So you've had your dog or cat for a while, and your life is changing, and now you think you need to get rid of your pet. But are you sure this is what you want to do? Getting rid of your pet is a very drastic measure. If you leave your pet at a shelter, you may think he will find a new home soon. But it is unlikely. Many high-kill shelters must euthanize animals each day in order to make room for new ones who have come in. Some animals are only at the shelter for four or five days before they run out of luck. Fifty-six percent of dogs and seventy-six percent of cats in shelters are euthanized... many of them healthy, well-behaved animals whose owners simply didn't have time for them anymore. Even in a no-kill shelter, your pet may be doomed to live out the rest of his life in a small cage if he is not chosen for adoption.
If you are willing to try keeping your pet, there are many things you can do. Lets look at some of the most common reasons why people get rid of their pets, and how to get around them.
Reason 1: I'm moving.
Solution: Bring your pet with! A quick Google search for "pet-friendly housing" will show you many different directories of rental housing that allows pets. Here are just a few that I found: People With Pets, Pets Welcome, My New Place, Pets911, Home With Pets, and Dog House Properties. And pet-friendly housing is not just limited to those sites! Many apartment buildings and complexes will allow pets. You may have to pay an extra security deposit. But in the end, it will be worth it, to keep your pet with you!
Here is something else you should know. If things get really bad and you have no place to live, you still may not have to give up your pet. Pets Of The Homeless is a website that works to help homeless people to keep their pets, or find temporary homes for their pets until they get back on their feet.
Reason 2: I can no longer afford my pets.
Solution: Call your local animal shelter, or food pantry, and ask about pet food banks. They do exist, and are becoming more and more common! You can even make your own dog food, which may be cheaper in the long run. (Its not difficult! Dogs can eat much of the same things we eat!) Your local animal shelter, or your veterinarian, may also be able to tell you about free or low cost vet care for your pets.
Reason 3: My new boyfriend/girlfriend/fiance/roommate doesn't like pets.
Solution: Are you really going to sacrifice your pet on someone else's whim? Are you sure you want to date someone or live with someone who doesn't like pets? That's a pretty big lifestyle change to make for someone else. If you're sure you want to stick with this person, work out a compromise. Maybe your pet can be banned from certain areas of the house, like the bedroom or the kitchen.
Reason 4: My new boyfriend/girlfriend/fiance/roommate is allergic to my pet.
Solution: As long as the person's allergy isn't life threatening, there are many things you can do to greatly reduce the allergens on your pet. Keeping your house clean is a giant step. Dust and vacuum frequently, and use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter if possible. You can buy an air filter for your home that sucks the allergens out of the air. A company called AllerPet makes a special liquid that you can wipe your pet down with regularly to get rid of the allergens on him. Sprinkling flax seeds in your pet's food can also reduce the amount of dander he produces. The person may even be willing to take allergy medication! After all, many people have seasonal allergies and take medicine regularly. They don't just get rid of the seasons!
Reason 5: We're having a baby.
Solution: Pets and children are a great combination! Most pets are perfectly fine around children, although they may be a little confused by the new arrival at first. You should always supervise your pet around young children. When your child is an infant, he probably won't be unsupervised anyways, right? As your child gets older, you will have to teach the child to be gentle with the pets. Do not allow your child to pull your pet's tail, poke him, pick him up, etc. Many people feel that a pet should be obligated to put up with whatever your child deals out. But that is not good for anyone involved! Teaching your child, from a young age, to be calm and nurturing around pets, is a great learning experience for the child. If you have a dog, you may want to do some extra training with him before the baby comes, to teach him not to jump up on you when you're holding the baby, etc. Other measures may include banning the pets from certain areas of the house, hiring someone to come walk your dogs or clean up after your pets when you don't have time to, etc.
Reason 6: I have developed health problems.
Solution: Speak to your veterinarian, neighbors, friends, people at your place of worship, etc. You can probably find some volunteers to help you take care of your pet. Having a pet can be a source of comfort when you are ill. In fact, many studies have shown that people with pets have lower blood pressure, lower heart rates, and are generally more healthy, than those without pets. If your health problems are so severe that you must move into a nursing home, maybe you can find someone willing too foster your pet for you.
Reason 7: My pet has developed costly health problems.
Solution: Speak to your veterinarian about this. They may be able to guide you to low cost veterinary clinics, veterinary schools that offer low cost treatment, etc. Many veterinary offices now offer payment plans for treatment. They may be able to help you find creative ways of raising money to pay for your pet's treatment, too!
Reason 8: My pet still isn't house trained.
Solution: If your pet is suddenly having "accidents" around the house when he used to be house trained, there could be a medical reason. You may want to consult your veterinarian. If the house training has just never completely been accomplished, you may have to start over from scratch. For a dog, take him out more frequently and try to get him on a schedule. If you are not home during the day, and your dog is eliminating on the floor or furniture while you are gone, you may want to consider crating him while you are not home. For a cat, switching to a different kind of litter, getting a bigger litter box, or moving the litter box to a different area of the house, can help. Clean up accidents with a mixture of vinegar and water. This mixture gets rid of the scent of urine or poop, so that the pet doesn't feel the need to "mark" that area again.
Reason 9: I work long hours, and don't have much time to spend with my pet. Its not fair to him.
Solution: While it may seem unfair that your pet has to spend time alone, it is still better than making him take his chances in a shelter! There are simple measures, such as providing stimulating toys for your pets, or leaving the TV on during the day, that can help your pet to feel less lonely. One nice thing you can do is buy your pet a special blanket. Sleep with it in your bed for a few nights before you give it to your pet. It will smell like you, and offer comfort to your pet when you are away from the house! You may also want to consider pet day care, or hiring someone to stop in during the day to play with your pets. Also, spending as little as fifteen minutes before you leave for work, just playing with your pet and spending quality time with him, can make a real difference. You don't have to be a perfect owner and spend tons of time hanging out with your pet. He will love you the way you are... and again, it is better to be alone at your home than to die alone in a shelter.
Reason 10: My pet has behavior problems. He bites/scratches/jumps on me, barks too much, etc.
You may want to consider a training class for yourself and your pet. Petco and Petsmart offer fairly inexpensive training classes. It can be a good investment! If you can't afford this, then the library can provide books on dog training, and the Internet can provide websites with tips. Try Googling a specific problem you're having. For instance, search for "teach dog to stop barking." Spending ten or fifteen minutes a day working with your dog, and then consistently rewarding your dog for positive behavior, can make a huge difference.
These are just a few of the common reasons why people consider giving up their pets. But remember, every problem has a solution. So, before you give up on your pet, please take some time to remedy the problems!
Nicki Mann lives in Chicago with her two dogs, Trixie and Lily, and her cat Sammy-Joe.