Pet Ownership: Prepare for a Commitment, Mess

Owning a pet can be rewarding, sure, but it's also a huge commitment. It's right up there with having babies. And while anyone can tell you the good things about being a pet owner, take it from someone who knows; there's some pretty hefty downsides, too. Pets grow up "Duh, I know!" you say. But let me tell you, that kinkajou you fell in love with may be the cutest damn thing on the planet when it's 3 months old...but when they grow up, they resemble a strangely disconcerting cross between a monkey and a raccoon. And while the change might not be so drastic for cats and dogs and other common household pets, you have to keep in mind that they're never as cute when they're older. Before deciding on a pet, it's a good idea to check out pictures of what the adults look like and do some research on their personalities and habits. Rottweiler puppies may be adorable and perfectly manageable when they're little, but a year later, they're massive 120-pound killing machines who eat the coffee table while you're out. Size matters If you live in a closet-sized walk-up, you might want to consider getting a hamster. But seriously, we've already established that pets grow up, and you have to make sure you have the space to accomodate an adult animal. With dogs especially, the bigger the dog, the more exercise it needs. Keeping something the size of a Rottweiler cooped up in a typical NY apartment is just cruel, not to mention a good way to say goodbye to the afore-mentioned coffee table. Not for the commitment-allergic Happy pets need companionship and care. Don't make the mistake of bringing an animal into your home unless you have several hours each and every day to spend together. It's not enough to make sure the water bowl's full and there's food in the dish. Animals are like people, and they crave attention. Do your research! Find out exactly what kind of things the pet you want will need in advance. Irish Setters, for instance, need to run to stay happy and healthy --every day, preferably. Do you have the schedule and the energy to make that kind of commitment? How about when it's negative-jesus-christ-that's-cold (celsius) outside? Bye-bye, white leather couch...bye-bye, nest egg...bye-bye sanity Young animals, especially cats and dogs, are a damn mess. If you have expensive furniture, you had better not be too attached to it. Same goes for carpets. Although you can teach your pet manners with time, expects spills and thrills the first few weeks. Just to give you an example, my Maltese puppy ate an entire pack of cigarettes while I was at work (strangely enough, he left the filters neatly piled by the empty pack). I don't think I need to describe what sort of intestinal havoc ensued thereafter. Suffice it to say that I was emotionally scarred for life. And not even counting the mental health bills, you had best be prepared financially. Like people, animals get sick, and there's no such thing as health insurance for the furry kind. Vet bills are something you need to make sure you can handle because no matter how fiscally responsible you are, when Fluffy gets an earache, you'll be rushing to the vet and eagerly shelling out 2k for the priviledge just like the rest of us. And pets can't survive on love alone. You'd be surprised how much chow can cost, and only a hard-hearted villain can resist buying treats and toys for the furry member of the family. Pet owners are masochists and yet... There's nothing like coming home to a wagging tail and excited yelps. I have a dog, 2 cats, and a hamster, and I still haven't learned my lesson. Even though I find myself working overtime just to keep us all in Meow Mix and even though I spend unhealthy amounts of time obsessing over whether or not my hamster really loves me, I wouldn't give it up for the world. Just do your research and be prepared...if you really love animals, no amount of nay-saying will stop you.