With great companionship . . .

The holiday season is approaching — fast. I was walking to my neighbourhood drugstore last week and much to my surprise there was a Christmas tree display in the window. And Halloween was still a few days away at that point!
Sigh. I later Googled “How many days until Christmas?” — only 55 days away and counting. Soon I’ll be braving the malls along with hundreds of other shoppers trying to find the perfect gift for everyone on my shopping list.

“But Ashley,” you might be thinking, “the graphic accompanying your editorial is an adorable kitten. What do kittens have to do with Christmas?”
OK, I’ll get to my point. The holiday season is, for better or worse, often accompanied by gift giving. This holds true for holidays that take place during the other 11 months of the year, as well as birthdays, anniversaries, housewarmings, new job, graduation, etc.. And we can’t forget “just because” gift giving.

Sometimes when the occasion calls for gift giving, you might think that perfect present would be a kitten, or maybe a puppy. A bunny or a snake or even a bird might also seem like good ideas. What about a turtle? I always wanted a turtle growing up, but my mum said turtles smell and carry salmonella — I never did get my pet turtle.

Sorry, back on track.

Maybe there is no gift-giving occasion and you just want to get yourself animal companion. I know from experience that a pet can make a wonderful addition to your family.

If you are going to buy or adopt a pet, though, please don’t do it on a whim.
Pets require commitment. To make sure you are able to give your furry/feathery/scaly/slimy friend a “forever” home, consider these important factors:

You might see a cute kitten or puppy and decided you’d like your own furry friend. Stop first and consider that owing a pet requires money, time, attention and love. Are you ready to make that commitment?

Baby animals eventually grow up. Kittens and puppies, while small and cute now, will grow up into cats and dogs. Some pets — birds and reptiles, especially — can live well beyond 20 years of age. The average cat or dog has a life expectancy of 10-14 years. Consider that a pet could be with you decades into the future.

Like many things in life, keeping a pet costs money. You have to consider the cost of things like food, housing, toys, veterinary visits, licensing and, if necessary, training. The cost of owning a pet can run over $1,000 a year, depending on the animal.

Pets require a big time commitment. If you have a busy schedule, getting a pet might not be the best idea. Dogs, especially, require many hours of love and attention. Be open and honest with yourself on how much of your time you are able or willing to devote to a pet.

Before getting a pet you should consider whether you or any of your family members have pet allergies. If you are unsure, spend time at the home of a friend who has pets.

Check to make sure you can legally keep pets in your home. Many apartment buildings have “no pet” policies, so it is important to contact your landlord to se what, if any, animals you can house.

Educate yourself on the type of animal you are interested in keeping as a pet.
Search Internet sites, read books, consult an expert. Do your best to make sure you and your pet will be well suited for each other.

If you’re still undecided, consider becoming a foster-parent or volunteer for the Winnipeg Humane Society. It offers all of the rewards of owning a puppy or kitten, but is more of a short-term commitment, and there is built-in support.

Take your time to decide if pet getting is right for you. Be open and honest with yourself, and make sure to discuss the issue with other members in your household. Owning a pet is a big commitment and one that should not be taken lightly. Do your very best to make sure you can give your pet the “forever” home it deserves — both you and your pet will better for it.