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  1. #1
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    Getting a pet - suggestions please?

    My dad lives by himself 6 hours from us. So I am thinking about getting him a pet to keep him company. He has never owned a pet before but we have taken care of pets for short periods of time for friends and neighbors. Cats, rabbits and once a turtle. He has a house with plenty of room, close to parks and walking trails.

    First question is: should I get him a cat or a dog?

    Reasons for - Dad loves cats and it's easier to care for and cleaner.

    Reasons for - More affectionate and that's the main reason I am getting a pet for him.

    A few more questions:

    What is the best way to make sure the pet I am getting is healthy? I heard different opinions regarding shelters. Yes or no?

    What kind of pet insurance should I be looking at? A friend says it's a scam and another one says it's absolutely necessary. Any opinions?

    I plan to get the pet spayed or neutered and give all the recommended shots. Any thing specific I need to know regarding these procedures?

    Anything else I need to consider?

    TIA!

    ETA, I have talked to dad and he is open to getting a pet. Just doesn't know where to start.
    Last edited by genegri; 04-20-2010 at 09:02 PM.

  2. #2
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    What are your dad's opinions about getting a pet? Does he want one and would he prefer a cat or a dog? That seems to be the most important factor.

    Petfinder is a great resource: http://www.petfinder.com/index.html

    It not only helps you figure out which kind of pet is best for you, but also has information on thousands of pets that are available for adoption. Please don't get a pet from a pet store or puppy mill. Most of the pets that come from shelters come spayed and with all their shots. A reputable shelter won't adopt out a sick pet, but there's no guarantee. Take the pet to the vet as soon as you get it and have a checkup done. The great thing about many of these organizations is that they have a lot of information about the particular pet and know what kind of owner would be a good fit. So, if you want a very affectionate cat that will like spending time with your dad, you should have no problem finding one. Similarly, if you want a mellow dog that will be less work for you dad, you may be able to find one.

    But, if dad wants a cat, you should have no problem finding a good one. He can go to a shelter near where he lives and see which cat he likes and likes him.

  3. #3
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    Uh...#1, he IS okay with getting a pet, right? Never, EVER give someone a pet as a gift without checking with them first. If he says no, don't get him one no matter how good an idea you think it is. That is how animals end up in shelters.

    Ask him IF he wants a dog or cat. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Friendliness and affection varies by individual--there are cuddly cats and aloof dogs.

    Do not go to a breeder unless you find one who is reputable and breeds show/performance animals (conformation, agility, hunter trials, hunting dogs, working dogs, etc) and NEVER buy from someone who will not allow you on the property, or who doesn't at least have the mother on site and available for you to inspect. Someone who won't allow you to see the dogs before buying or the condition they're in is not a reputable breeder. You are far more likely to get a dog with a health problem buying from a backyard breeder who won't let you see the parents than you are getting one from a shelter or rescue.

    Spay/neutering: can be done much earlier than you think. If your dog or cat is not a show or performance animal, do this as soon as possible. They won't know anything's missing. Vaccines: consult a vet about what is appropriate for your area. Get a good flea/tick treatment and talk to your local vet about heartworm preventatives for dogs (yearly or seasonal, but do it, one way or the other.)

    I have two dogs, three cats, and a horse, and the only thing I've ever considered is mortality/loss of use on the horse. However, I am comfortable with saying "No" to expensive medical treatments even if the alternative is euthanizing the animal. If you think that you or your father could not make that call, and you don't want to be facing thousands in vet bills if something went wrong, insurance might be the best bet.

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    Thanks! And I will read that link in detail.

    To answer both of your question, yes, he is definitely okay with getting a pet. And he says either a cat or a dog or even a bunny is good. However, he can't decide which one is best for him either.

  5. #5
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    Well, he really needs to be involved in chosing one. How active is he? How old, what physical condition? Is he up to walking a dog at least once a day? How does he feel about cleaning a litterbox? What activity level is he comfortable with? (A HUGE consideration with dog breeds/mixes.)

    I would really not recommend a rabbit. They can make good pets, but they are not especially affectionate, by and large, and they aren't as easy to care for. And some can be crabby.

