Springtime brings more people outdoors and thoughts about adding a pet to one’s life often occurs during better weather. Playing with a dog in the backyard, taking walks in the neighborhood and beyond, and opening windows to smell fresh air and hear birds sing conjure up ideas about sharing experiences – and life – with a four-footed friend.
Adopting a pet from a local shelter or rescue is a positive thing; oftentimes, adoption saves lives. The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), which promotes Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month during April, reports that nearly 6.5 million animals are brought into animal shelters across the nation each year, and about 1.5 are killed in those facilities, oftentimes due to lack of adoption and lack of space. Therefore, adoption does save lives.
However, before running out to your local animal shelter or pet rescue organization, there are five questions a person should honestly answer before bringing a pet home. They are:
Let’s take a quick look at each of these questions and hopefully, help you answer them.
Being ready for a pet means examining your lifestyle and family situation. Primarily, do you have enough time to devote to a pet? Is someone responsible enough to not just feed and water the animal, but also to spend quality time playing with and providing activity and companionship for the pet? How many hours do you and your family spend away from home, which would leave the pet alone, possibly bored which, in turn, could lead to destructive behaviors. Make sure you have time to spend with your adopted animal – before you adopt.
What pet best fits your lifestyle? If you are gone a lot, a cat would likely be better than a dog. Cats are often much more independent; not saying you should ignore your cat, but a kitty doesn’t require walking, running, or playing activities as much as a cat does. Still, all pets need friendship and companionship, no matter what type of animal you consider bringing home. Various breeds of dogs need more, or less, activity, so if you’re considering adopting a dog, research the breed’s activity level requirements as well as personality traits. A great place to go for such information is the American Kennel Club’s website:
Finding a place from which to adopt a pet is fairly easy. There are many organizations whose mission it is to help animals in need of new homes. Local animal shelters and humane societies, as well as a wide variety of rescue organizations make saving pets and re-homing them a priority. The best place to start is your local shelter or rescue. Petfinder.com is also a great resource and helps thousands of pets find new homes every year. At this website, you will find specific breeds and ages of animals simply by using the parameters, and your zip code, at the site.
Speaking of ages, does a puppy or kitten suit your lifestyle or is it best for you to adopt an older animal? Baby and teenaged pets often require much more attention, care, and training, whereas adults and seniors are likely to be already trained and able to spend more time alone without worry of soiled carpet or chewed/clawed up furniture. Carefully consider how much time you have with the pet before being swept away by puppy and kitten cuteness.
Another option for adoption is a pet with a disability. These are often the most overlooked, and therefore, most likely to die in shelters. Yet, they are loving, faithful friends when given the chance. Blind, deaf, three-legged, or diabetic, these animals need loving, dedicated homes, too, oftentimes more so than “normal” pets. Consider adopting a pet with a disability, but also carefully consider the pets needs and if you can meet those needs. Deaf animals can – and do – respond to training via hand signals, and blind pets need more safety measures in place. These things are doable, and not costly.
So, are you ready to adopt a pet? Find more information about pet adoption and pet care at https://www.aspca.org/adopt-pet/adoption-tips
March is Poison Prevention Awareness Month, and this week is National Poison Prevention Week. Not only can humans, especially children, become poisoned due to chemicals, prescription drugs, and other substances, but so, too, can our pets. Antifreeze, weed killer, and other household products can be harmful, even deadly for dogs and cats.
Plants can also be dangerous, and with the Easter season upon us, it's a good time to remember that some species of lilies, including the Easter Lily, are toxic to cats, according to experts at the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). The Easter Rose is toxic to cats, dogs, and horses. The organization maintains a website showcasing the various plants which are poisonous to pets: http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control
Did you know that some human foods can also be dangerous to our four-footed friends? Items such as grapes, raisins, onions, garlic, chocolate, and yeast dough can be harmful to our companion animals, and other types of human food can hurt livestock, such as goats and horses.
