April 30 is National Adopt a Shelter Pet day. If your parent has expressed interest in perhaps getting a new or additional pet, this day calls awareness to the possibility and benefits of adopting a new pet from a shelter rather than purchasing a pet from a pet store or a dog breeder. Pets in shelters are pets that have usually already been in homes but are needing a new home for a variety of reasons. Your local shelters and rescues are full of loving, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and often trained pets who are just waiting to meet their new family. But, before you and your parent take that step of adopting a new pet, together you should review these questions so your parent makes sure she gets a pet that not only suits her needs, but that she can also care for adequately.
What kind of habitat does the pet need to thrive?
If your parent is living in an apartment or a home without a fenced in yard, she might want to steer clear of a large dog that needs to have lots of room to run and get daily exercise. While your parent can take the dog (or your elder care provider can) to the local park each day, that task can get more difficult in bad weather or if someone is under the weather or recovering from a surgery. Your parent should pick a pet that will live comfortably in the space she has.
How expensive is the pet?
This question doesn’t only apply to the initial cost of the pet, but also the care and upkeep. Some animals require a lot of extra equipment (such as salt-water fish) or expensive food (such as certain breeds of dogs or reptiles). It also is a good idea to investigate what the general health is of a certain type of pet so your parent will know if she needs to budget for multiple vet visits within this pet’s lifetime. Dogs, in particular, have breeds that are known to have consistent health issues because of their particular genetics.
What type of exercise does the pet need?
A cat is usually happy staying indoors, while most dogs need some type of daily walk or exercise. If your parent is looking at getting a dog, does she have a way to get it exercise all year round? An elder care provider or even an older grandchild can help with daily walks so you don’t need to rule out the idea, just have a discussion about how this need will be met.
What does clean up look like?
All pets require some type of clean up, whether it’s cleaning out a cage, changing water in a tank, emptying a litter box, or picking up after a dog outside. Is your parent able and willing to keep the new pet’s living environment clean? Again, if she cannot manage the task on her own, it’s not a deal breaker so long as together you have a plan for someone else to do it consistently.
Pets can add health, emotional, and social benefits into the lives of their owners but before your parent decides to adopt a pet, have an honest conversation about the care and upkeep needed for the new pet. That way your parent can love her new pet without the worry of unexpected demands or financial investments.