By Catherine Powell
If you love animals like I do, then you probably have a pet or two. If you suddenly feel the urge to add another pet to your household, or if you’re considering getting your first one, there are a few things you need to consider in advance. Just like children, having pets means you not only need to make space for them in your heart and in your home, you also need to make sure their needs are met. Below are some pointers that will not only help you choose the pet that best fits your lifestyle, but it will help you integrate it with any other pets that you may already have.
What kind of pet is right for you and your family? – That depends on what kind of pets you already have in your home and what kind of lifestyle you and your family are accustomed to. Obviously, if you have cats, adding a hamster or a bird can be kind of tricky. Likewise, if you and your family like to travel a lot, you need to steer clear of pets that require a lot of care and can’t be dropped off in a kennel while you’re away. While fish can get along for a week on their own, a pet snake could be a little cranky by the time you return. Also, bear in mind that while you may simply adore that boa constrictor you saw in the pet store, will your wife feel the same way you do? Even adding another dog to your family can be difficult if you already have a breed that’s extremely territorial. Unless you live alone, it’s always a good idea to discuss a new pet before you bring it home to your family.
How will your landlord or homeowner’s association feel about your new pet? – If you rent your home or own a home in a neighborhood that has a homeowner’s association, you had best read your lease or the HOA rules before you purchase a new pet. Bringing a pet onto your property could cause you more than a little grief if you don’t take the time to familiarize yourself with either. Tenants have been fined or even evicted for bringing an unauthorized pet onto the scene. Likewise, many homeowner’s associations have strict rules about the types and number of pets that are allowed in the neighborhood. If you don’t want to find yourself being harassed and possibly sued, you need to know what is and isn’t allowed before you wind up owning a pet that will cost you dearly.
How much time do you have to commit to your pets? - Just like any member of your family, pets require care which takes time. If you have a dog it means time to housebreak, groom, feed, walk and clean up after it. Like babies, puppies will keep you awake at night for weeks on end. They’ll also teethe on furniture and upholstery. Kittens get into everything and like to claw furniture and drapes. Both cats and dogs need to be taken to the vet regularly to get inoculated. You’ll also need to regularly purchase flea meds for both dogs and cats. The bottom line is if you don’t have an extra ten hours or so to spend with your pets, dogs and cats are probably not for you. Birds and freshwater fish require less attention, although some breeds of birds like parrots and cockatoos can get boisterous if they don’t get enough face time with their owners. If you’re new to pets, your best bet is to talk to someone who has the kind of pet you covet. They can tell you all about the intricacies of the breed, as well as what you need to know to successfully live with one. The last thing you want to do is to get a pet only to find out that you made a big mistake. Pet shelters are full of animals that people bought with the best of intentions only to later reverse their decision. If you’re considering getting a dog or cat, there are many shelters that will allow you to adopt either one to see if you’re compatible.
Who’s in your household already? – If you have roommates, kids or a spouse, make sure you touch base with them before you bring a new pet home. Some people are allergic to certain animal breeds while others are terrified of some animals. Big dogs can be a blessing or a burden, especially if you have children. While most dogs are protective when it comes to their immediate family, some breeds are not fond of children. Conversely, if you already have a dog, you need to make sure that bringing another one into your home isn’t going to cause problems for either.
How pet-friendly is your home? - Before you add a new pet to your household, you need to make sure your home is pet-friendly. If you intend on getting a dog, is your yard fenced? Are there any toxic plants in your home or backyard that could prove toxic to any pet you intend on purchasing? Have you laid in a supply of food, toys, litter, scratching posts, pet meds, and other supplies you’ll need to care for your new pet? Have you briefed your household members on the duties and responsibilities, as well as the dos and don’ts of dealing with your new pet?How friendly is your pet? - If you own a dog, you need to take extra care when introducing it to other pets and people. Any dog that feels nervous or frightened can bite. Cats can both bite and claw anything or anyone they dislike or fear. If your pet was to harm a guest in your home, you could find yourself in a court of law. Not only could you be held liable for any harm to another person, but the court can also order you to destroy your pet. Especially with dogs, you need to make sure they’re either muzzled or sequestered to the backyard or back bedroom when you entertain or allow anyone else to bring their pet into your home.
Make sure your insurance is up to the task. – Even if you have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, that doesn’t mean it will cover you should a visitor be bitten. While the liability portion of either policy is meant to cover you should a guest injure themselves when on your premises, this provision doesn’t always apply to dog bites, especially if you never informed your insurance agent that you had a dog. Even if you do, certain breeds like pit bulls, German shepherds, rottweilers, and Dobermans may be excluded. Also, if your dog bites someone while at your place of business, your homeowner’s policy may not cover it. The bottom line is before you bring a dog home, touch base with your insurance agent to learn what is and isn’t covered. You may find that you simply need to add a rider to your existing insurance policy. If not, you may want to rethink the decision to purchase a particular pet.
Consider taking a course. – If you’re new to owning any particular animal there are courses you can take to learn how to care for it. Some courses are available online, while others are offered by the local community college. Whether you have your heart set on a cat, a bird, or gerbils, there are online courses that can make the learning curve a lot shorter and allow you to enjoy your pet better than if you simply wing it. If you’re considering a dog, look into obedience courses that will save you time, money, and aggravation. It’s either that or learn the hard way when your pet decides to chew up that new armchair you just acquired.
Do you like to travel? – If you spend more than a week or so away from home every year then you need to either think about having pets that don’t require a lot of attention, or you need to find pet-friendly destinations that will allow you to bring your pets along for the ride. Today there are many hotels, motels, campsites, spas, and restaurants that allow pets on the premises, There are also lavish pet resorts that you can send your dog or cat to while you’re away instead of putting your pet in a cage at a kennel. When it comes to pets, you’re making a decision that’s going to affect your life for many years to come. Take the time to make the right choice.
Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida. To find out more ways to save on flood insurance, check out her website at http://aplusallfloridainsuranceinc.com/