By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Giving a pet as a holiday gift can bring joy to kids and adults alike, and making sure new pet owners are prepared for this responsibility can ensure laughter-filled days and silent nights for all.
We asked Kathy McDonald with Darlington County Humane Society for some advice to set new pet owners up for success.
She first noted that bringing a new animal into the home around the holidays can present some very specific challenges.
McDonald offered these questions for consideration: How much time do I have to socialize a pet with holiday events going on? Can I manage house-training around holiday decorations and events? If the pet gets sick, am I prepared for the vet visits, cost and time needed for recuperative care at this time of year? Will visitors to my home be comfortable with my pet and will my pet be safe?
She noted that families should be clear and in agreement about what roles each person will fulfill in the pet’s life.
“Before deciding to adopt a pet, consider who will care for the pet daily. Decide who will socialize it, train it, and keep up with vaccinations, heartworm preventative, de-worming, and parasite control,” said McDonald.
“Even though the pet is intended for a child, an adult often has to take care of many aspects of the pet’s health until the child can grow into the role of caregiver.
“With the correct guidance, and a lot of patience, an adult can often teach a child many life lessons caring for a pet.”
When choosing a pet for adoption or purchase, people can sometimes make unwise choices based on limited knowledge of a breed.
You might see a cute, friendly dog and fall head over heels, unaware that different animals have varying requirements for exercise, unique temperaments, or specific grooming and medical requirements.
First, determine what sort of pet would be best for your situation, then adopt or shop based on your needs.
“In choosing a pet, two of the most important things to consider are the energy level of the pet and the pet’s tolerance for handling.
“If the family is quiet and calm, choose a pet that is quiet and calm. A bouncy, energetic life style will require a pet who has lots of energy to keep up,” said McDonald.
“The pet’s tolerance for handling is critical, too. Younger children might grab fur, tail or limbs and need a more tolerant pet. Adult pets often have more tolerance than puppies and kittens.”
McDonald noted that older children and adults are less likely to startle a pet and so would be successful owning a younger pet or a pet with less tolerance.
Adopting older animals can be very rewarding, as they are often already socialized. McDonald added that adult dogs and cats have the added advantage of already growing past all the illnesses that often afflict puppies and kittens. Many times they are already house-trained, too.
For those with busy lifestyles who worry they might not have enough time to train and care for a dog, McDonald suggested adopting a feline friend instead.
“The amount of time that a family has to devote to pet care is another important factor. Cats and kittens might work better as pets because they don’t require being walked or trained to go outside for bathroom breaks. They can be left inside at home during the school/work day,” she said.
If you’d like to meet some dogs and cats who would love to find their forever home this holiday season, contact the Darlington County Animal Shelter at 843-398-4402 or visit them at 1701 Animal Control Blvd in Darlington.