Issues to consider before obtaining a Christmas pet

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Christmas countdown clock is unwinding quickly and our minds are buzzing.

Another electronic game? Will she like that piece of jewelry? Has he read that book yet? How long will she play with that doll?

A story on Monday's front page might seem to have provided a great shopping tip -- how about a new pet under the tree? Humane societies -- like McCook's -- are being overrun with surplus pets, and are looking for ways to find new homes for them -- lower prices or, as in McCook's case, two-for-one sales.

Cat-lovers and dog-lovers may "fight" like, well, cats and dogs over the relative merits of their favorite pets, but both sides agree that a household pet can bring a large measure of love and companionship to nearly any home.

We agree that many of us should consider adopting a pet, but not on a holiday whim.

And, we can't think of much worse of a time to introduce a frightened puppy to young members of his new family.

Christmas morning, when the kids are excited and distracted about new toys, and Mom and Dad are concerned about meals, travel and other activities, that new kitten isn't going to receive the calm attention she needs to feel at home.

While a pet can help teach children about responsibility, parents shouldn't expect them to learn it at the expense of the pet's health and safety.

Not all of us are cut out to be pet owners. The ASPCA suggests asking ourselves a series of questions before taking on the responsibility: Are you ready for a long-term commitment? Dogs can live 10 to 15 years, cats up to 20. Will the birth of children or job changes force a painful giving up of the pet?

Do you have time to give the dog the exercise and companionship it needs, and can you tolerate a cat's idiosynchracies?

Can you afford to take good care of your pet -- food, toys, supplies, and routine and emergency veterinary care?

What kind of pet is right for you? Investigate issues such as allergies, apartment restrictions, family member concerns and lifestyles before taking the plunge.

Are you willing to study and adapt to your pet's behavior and invest time and energy into the appropriate training?

If you've answered all of those questions sufficiently, then by all means, go ahead and bring home a pet -- and we would encourage you to consider adopting a pet from the McCook Humane Society.

But consider opening packages containing pet toys and products on Christmas morning, and introducing the new member of your family on a day that isn't so busy and rushed.

And don't forget to have your pet spayed or neutered to keep the Humane Society's problems from growing worse.

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