Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Responsibilities of Caring for Pets


The above is an actual photo that my husband took when he had to inspect a house last week. (Yes, he was completely suited up with a Tyvek suit and respirator). There were several dead animals in this house, as well as some who were still managing to survive, along with this type of mess in every room. The estimate was about 50 animals altogether. Some well-meaning person, who thought they were doing those animals a favor, took in more and more animals until she was completely overwhelmed with their care and stopped caring for them altogether. And yes, she was still 'living' there with them.

By the way, the gray stuff you see in the photo above is not insulation. It's what was supposed to be deposited in the litter box, but the litter box was already full.

The lesson here? Only keep as many animals as you can truly care for. It's a consideration that needs to be made before bringing an animal home. Good pet food is expensive. Litter is expensive. Then there're the immunizations and spaying or neutering costs. Animals take a good deal of care, for they are completely dependent upon us.

Rule of thumb for litter boxes? Two boxes for every cat. Clean them DAILY. No one wants to use a toilet that hasn't been flushed!  We have two cats living with us, and they have five litter boxes. I bought the high-sided Rubbermaid boxes so that less litter would be kicked out on the floor. They work pretty well. Also, as a cat ages, they're not as able to climb flights of steps to get to a litter box. Make it easy for them.

One thing I've found helpful: I keep a box of Ziploc freezer bags next to the litter boxes and scoop into a bag. That way I can seal the heavy-duty bag and not have to take it out until morning. I scoop them each night and give the cats fresh water and food before going to bed. When I get up in the morning, I give them fresh water again and make sure there's food in their dishes. It's just a matter of establishing a routine - like brushing and flossing your teeth.

Dogs?  Dogs also need to have fresh water available at all times - and be fed once or twice daily. After feeding, they need to be able to get outdoors. Not only do they need to be able to go to the bathroom just after eating, but they need daily exercise. Most dogs can't open doors by themselves. They also can't be left alone for endless hours. They are social creatures. I knew a woman who had her German Shepherd put down because 'he was so needy.' What did he do? 'He followed me from room to room. Everywhere I went, he would go.' Well guess what. That is a characteristic of the German Shepherd breed. They are herders. They herd and protect the flock. She was his flock of sheep. He wasn't needy; he was just doing his job.

So, think twice about getting a pet. Have you researched the breed you're interested in? Are you really willing and able to deal with the time and expense necessary? It's a huge commitment. Dogs and cats can't just be tossed aside because we want to go on a vacation or are attracted to a condo that has a no-pets-allowed policy.

So, is having two dogs lying at my feet at all times really something that's worth all the dog hair, grain-free food (which my husband calls 'shredded money'), and going outdoors in the rain (if need be)?  Is it worth it to have two cats who snuggle up beside us on the bed every night and lick my hair?

YES.

I wish I could show you an 'AFTER' photo, but this house, which was new and beautiful thirty years ago, has been condemned by the county and will be burned down.

P.S. My book, Second Chance - A Tale of Two Puppies, deals with all the things that need to be taken into consideration before bringing a pet into the home. You can see it on my sidebar. In this country alone, millions of pets are euthanized each year. People wanted a cat or dog, and later, for various reasons, changed their minds and took them to the animal shelter.

It's not enough to think you love animals.


Tuppence & Lionel

Misty & Bridger


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21 comments:

LynnMarie said...

I so agree with you! I got a call once from a lady who wanted to get rid of the dog? Why? She changed the living room furniture and carpet and the small dog no longer matched the new look. I kid you not! I found a better home for the little girl! Really, what some people do to the animals is beyond me!

Yenta Mary said...

Oh, the poor babies! It's worth every wad of fur, every hairball, every schlep in the rain and snow to have a little furry "person" run up and greet you with such joy when you come home. They deserve all the love we have, which is still only a fraction of what they give us ....

Denise said...

Wow, thanks for sharing.

Jenn said...

I couldn't have said it better myself. It's so sad to see something like this.. not only that people are living in such a mess but that they bring poor animals into the mix. Great post, Judy!

Autumn said...

You are a woman after my own heart! I am fortunate to be able to care for many animals (plus extras) and I would NOT care for them if I didn't have the ability.