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    Quote Originally Posted by danceronice View Post
    I would really not recommend a rabbit. They can make good pets, but they are not especially affectionate, by and large, and they aren't as easy to care for. And some can be crabby.
    Bunnies are actually excellent pets. They can be easily be confined to a small area, so they don't shed all over or otherwise muck up your house. They are affectionate to those they know well, generally, and are not that hard to care for at all (especially for those who know how and the OP indicated that her family has had them before). My husband's family has had them for years and we have one now. The two recommendations I would make are to get a boy not a girl and to take care to not set too many routines. Rabbits can be a bit OCD--so if you do things the same way on the same days too much, that becomes their routine and you'd best not change it. The females do tend to be a bit "crankier" and a bit more attached to routines and males are easier.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by genegri View Post
    What is the best way to make sure the pet I am getting is healthy? I heard different opinions regarding shelters. Yes or no?

    What kind of pet insurance should I be looking at? A friend says it's a scam and another one says it's absolutely necessary. Any opinions?
    Regarding pet insurance: Last year we adopted a German Shepherd from the local Humane Society. We had her for a few weeks, and she got sick. Turns out she had a tumor on her liver. She had come with a free trial period of pet insurance, and they ended up covering all of the vet costs for her exploratory surgery - IIRC it was around $700. So it did work for me, although I haven't bought any for our current pets.

    Don't let this scare you from a shelter/rescue pet, BTW. Almost all of our pets have come from these types of organizations, and Marilee was the first time we ever had a problem worse then kennel cough. I suspect the tumor was of the fast growing type (because she got sick so suddenly and the same thing happened years ago with one of my cats) that the Humane Society would not have seen unless she had gotten sick there.

    Good luck finding a friend for your dad.

  8. #8
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    Dogs are a lot more work than cats. And cats can be incredibly affectionate and loving.
    "Nature is a damp, inconvenient sort of place where birds and animals wander about uncooked."

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    I have a cat and she is very little work. I scoop her litter box regularly which takes all of 2 minutes and change it completely about once a week, that takes all of 5 minutes. Her food and water bowls I just keep from being empty so I fill as needed. That might explain her rather large size. She was some work as a kitten, she needed a lot more attention but I would say her kitten stage still pales in comparison to any dog's puppy stage.

    My boyfriend and I both want a dog but every time I am around someone elses dog, especially a puppy, I remember how thankful I am to not have one. They are NON stop and you have to constantly keep an eye on them when company is around because they will jump on their lap, try to eat their food, run off with their shoes, etc. None of this is a problem with a cat unless your cat is really social, then just maybe the cat might try to get in their lap. Even then, the cat isn't trying to jump up and down and bite their face.

    Basically, a dog is so much work for someone who has never taken care of an animal, it might be a lot more work than they expect. A cat might be a better start OR perhaps adopt a dog who is a little older. This would be really nice for the dog and you would be past that puppy stage.
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    Quote Originally Posted by genegri View Post
    Thanks! And I will read that link in detail.

    To answer both of your question, yes, he is definitely okay with getting a pet. And he says either a cat or a dog or even a bunny is good. However, he can't decide which one is best for him either.
    If you go visit a good shelter, the animals might make the decision for your dad. Both of my cats pretty much have chosen me. My last cat was incredibly affectionate. The moment I met her, she crawled into my lap and started purring. She was almost too attached to me. She really didn't like it when I was gone at work and she would even follow me into the bathroom -- and one tried following me into the shower. But, if your dad is retired, a cat like that might be perfect.

    And again, a lot of the places on petfinder are wonderful about providing you with information about the pet's personality and needs.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by IceAlisa View Post
    Dogs are a lot more work than cats. And cats can be incredibly affectionate and loving.
    As one who shares her home with a very affectionate , I can definitely attest to that. I second Allskate's comments about having your dad involved in actually choosing the pet. If he is unsure whether he wants a dog or a cat, a visit to the local shelter (or friends who have one or the other or both) may help him decide. If he visits a shelter, he may be drawn to a particular dog or cat and will have a chance to interact with it to better gauge its temperament and "friendliness". Good luck!

    Allskate: Once again, I agree with your comments! My current cat definitely "chose" me -- she was a stray that I spied while antique hunting. She walked right up to me and purred non-stop -- rode on my lap in the car on the hour-long ride home.

