heart Association’s 30-minute recommendation for daily exercise.
Three, find a home that accommodates all family members. Take the extra time, if needed. Also, consider that a cross-country road trip is less traumatic to your pet than a kennel at the shelter.
Make it work. Your pet would never abandon you, even if you didn’t flush the toilet or became sick. You’d be hard pressed to match such adoration. Be worthy of their love and give it back.
First published in Pets in the City Magazine, January 2013