Pet Adoption Tip #2: Understand the definition of “commitment.”
[kuh-mit] , verb
“To bind or obligate, as by pledge or assurance; pledge: to commit oneself to a promise; to be committed to a course of action.”
When you bring home a new pet, you are making a commitment to fulfill the needs of that animal for as long as it lives. You are obligated to provide for it, at whatever cost, in sickness and in health,’ til death do you part. You may have to pass up on the new apartment you REALLY want because you have to find one where your furry family members are allowed. You might have to rent a commercial carpet scrubber and pay extra vet bills because your cat has a bladder infection and has been soiling outside the litterbox. You might have to read some books on dog training or even take classes so your dog will be a better canine citizen.
On my application there is a question that asks, “Under what circumstances would you give up this pet?” It’s a trick question. Sitting innocently at the bottom of the first page, you don’t realize that the purpose of the query is simply to determine whether or not you understand the commitment you are making. The answer to this question can end the adoption process. I have added to my application a question asking what you think the life expectancy is for this animal, to see if you are aware how long your new pet may be in your life. For cats, life span can max out at 15 to 20 years. Dogs average 8-15 years depending on breed. Rabbits, anywhere between 5-10 years. Guinea pigs, 3-7 years. Rats, 2-3 years. To us, the amount of time we have these animals is very short even from baby to old age, but it’s “forever” to them. (Then there are the long-lived pets; small birds such as parakeets can live to 15 years or more and large birds, like macaws, can live to be a hundred. Are you really sure you are ready to commit to spending the rest of your life with this animal, meeting its needs through all your life changes and aging? If not, don’t!) Ask yourself where you’ll be in three years, or seven, or ten or 20 and whether or not you see that pet in that future image.
Adoption contracts state that you understand that this animal is now your responsibility and you are the caretaker, protector and provider. So when you see “Under what circumstances would you give up this pet?” on my application and you respond with “Not housebroken,” “Going outside litterbox”, etc, you are showing me that you don’t understand what a commitment is. Housebreaking is something you must teach. Litterbox issues are most often related to medical problems. This is par for the course with pet ownership and you should expect to have to provide training, veterinary care, and meet the basic needs of this animal. How can you expect perfection from a pet when they can’t expect basic responsibility from you?
In my last Pet Adoption Tips blog post, I talked about “return policies” and how having a “temporary” mindset sets adoptions up for failure. If we go into adoptions with the firm understanding of what our responsibilities are and the attitude that we will be there for our pets for the rest of their years, there will be no issue that we can’t overcome.
Adoption groups call us “forever homes” for a reason.