Consumer Affairs, an online free resource of consumer news and interactive tools, has partnered with the ASPCA and Dr. Justine Lee to create a special guide to help dog owners understand and learn more about the different, potentially dangerous human foods.
I spoke with Danielle Thompson, Content Marketing Specialist with Consumer Affairs, about the guide.
“It's a free resource.... (that) demonstrates what happens when your dog eats something it shouldn't and when you should worry and possibly call your vet,” she said. “It's an animated infographic.”
People who visit the site can select a certain food, click on it, and click through the site to better understand if the dog has consumed something that may be toxic; the information given can help the pet parent determine if this is an emergency situation.
“It's time saving, money saving,” she said.
Find this interactive tool at https://www.consumeraffairs.com/pets/pet-food/#dangerous-foods.
Consumer Affairs worked with the ASPCA to compile the top 10 most dangerous human foods for dogs, the ones the ASPCA receives the most calls about. The tool helps “de-mystify” the danger, Thompson said.
According to the ASPCA, nearly half of Americans have dogs as part of their household.
“We wanted to put together this tool in one place (to help pet parents),” Thompson said. “We are a leader in consumer advocacy – our mission is... to give consumers piece of mind. We love our pets and we want for them to be well... so we partnered with Dr. Lee to create this tool.”
Other pet-related information on the Consumer Affairs website includes a pet insurance guide and information about various pet foods. People may also find pet food and treat recalls on the site, Thompson said. Currently, the dangerous food guide is about those items that affect dogs. Content about foods harmful to cats may be forthcoming, Thompson said.
Between the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control website and the Consumer Affairs Dangerous Foods guide, we as pet guardians have wonderful resources at our fingertips to help protect our furry friends. If you're concerned that your pet has been poisoned, visit the two websites, contact your local veterinarian, or call the ASPCA's animal poison control hotline: 1-888-426-4435.
Again, the two websites are:
Consumer Affairs: https://www.consumeraffairs.com/pets/pet-food/#dangerous-foods
ASPCA Animal Poison Control: http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control
Every year, about seven million animals go into shelters and rescues across the country. Dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, guinea pigs, parakeets, and other animals come in as stray, are abandoned, or given up for various reasons. Nearly half of those that enter shelters are killed.
October is National Adopt-a-Shelter Dog Month. The numerous rescue organizations, animal shelters, and humane societies across the country take in the stray and unwanted, and for people seeking to adopt, there's a plethora of animals from which to choose. And so there are questions: Which breed of dog? What type of pet? Dog? Cat? Rabbit? Lizard? Parakeet? Fish?
How do you choose?
First, consider your lifestyle. Are you home a lot or gone? Are you an active person or a couch potato? Do you want an animal that needs to be with you a lot or one that's independent? Do you have time to walk and play with a pet? Dogs especially crave the attention of their people; they are pack animals and mostly social, so getting a dog and then leaving it for hours on end, indoors or outdoors, and neglecting that desire to be with you can lead to destructive behaviors and abandonment anxiety.
Second, consider the allergy factor – does anyone in your family have allergies to pet hair/dander? Are you allergic to bird feathers? Even though many people with allergies have pets, it's also a big reason people turn animals into shelters and rescues. If you or someone in your house is severely allergic to animal hair/dander, then consider having a reptile, like a lizard or turtle, or a variety of fish for a beautiful aquarium.
Third, do you expect a life change in the near future, such as moving or having a baby? These are also main reasons people bring animals to the shelter. Keep in mind a pet is a major responsibility and should be a lifetime commitment. Dogs and cats in particular attach themselves to their human families, and it's very traumatic for them to go from living in a home to a shelter situation, behind bars, on cold concrete, amid other barking dogs and meowing cats. Therefore, don't think of a pet as a temporary resident, but as a member of the family, and if you think you'll be making a major life change in the near future, postpone getting a pet until your life is more settled.
