Should You Get a Pet? I Have 4!

Hello everyone, and welcome back! I hope you had a chance to check out this post: Top 5 Tips for Being a Better Consumer.  I complied some tips to help you have a better purchasing experience. This post is related, because it really requires a lot of research and decision-making on your part.

I’m a Spoonie that has four pets. On top of needing spoons for myself, I need to ensure that I save spoons to care for them as well. I’m also lucky enough to have two people to help me care for them if I’m too sick. My animals are not “just pets” to me; they’re members of my family. I often reflect on the level of care that my animals need, and I’m constantly evaluating their environment. It’s my goal that they live the best life they can while in my care. Pets are not one size fits all, and oftentimes, pets are simply not appropriate for certain people.

Therefore, I’ve compiled some of the things you should be considering when deciding to add a new critter to your family. Not only will this protect you, but this will help prevent another yet another abandoned animal. I will be using my own knowledge of pets as examples to illustrate some factors that are really important but often get overlooked during the excitement of considering a new pet.

The first additional member of our family is a 4/5-year-old dog named Spots that we adopted from the animal shelter about 3 years ago. Our younger dog Buster is about seven months old, and we were given him in December by another family. There’s also my dove Joanah who was our 5th grade class pet. She used to belong to a magician (yes, really), but was rescued by my teacher, who then passed her along to me. She has to be at least 30 years old, and can be expected to live another 60 years, if she remains healthy. Finally, the creature in the header image is Chancho the chinchilla. He was only a few months old when he became my 23rd birthday gift from Richie. He’s now about 3 years old. He is expected to live to around 20 years of age if we give him proper care.

  • are you prepared to care for a critter for the duration of their lifetime?
  • often animals are abandoned not long after they’re taken into a home because people are simply not prepared to care for them

Chinchillas are adorable, cuddly looking animals that are commonly hunted for their luxuriously soft furs. Many people see them and want to own one but simply do not understand all of the special care they really need. Chinchillas have to be in a cool, dry environment. Humidity/moisture can cause him to develop fungus or infections on his skin because his fur is so dense – I had to stop using my humidifier around Chancho. We have to keep his room below 75° to avoid giving him heat stroke and ultimately causing death. You may want to consider these factors about your new pet:

  • can you accommodate this pets environmental needs?
    • what kind of habitat do they require?
    • is this going to be in opposition to your needs?

Chancho is nocturnal. He sleeps all day, and usually wakes up around 7pm. He’s up, and on his wheel pretty much for the rest of the night. He tends to get nice and sleepy around 8am. This brings me to the next set of questions

  • does the creature’s lifestyle match yours?
    • are they going to keep you up all night?
    • would you do better with a diurnal animal, like a dog or a bird?

Chancho is not a snuggly animal. Despite his cuddly appearance, chinchillas typically don’t like to be touched or held, and tend to like a habitat with plenty of places to hide. Additionally, handling your chinchilla excessively could be bad for their health – your hands have bacteria and oils that are harmful to the chinny’s skin and fur. Furthermore, they are mammals, so they require some sense of a family environment. Placing his enclosure in a busy area of the house where they still have privacy is really important.

  • are you looking for a companion you can snuggle with, or are you ok leaving them be?
    • dogs and cats tend to be more cuddly and are used to being handled by humans in most cases
  • will your household provide enough interaction with the pet?
    • do they do better in pairs so they are not lonely/depressed?

While Spots and Buster are really interested in Chancho, they seem to be more afraid of him than anything. Our dogs are never around Chancho unsupervised.

  • are your other pets going to be attempting to murder your new pet?
    • is the environment safe for everyone involved?

Chancho is a rodent. He loves to explore and eat everything he can, but he is also very sensitive. Some types of woods are poisonous and even deadly for chinchillas. He can’t eat foods with too much moisture in them. Most enclosures sold contain plastic, which is guaranteed to shorten a chin’s lifespan, because they will eat it. We had to purchase Chancho a special chinchilla wheel – the plastic one from the pet store was too small and unstable for Chancho’s abuse; plus he just wanted to eat it. Instead we found a metal wheel made especially for chinchillas that set us back around $100. We currently have our eye on a beautiful enclosure for him that only has wooden ledges and no plastic anywhere. It will cost us about $300.

  • are you prepared for the unexpected costs your pet may incur?
  • are you willing to supervise play outside of the pets’ enclosure?
  • are you able to provide a safe environment for your pet?
  • pets like dogs require much more space for exercise
    • can you provide that in a yard?
    • if not will you be physically able to take your dog for 2-3 walks per day?
  • do you have access to their food, or will you need to special order it?

Due to the denseness of his fur, things like fleas, ticks, and the diseases carried by these pests don’t pose a problem for Chancho. But most common pets like cats and dogs face these threats.

  • are you prepared to take preventative measures to ensure your pets health?
  • can you afford regular veterinary visits?
  • do vets in your area treat this kind of animal?
  • are you prepared to handle pest infestations as a result of your pet?

Like most animals, Chancho’s face and hands can expose me to salmonella bacteria. I have to be careful to never touch him or his stuff without washing my hands before and after. He cannot get wet. He instead rolls in dust that’s made of volcanic ash, ground pumice, and clay (watch this strange ritual here). He cleans himself, like most cats do. His teeth, just like a rats, will constantly grow. He needs constant access to pumice, woods, and hay to chew on to grind down his teeth. If he doesn’t have access to those things he can face dental problems. He also bites me when he feels like it.

