Wednesday, January 20, 2010
By Julia Williams
I’ve heard it said many times that “when you have children, your life changes forever.” Having a child does significantly alter the way people live, on a daily basis as well as long term. To a lesser extent, the same can be said for having pets. Bringing a companion animal into our home requires that we make lifestyle changes. There are things we have to choose between, and sacrifices we may need to make for the sake of our pet’s wellbeing, and sometimes our own. So what are some of the trade-offs of having pets?
Responsible pet owners give up the ability to leave town on a whim. If our animals are staying behind, then before we hit the highway or hop a plane to Cancun, we need to make arrangements for their care. In my opinion, that goes for cats too. I was once called sanctimonious for saying that cats shouldn’t be left to fend for themselves while their owners go away on vacation, but I stand by my belief. Dogs and cats are not capable of calling 911 or seeking emergency care in the event of an accident; as such, our duty as primary caregiver is to make sure they are looked after in our absence. I trade the freedom to take off at a moment’s notice, with the good feeling that comes from knowing my cats are well cared for while I’m away.
Having pets requires that we give up a lot of this precious commodity. Our animals rely on us to feed them, shop for their food, clean up after them, play with them and groom them. Dogs also need regular exercise in the form of walks, runs, or trips to the dog park. Very often, our lives can be so busy that these things feel more like a “chore” instead of a labor of love. Be that as it may, they aren’t optional. Responsible pet owners willingly trade their time in order to properly care for their animal companions.
There is no denying that pets are expensive. Some cost more than others, but all require that we trade money for the privilege of having them in our life. When adopting a pet, many people fail to consider just how much money it takes to care for them, and they are caught unawares. Add in unexpected expenses like accidents, illness or an aging pet, and you can quickly see that pet ownership does not come cheap.
A monetary trade-off I recently made involved my pet door. Because it’s drafty, I close it off in the winter, and my cats stay inside 24/7. However, Mickey gets rather irritated with that arrangement and he scuffles with Rocky, particularly late at night. One night while I was in bed, a cat fight took place on my face, so after examining my scratched cheek I made a decision: I opened the drafty pet door so I could have two cordial cats. This seems like a pretty good trade-off to me.
A spotlessly clean house
Dogs and cats shed, and they make messes. They track in mud, dirt, plant debris and other unsavory things that muck up our floors and soil our carpets and furniture. Choosing a short haired breed lessens the shedding problem somewhat, but not entirely. You can religiously vacuum, scrub and dust, but the reality is that a home with pets is not going to be spotlessly clean all of the time. Sometimes this can be embarrassing, such as the time a delivery person sat in a chair my cat had slept in. When he turned to leave, I saw that the seat of his pants was entirely covered in cat hair! (And no, I didn’t brush it off, nor did I say a word).
Many pet owners also choose to forego expensive furnishings and/or fragile items that can’t be placed where they won’t get knocked off by a wagging tail or a climbing cat. I don’t put a cover on my couch and I let my cats sleep on my bedspread, because I choose not to buy overly pricey things. This way, it’s not a big deal to me if they get wrecked by cat claws or gastric “accidents.”
Certainly, pet ownership is not without trials and tribulations. But then, isn’t that the very nature of our existence? My own life so far has been a series of happy times entwined with sad and challenging times. Having pets, or not having them, wouldn’t change this. It’s true that over the years, I’ve made many trade-offs in order to have pets. I’m sure you have too. But when I think of all the things I’ve given up or had to forego, there isn’t a single one I would choose over the love and companionship of my feline friends.
Read more articles by Julia Williams