Fourth, research the different breeds of dogs and cats and the other types of animals people have for pets. Understand that terriers dig, beagles bay, corgis herd, cats claw, and longhaired felines need regular grooming. Most dogs and cats shed and bird and hamster cages need regular cleaning. Know what you're in for BEFORE you add a pet to your home and learn about the personality traits and habits of different breeds. Also recognize the needs of the various types of animals before you adopt.
Lastly, don't adopt on a whim and don't “gift” an animal, no matter whether it's a dog, cat, kitten, puppy, hamster, rabbit, or other creature. Remember the previous tips about understanding the needs of the animal and the responsibilities of pet ownership. Don't surprise someone and don't get an animal for yourself or your family without the knowledge base of which pet best fits your life. If you want to “gift” a pet, offer to pay the adoption fee for someone and let them choose the pet themselves. If you're considering giving your children the “gift” of a pet, keep in mind mom and dad are ultimately responsible for the care and cost of the pet... and even a “free pet” costs money for vet care, food, and other supplies … and pets take time, especially dogs. As a family, research the various types of pets and the different breeds of dogs and cats, and spend time together at the shelters and rescues to find the right animal that fits your family's lifestyle and personalities. A good opportunity to do that comes during Christmas break, when you can visit the facilities frequently and spend time with the various animals available for adoption … and you have the time after the holiday with your new family member before it's left alone when the kids return to school and you return to work.
The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) provides a list of pros and cons to adding a pet to your home. They offer tips and guidelines for those considering adopting a dog, a cat, a hamster, a guinea pig, a rabbit, or having a fish. View these tips, and other important pet information, at the organization's website: https://www.aspca.org/adopt/adoption-tips/right-pet-you.
So, which pet is the right one? The one that is right for you!
It’s often their eyes, jade green or amber gold… Sometimes it’s their friendliness, rubbing against ankles and legs… It may even be their purring motors, soothing and loving as they snuggle into your neck. Whatever the “it” is, cats capture our attention and hearts.
Cats and humans have interacted for thousands of years. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the African wildcat became a frequent and welcome visitor to human habitation, attracted to, and preying upon, rodents that fed on stored grain. Cats also played an important part in Egyptian culture, often being mourned upon demise; cat mummies have been found in huge numbers in this part of the world. Short-haired cats arrived in Italy more than 2,000 years ago and reached England 300 years later. During the Renaissance cats appeared in paintings and literature as objects of affection, raising their status as household companions. Cats were later taken across the Atlantic Ocean to America and spread across the continent.
Although cats often survived simply on rodents during their earlier history, people today care for their cats much like dogs, providing food, shelter, vet care, and affection. Yet, cats seem to be considered more disposable than dogs, with only two percent of lost kitties being reclaimed by their owners. Each year shelters and rescues across the country take in about four million cats; more than 70 percent are euthanized, according to American Humane.
Many types of cats are brought into shelters. Some are purebred, such as Siamese or Persian, while others are typical tabbies. Some are kittens, some are adults, and others are seniors. About 25 percent of cats entering animal shelters are adopted.
No matter the age, type or sex, all cats need compassion and care. From nutrition and attention to exercise and veterinary care, our cats depend on us to ensure their health and happiness.
Caring for cats can be easier than caring for dogs. Fido, for example, needs his daily walk; cats are content with a catnip mouse or scrunchy ball to bat around. Litterboxes serve as lawns, and dry food can be left out for kitty to nibble on throughout the day. However, vet care is just as important as it is for dogs, from vaccinations against diseases like rabies to spaying and neutering to prevent additions to the pet overpopulation problem.
For more information on various cat care topics, visit the ASPCA website: http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care
November is Adopt a Senior Pet Month – many older cats find themselves in shelters and rescues because they are lost or because their family can no longer care for them. Consider giving an older cat a home this month and help alleviate the pressure on our rescues and shelters.
There are many benefits to adopting an older cat, including:
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.