  • are you prepared to groom your pet?
    • do you have access to people who are trained to do so?
      • will you be able to afford regular bathing/teeth cleanings
    • are you able to maintain their hygiene at home?
  • are you prepared to recognize potential signs of insufficient grooming/poor health?
  • is it safe for children to be around your animal?

Chancho poops little pellets everywhere, and pees in certain corners of his house on his “bedding”. Like a cat, he didn’t need to be trained where/how to “go”. Chancho is very smart, but he’s also very stubborn. While experts claim Chinchillas cannot be trained, Chancho’s behavior says otherwise. He knows when it’s feeding time, bath time, cleaning time, all based on the sounds I’m making. He also responds accordingly based on the tone and volume of my speech – he knows when he’s being scolded. He’s also very territorial. He barks when he senses an intruder (the family of skunks in our neighborhood really upsets him). He tends to be afraid of new people. Buster doesn’t like strangers either.

  • do you have adequate time to train your pet?
    • will they relieve themselves indoors, or will you need to take them outside?
      • are you equipped to train them not to go in the house/are you prepared to pay for training?
      • is a dog/cat door a good option?
  • is neighborhood activity going to be stressful for your animal?
    • animals like dogs can be (bark) loud enough for neighbors to hear
      • are you prepared to deal with noise ordinance complaints?
  • are you prepared to deal with your pets personality?
    • are they ok being around strangers?

While Chancho is considered an exotic pet, he is legal to keep in my state, and there are no special licenses required to keep him in our family. But most pets do require some sort of registration or licesnse, and some are even illegal to own. If Chancho were ever to somehow escape the house, there is a good chance he not would survive, and we would probably never see him again.

  • are you prepared to pay registration/licensing costs?
  • are you familiar with your city’s laws surrounding your animal?
    • are you willing to spay/neuter your pet according to these regulations?
  • is your pet going to survive if they get out?
    • will you be able to provide adequate measures to prevent them getting out?
    • will you be able to get them back?

Chancho isn’t hypoallergenic. While he does not produce noticeable amounts of dander, he does bathe in dust, and he eats foods (hay!) that tend to produce an allergic response in people with environmental allergies. He also needs clean, dry bedding that can include wood shavings – also not always good for people with allergies.

  • are you allergic to your pet
    • do you have options for accommodating the pet regardless of your allergies?
  • will your pet be bringing allergens into your house?
    • dogs love to rub on plants and in weed patches
  • are you allergic to what your pet eats?

Chancho loves dried strawberries and bananas. Spots and Buster love baby carrots, peanut butter, and apples. Joanah loves fresh French bread.

  • do you give them regular treats?20170321_120232.jpg

Finally, your pet just needs attention! While Chancho does not like to be held, he does enjoy a good scratch, but not by his butt. It is said that a few minutes of belly-rubs every day shows your dog that you love them. Unlike most dogs, Spots likes to give and receive hugs. Unless I’m telling her how pretty she is, Joanah likes to be left alone to snuggle up to her stuffed animals while she looks at her reflection in the mirror. Buster likes to be held, and to burrow next to me under the covers.

  • are you giving your pet enough affection and attention?
  • do you know when they need you?
  • do they have enough toys?

 

20170206_143347

In the unfortunate situation that your new family member doesn’t work out for you, please research your options, and never, ever abandon a pet. People are always willing to foster or adopt unwanted animals. The Humane society, or other privately owned animal shelters may be able to help as well. Animal sanctuaries exist for larger or more uncommon animals. There’s always an option. Abandonment is never ok.

Also, please, please, always try to adopt an animal instead buying one. There are plenty of animals young and old, who desperately need homes. The humane society in my town provides most of the healthcare and training that dogs require prior to adoption, so you can get a house-trained dog that has been given vaccines! Never buy dogs from a pet store or from a puppy mill. These dogs are bred and kept in inhumane conditions, and often struggle with more health issues than other dogs. If you’re purchasing from a pet store, please ask them where they acquired your animal. You might not be ok with the way they do things.

My love for animals is deep and earnest. The thought of my animals not eating enough, not getting enough exercise, having to hold their urine, or being in any sort of uncomfortable situation is unacceptable to me. My goal is simply to provide the healthiest, safest, and most pampered life I can for each of my animals. I often joke that I want to open an animal sanctuary, and rescue and care for as many different types of animals as I can. But it takes an enormous amount of love and work. I hope you take a decision to add an animal to your life as seriously as I do, and I hope your research brings you the perfect animal.

Send me your pet photos in Twitter, or tag me in them on Instagram! I would love to get to know the unconventional members of your family, too! You can find Spots and Buster on Instagram, with an occasional Chancho or Joanah feature.

As always, much love from all my critters and me:

– Feliz

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One response to “Should You Get a Pet? I Have 4!

  1. We’re hoping to get a new puppy soon! Our other two passed away a few years ago, but we’re waiting until our youngest is potty trained before we get another…which could take a while with his stubborn butt! Lol. Great post! Love you!! 😘💚

    Like

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