  12. #12
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    As a cat person (with one lying on her lap right now), I think the old "Cats are aloof" thing is a wide exaggeration. Especially if you were getting him only one, if it grows up with him and it is him and the cat for company, they can become very affectionate and entwined with their human relationship. They also are less "needy" compared to dogs in terms of having area, walks, the chewing phase (although kitties need to learn what they can claw and what they can't), have a litter box (bunnies can be litter trained as well), quieter so there isn't going to be barking issues, etc.

    I don't have pet insurance for any of mine. Perhaps, if/when I get another baby kitten, I will start them with it. But I've been lucky, I've never had any of my kitties have any major medical issues.

    I think if you go to a reputable shelter, like the Humane Society, you could be pretty ok with getting a healthy pet. They do have vets available on site at a lot of them, and will often make sure the shots are up to date, as well as the pet being spayed/neutered prior to adoption. Adoptions from there may be a little more pricey because of that, but I think the costs all work out.

    Another option is perhaps getting an older animal, perhaps a year old or so, from a shelter. They tend to be calmer, but still make very loving companions, and I think they always have a sense that you have "rescued" them.

    Good luck to you, dad and pet!
    I am free of all prejudices. I hate everyone equally.~W. C. Fields

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kasey View Post
    Another option is perhaps getting an older animal, perhaps a year old or so, from a shelter. They tend to be calmer, but still make very loving companions, and I think they always have a sense that you have "rescued" them.
    Our local Humane Society has a program where seniors who adopt older animals get a break on the adoption fees and some other perks like two-for-one cat adoptions. I think that senior pets are hard to adopt out, but I would think that they usually come from stable home environments which would make them easier to bring into a new home.

    We inherited my MIL's senior cat when she passed away. Even though we only had him a couple of years, I'm glad that we did.
    Last edited by purple skates; 04-20-2010 at 10:10 PM.

  14. #14

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    I too would suggest an older cat. Cats are far less work. And I think they provide more entertainment just because they are more complex than dogs. Don't flame me, I am a crazy cat lady! My elderly dad would call me every day telling me about the antics of his 2 adopted cats. I'd listnen and laugh but they truly brought him joy in his later years.
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  15. #15
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    I think your dad's age/activity level and interests are pretty key here. Would he be interested in something that requires him to get out oft he house, give him something to do? Or just a companion? Does he travel much? Even without knowing these things, here are some points:

    Cats: Pro - fairly self-reliant, fairly clean, fairly quiet. Despite the myth of aloofness can be very warm and loving. Con - if they are indoor only (not going to get into that debate), require frequent and consistent litter box changing. Can use furniture to sharpen claws. Shed. Not always friendly. Hairballs.

    Dogs: Pro - generally adore their owners. Like to engage with their people, can promote higher level of activity and/or interaction with others through walking, going to dog parks etc. generally not picky about food. Different breeds have different energy levels/sizes that can match their owners' needs. Con: younger dogs need a LOT of attention and exercise. Higher maintenance (need walks, or at least a yard, can become v. unhappy if their owner doesn't engage with them, bigger need for temprary care when owner is away), higher vet costs. Can destroy furniture and/or items by chewing or scratching. Shed (many breeds). Bark. Slobber.

    Bunnies I'd only recommend for someone who really wants to engage with one. I haven't owned any but had good friends who had them...they are very sweet animals but unless you're prepared to have your doorways chewed on they have to be contained.
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    Just seconding the good advice here to go to a shelter for the pet and an older one, or at least a young adult one rather than a puppy or a kitten, would probably be the best for your dad, given that he is older and hasn't owned a pet before. I did, too, read about some programs for senior citizens to adopt senior pets. Two of my three cats have come from the humane society, and both were very affectionate. I got them both as young adult cats and I think they were truly grateful to have a home and they were past the wild destructive kitten age. My third cat was found under the hood of a pickup truck as a kitten, and he really has been, um, let's say, high energy. He still rarely walks anywhere, instead he runs. Like a small elephant. It doesn't bother me, but a high energy animal like that could be grating for an older person.

    Good luck! And let us know how it goes...

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    Be careful about getting dogs. It should be a mutt if anything. Most breeds that are more pure have issues (hard to train, act out, need constant stimulation, etc). In general though you can get a very large dog or like a bunny or hamster because they don't live long. Perfect in the event he doesn't grow to like the dang thing.

    Or, you get the kinds of animals that don't need to be taken out at 5 am to relieve themselves and can also fend for themselves with a full dish and some water for 48 hours while you zip over to Vegas. That would be a cat. I'd go with that.

