Your loved one finds an adorable puppy or a kitten under the Christmas tree with a big, red bow around its neck - it's picture perfect now, but have you considered the long-term consequences? Although the animal is adorable, it will take a dedicated owner to keep it happy and healthy.
Puppies require approximately four trips to the veterinarian during their first four months. As they get older, both puppies and kittens need a visit to the veterinarian for a health exam and vaccinations at least annually, plus they require a warm, comfortable place to sleep, regular feedings, and exercise. Other costs to consider include grooming, neutering, and in many cities, licensing.
The size of the owner's home or yard and whether building regulations allow pets also must be considered. Large dogs will need plenty of room to exercise, so a small dog or a cat may be a better choice for an owner with a small house and yard or an apartment.
In addition, a new puppy needs several hours of attention each day and obedience training to ensure a well-behaved adult. Kittens do not require as much supervision, but they do tend to scratch and play on furniture and drapes.
If you decide to purchase a puppy or kitten, first talk to your veterinarian who will provide you with specific information about the care and cost of specific breeds. Many pedigreed pets require special care and grooming which can mean additional costs. Also, some breeds only are suited for specific situations and owners.
Whether you purchase the pet at a local shelter or from a breeder, take note of how it acts. Be sure to choose a bright-eyed and playful puppy or kitten, and avoid those who look lethargic or act aggressively.
Puppies and kittens make wonderful companions and playmates. But unless you or the new owner is ready for the long-term responsibility of pet ownership, consider giving a fluffy stuffed animal instead.
The writers are Dr. Steven B. Holzman, Dr. William R. Haagenson and Dr. Kathleen Tapley. They are associated with the Nassau-Suffolk Veterinary Hospital in Farmingdale