P.S. I feed grain-free food to my dogs too and while it's SUPER EXPENSIVE it is SO MUCH BETTER!

Muddy Boot Dreams said...

Well put, if only more people thought before they took in a animal. They are work, they do require love, and support, but what they give back is ten fold.

A good friend took in a second cat for a month, and returned it to the shelter because "it was too much work." It upset me to no end, she should never have taken on the second cat unless she was completly committed to looking after it for life. There wasn't a problem with the cat, she just didn't feel up to it. The poor cat went from Foster home, to shelter and back, and was traumatized....they have feeling also.

Boo is one expensive cat, only the best grain free food, regular vet bills, and when he gets sick, he costs a fortune. That's the deal we knew we were taking on when we let him come in and stay the night the first time. And I wouldn't give it up for anything.

Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

Paulette said...

Well said, my elderly cousin, who thought she was doing a noble deed took in several cats. You know the rest of the story, but thankfully her children caught the problem very early, removed the animals, and clean up the house.

Amy, a redeemed sheep said...

One of my dogs was rescued from a home like this. =(

Debra said...

Oh man, that makes me sick to my stomach.

Heide at ApronHistory said...

Oh my word!! That house!!

Yes, pets are a lot of work! Having never owned one until four years ago, I am still amazed at the amount of work! The brushing, nail clipping, haircutting(the price you pay for a non-shedding breed), feeding, flea medicine, batheing, toothbrushing and worrying! But it is all worth it!!

And yes, our pup gets grain-free food too. Thankfully, she is only 30lbs and doesn't eat much. But what would we do with out them?!

Carla said...

Sad, Sad, Sad! We had this situation happen. Our neighbor lost his wife, and he started to decline. He also started to care for stray cats. He had tons of cats coming in and out of the house. He was feeding the strays, but at the same time they were multiplying. Many took up residence in the home. The authorities got involved, things just get messy and sad.

Your post is right on!

ImSoVintage said...

I feel sick at heart when I read and see these stories. Thanks so much for sharing this. Pet ownership means responsible pet ownership. We feed 3 feral cats outside. There were originally 5. We captured and spayed and neutered them, so they will no longer reproduce. It is so important for people to really research before they take a pet into their home.
Laura

Ruth Kelly said...

The smell would knock me out. I can't believe that anyone could live like that.

Terri @ A Creative Princess said...

Excellent post, Judy.

Rachel said...

You are so right. It breaks my heart when people have pets but don't properly care and love them. There are many reasons why I don't have a pet right now. One: I live in an apartment and the space is too small. Two: I'm gone so much the pet would be alone most of the day and a lot of the weekends. Three: I just don't have the funds. :( One day when I have a house with a backyard for the dogs (I love dogs) to play in, I will get my pets!!

:)

Under Her Wings said...

What a great post, Judy, and so well said. Pets are a great responsibility and can be such a delight if cared for properly. We had dogs all of the children's growing up years. It's a good way to teach them responsibility--and dogs are wonderful companions for children and adults. As for those cute kitties--ah..choo!

Kara at Petals to Picots said...

So sad! Thank you for the great pet tips.

Chatty Crone said...

I followed you over from Ruthie's blog. I can't believe that. I have seen it on tv, but never like this. That is so sad. Sandie

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Judy, thank you so much for addressing this important topic. This post is not as "fun" as your latest post with gorgeous pictures around your area, but if it saves one animal from misery, it's worth foregoing the "fun" this time. I'm so glad Lionel (and the other three cuties) has such a good mom!

jennyfreckles said...

That's very sad; unbelievable that someone could actually let it get that bad.

Deanna said...

Such a tragic situation. I like to watch "Hoarders" sometimes but when kids or animals are involved it really upsets me. We just adopted a Great Pyrenees that someone had shot with a 45 caliber gun and shattered one of his front legs. Numerous people in the community, and even from other states, donated to help cover the cost of his $2,000 surgery. Eventually he should regain complete use of the leg but in the meantime he requires quite a bit of care. But we went into it knowing this and determined to give him the care he deserves. You are absolutely right. People should not take on more pets than they can care for.

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