    (Hard to believe I don't have kids?!!?!?!)

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rock2 View Post
    In general though you can get a very large dog or like a bunny or hamster because they don't live long. Perfect in the event he doesn't grow to like the dang thing.
    Not perfect at all. An older animal needs to be cared for and loved no less than a younger one. And older animals have less of a chance of being adopted if they are returned to a shelter because their owner decides they don't like them.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigB08822 View Post
    I have a cat and she is very little work. I scoop her litter box regularly which takes all of 2 minutes and change it completely about once a week, that takes all of 5 minutes. Her food and water bowls I just keep from being empty so I fill as needed. That might explain her rather large size. She was some work as a kitten, she needed a lot more attention but I would say her kitten stage still pales in comparison to any dog's puppy stage.

    My boyfriend and I both want a dog but every time I am around someone elses dog, especially a puppy, I remember how thankful I am to not have one. They are NON stop and you have to constantly keep an eye on them when company is around because they will jump on their lap, try to eat their food, run off with their shoes, etc. None of this is a problem with a cat unless your cat is really social, then just maybe the cat might try to get in their lap. Even then, the cat isn't trying to jump up and down and bite their face.

    Basically, a dog is so much work for someone who has never taken care of an animal, it might be a lot more work than they expect. A cat might be a better start OR perhaps adopt a dog who is a little older. This would be really nice for the dog and you would be past that puppy stage.
    My mom thinks dogs are a billion times easier than kids. So if someone has had children, they could handle a dog, especially if the children are grown. But again, it depends on his activity level. Cats are very low-maintenance in comparison, especially older cats. The litter box thing isn't very hard at all, although it can be smelly. You'd have to do the same thing for a dog anyway. And some cats are aloof, some are affectionate. Some are aloof around some people but affectionate towards other people. They can be picky.

    I think it's really important that your dad choose the pet. Even dogs will like individual people and not others at times. The kitten here normally loves everybody but she was scared to death of my best friend, which was mysterious since my friend is also petite and female and Asian like my roommate and me. No explaining that one.

    I highly recommend a shelter, especially ones that know their animals. You could ask them questions about a particular animal's personality and they could tell you. Breeders are $$$ and shelter animals are just as good as purebred ones, and they need homes.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigB08822 View Post
    My boyfriend and I both want a dog but every time I am around someone elses dog, especially a puppy, I remember how thankful I am to not have one. They are NON stop and you have to constantly keep an eye on them when company is around because they will jump on their lap, try to eat their food, run off with their shoes, etc. None of this is a problem with a cat unless your cat is really social, then just maybe the cat might try to get in their lap. Even then, the cat isn't trying to jump up and down and bite their face.
    Conversely, cats walk wherever they want-food-prep surfaces, furniture, the bathroom counter. Dogs who jump, grab food, run off with shoes, etc. are just badly trained, not typical. And cats scratch. The only way to prevent it is declawing, and that is arguably cruel (vets will disagree) and ONLY for indoor-only cats--declawed cats outdoors are missing major survival tools.

    I know some shelters will actually waive ALL fees when a senior citizen adopts a senior animal--worth checking out! I would be more leery of an older cat than an older dog, only in the sense of make SURE it is a house pet surrender/abandon, not a feral (though most shelters won't adopt those to normal homes anyway.) A feral kitten can turn into a decent pet, adult ferals may come with behaviors that you do not want. (At an adoption agency I got severely bitten by a "friendly" feral--he jumped in my lap while I was seated, and when I went to move him, he punched through my wrist. The agency was stunned when I came back and got a cat from them anyone--but not that one! He was not a bad cat, he was just not raised with people and not predictable.)

    If there IS a group like that and you go for a cat, they're not a bad option--private groups that do adoptions often have more time to devote to getting to know each animal. I got one of my cats (I have three) from Merrimack River Feline Rescue. The application is a little more complicated and the fee higher (at the county shelter where I got my corgi I basically needed to have a driver's license and write the check) but they often know more about the animal. I got a six-month-old male, and while he was $175, he had all his kitten shots and had been neutered, and I got all the paperwork from his vet visits and where he came from (SPCA had seized him from a 'kitten collector.') He cost less for initial vetting than my new "free" kitten will when I have to get her spayed (she was dumped at our barn. I wasn't keeping her. Really.)

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