Many people buy pets over the holidays, but what do you do a couple of months later if the pet isn’t working out? Dr. Stephen Zawistowski, science advisor for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, shares his advice.
Many people buy pets over the holidays, but what do you do a couple of months later if the pet isn’t working out? Maybe your kids who were begging for a puppy suddenly become disinterested when they realize all the work that goes into taking care of a dog, or a family member suddenly starts sneezing around the cat.
Dr. Stephen Zawistowski, science advisor for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, says your relationship with your pet is like your relationship with another person, and that often after a “honeymoon period,” your relationship starts to settle and will have some rough spots.
He says there are several options for dealing with “pet regret."
The first step
First, you should take a step back and think about why the relationship isn’t working out. After several months, a pet may be in its adolescent stage and start acting out by chewing or soiling. These behaviors can be corrected and managed with appropriate techniques, and they do not last forever. If it’s more an issue of commitment to the pet, Zawistowski says, you need to take a hard look at why you bought the pet in the first place. Many times you just need to recommit yourself to the relationship and stick it out through a challenging time.
If a family member starts to develop an allergy, find out if it really is the pet causing it. Pets can often track in other allergens like pollen, which may be the true culprit. Go to your doctor to determine the source of your allergy; if it is the pet causing it, the doctor may be able to prescribe medication.
If you’re finding that the finances of owning a pet aren’t working out, figure out exactly what you’re spending. There are some essentials, such as good pet food and a yearly vet exam for vaccinations. After that, do you really need to buy a new toy for the pet all the time? Or do you really need the expensive pet treats?
If you do need to give away your pet, ask friends and family first if they’d be willing to take the pet in. Zawistowski says he’s seeing a lot of people who lose their job and home who can no longer care for their pets.
If no one will take the pet in, look to animal shelters or pet rescues. However, many are overburdened and might not be able to take your pet. Sometimes, after going on a waiting list for a shelter for a few weeks or months, you’ll find that you really can keep the pet after all.