Owning a pet can definitely be a fun and rewarding experience. In fact, it can be life-changing — in surprising ways you never would have expected until owning and raising one! This is definitely me speaking from personal experience from just the past year or so. While having pets can make a great life experience, it also requires hard work. Literally, my Chinese water dragon, Babadook is my precious son and I’ve grown to love and treat him just like one. Not that I know what having a human son is like, but I think I like the idea of having a reptile son over a human son… especially right now.
Since February is “Responsible Pet Owner’s Month,” I felt compelled to share some useful tips on how to be a responsible pet owner. Hopefully this can be useful to prospective and current pet owners who are looking for ways to become better parents to their kids! 😉
1. DO YOUR RESEARCH
Many prospective pet owners don’t realize how much work owning and raising a pet really requires. They just go into a pet store and see cute little animals and immediately make up their mind that they want them! I’ll admit — I was totally like this as a kid; my parents would take me out running errands and I’d see a dog on the street and beg them asking for one, without even knowing what dogs need in terms of care, food, etc. What prevented me from being a bad pet owner was the fact that my parents would never let me have a pet as long as I lived with them. LOL. Guess it worked out in the long run? 😉
Some things worth researching & considering before having a pet are:
How much do they usually cost?
- Pets alone usually have a separate cost. The cost varies depending on size, age, and type, among other things. For example, we got Babadook, our water dragon, for $30, but this did not include his supplies and food.
What are the expenses of the things and food that they need?
- Expenses of toys, supplies, and food can really add up. As for food, you’ll have to be prepared to set aside money for your pet just to feed him or her. Supplies can get pricey — we spent probably $500+ on Babadook’s enclosure, bedding, logs, leaves, trees, pool, filter, food dish, etc. And the costs keep adding up as he gets older, since he eats a lot more now and more expensive feeders.
How long do they live?
- Will you be able to care for the pet for the rest of his or her life?
- Will you be able to take your pet with you if you move in the future?
Are there any nearby vets that you could take them to if you needed to?
- How much is a typical vet visit? Can you afford it?
Where is the best place to adopt or buy the pet you want?
- Petsmart and Petco aren’t good places to get reptiles — and I wouldn’t have known that without… well, my boyfriend doing the research before hand (it was his idea to get Babadook). Of course, different places are good for different pets, so it’s your job to do your research before adopting.
- Be sure to inquire about the warranty to make sure that the pet stores won’t screw you over!
Are there any informational groups you can join to communicate with other pet lovers?
- Shortly after we got Babadook, we joined several “Chinese water dragons” groups on Facebook and have surprisingly become online friends with some of them. They all are very knowledgable people and have helped us so much by answering questions we had, and it’s basically just a community where people can share pictures of their water dragons, ask, and answer questions.
- I also made an Instagram just for Babadook and have been active in the reptile community there as well!
- We’re in the process of putting together a website for our dragon as well, and it’s designed to inform future and current water dragon owners about care tips, recommended foods, what to expect, etc.
Does your lifestyle match up with your potential pet?
- Does/will your work schedule get too hectic? Will you still be able to give the attention the pet needs?
2. KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GETTING YOURSELF INTO
This one goes hand in hand with the above point, but it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into before committing to any pet. Babadook requires live feed, and not everyone has the bravery to feed live mice or roaches to their pet. I am unfortunately one of them! I mean, I think I could if I absolutely had to (to be that responsible parent, darn it!), but the thought just scares me. Luckily, my boyfriend does the feeding and I help with buying his food 😉
3. HAVE AN EMERGENCY FUND
Vet visits are no fun for both pets and parents, but you just never know when your pet will need to go for the sake of their life and health! So, it’s really important to set aside some emergency money for your pet every month in case he or she needs it. Medicine can also be costly, so the earlier you start the emergency fund, the better!
4. MAKE POTENTIAL SITTER-FRIENDS
Okay, I’m going to admit, I got extremely antsy and stressed out at the thought that we might have had to give Babadook away before moving to LA because we couldn’t find someone to watch him in the two months we were literally couch surfing at our friends’ and family’s before settling into our new apartment. I cried endlessly and just was so sad at the fact that I had no reptile friends nearby that would be willing to watch him and not squeal at the idea of a reptile in their home. I felt helpless. Luckily, one of Potter’s co-workers’ family literally made my life (they probably still have no idea how much it meant to me) by taking him in for the two months he needed a home while we were road tripping across the USA. When we got Babadook back, he grew so big! He was well-fed, so we were thrilled and relieved. Had we not gotten a volunteer, who knows what would have happened! 🙁 SO, long story short… it’s best to make some trustworthy friends willing to babysit your pet while you’re away either on vacation or will be gone for a few days or more. The best types of sitters are friends in the same apartment complex or neighborhood, so they don’t have to spend a ton of time driving over just to feed and care for your pet.
5. REALIZE THEY ARE A LIFELONG COMMITMENT
Source: Instagram – @chameleonaires
I briefly mentioned this already, but when you get a pet, it’s important to realize that they will be with you for the long haul. They literally depend on you for everything, and you owe it to them to treat them well, help them grow, and more importantly, love them unconditionally! Pets are not to be abandoned when finances get tight or when things get difficult.
6. MAKE YOUR PET PART OF THE FAMILY
Pets are family, and like people, they have feelings and can sense things — more than you think! When you incorporate them into your life, they will open up to you, love you, and be tame. Lack of attention or bad treatment may lead animals to be skittish and well… just not cuddly.
7. SOCIALIZE YOUR PET
Making your pet part of the family is one thing, and introducing him or her to your friends and family is another! Babadook just met my parents a couple days ago and everything was a hit! Surprisingly, my dad held him and had him on his shoulder too! My mom was scared to handle him but still jumped in for a cute selfie. Babadook has also met a few of Potter and my friends and he is literally part of our LIVES. We introduce him as our son. 🙂 Just like how social interaction is healthy and necessary for humans, they help expose animals to a bigger world and in turn, they can trust and feel more connected to you.
8. PET-PROOF YOUR HOUSE
If your pet is one to wander around the house, it’s important to protect him or her from any potential hazardous materials, or dangerous spots. We don’t let Babadook wander the room or house without us there watching him, and before we let him out, we are sure to block off slits between any furniture and walls to avoid him running in and getting stuck and scared, for example. We also make sure to keep our floors clean and vaccuum thoroughly before letting him wander, just in case he decides to lick the ground for whatever reason (which he has done). Before putting him in our bath tub if we decide to give him a big boy bath, we always thoroughly rinse the tub with hot water to rid of any leftover soap suds from our showers. Little things like this really do add up to not only make your pet feel more comfortable at home, but also relieve you of a lot of unnecessary stress!
9. BE AWARE & RESPECTFUL OF THEIR BEHAVIORAL TRAITS
Traits will differ depending on the pet you have. Whatever they are, you have to be able to respect them and sometimes make sacrifices depending on what they are. An example that’s applicable to our household is the fact that Babadook sleeps super early and wakes up earlier than us, and in order to sleep well or at all, he needs his room to be dark. He sleeps with us in our room, and I sometimes work late at night with the light on… so what I do is cover his enclosure with a blanket when it’s time for him to sleep to give him the darkness he needs. Every so often, he’ll also shed, and often times we are tempted to just pull the shed off before it’s really ready to come off. This is a no-no, so instead of doing that, we’ve been helping Babadook with the shedding process by giving him warm baths and showers, and rubbing extra virgin coconut oil on skin areas that need help.
10. CARE FOR & LOVE YOUR PET
This is the most important part to owning a pet! A pet is just a pet if you don’t care or love them; they become a family member when you really incorporate them into your life. There are many ways to show that you care for and love your pet. We clean out Babadook’s pool and water filter weekly to make sure he has clean water, mist his plants to not only keep them alive, but also help to keep his humidity levels high, switch out his bedding and lighting regularly, etc. Since he thrives in a hot environment, we always make sure to keep his enclosure at around 87 degrees during the day and not under 65 degrees at night.
…And of course, I give him many kisses whenever I can!
Are you a proud parent to a beloved pet? What are some things you do to show you care for and love him/her?