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02.07.2005

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animal house living with pets
by Rebecca Pedlow
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continued from page 1

what are you like with mess?
Anytime you add a new member to your household, the mess factor is sure to increase. One of my cats, for instance, is black and fluffy, and sheds copious amounts of fur on anything and everything. Having any pet will add to the cleaning requirements of your household. But some animals are inherently more high-maintenance in this department than others. While a fish bowl may only need monthly cleaning, the presence of furrier pet friends may mean daily or semi-weekly vacuuming of all your upholstered furniture, depending on your tolerance for detached pet hair of course.

Young animals may also need toilet training, and you should expect some accidents during this time. Furthermore, all animals get sick from time to time, so be prepared for the occasional surprise puddles of sick. My hint here is that time is of the essence: the quicker you get to the oops, the more chance you have of getting it fixed. But if you really can't cope with mess or are very fond of your furniture sans scratch marks and fur, then consider one of the cleaner non-clawed pet options, such as fish.

how much time can you devote to your pet?
Adopting a pet isn't just about getting yourself a companion that's convenient for your needs; it requires a commitment that you'll be there for your pet as well. And some pets just need more face-time than others. Are you mainly home during the days or do you spend long hours away from home? If you travel regularly, can someone come around and look after your pets? Make sure you consider how predictable your travel plans are too -- impulsive weekends away are no longer an option if you have to organize a dog walker and someone to feed your pet.

Again, choice of animal is critical. Younger animals like kittens and puppies require more attention, and have a lot more energy than older animals. Don't be swayed by their irresistible cuteness; think carefully before you scoop up that adorable puppy and bring her home, about whether you have the time and patience that she deserves. If an honest answer to that question is that, in fact, you don't, consider an older animal instead. Check out your local shelter, where you can find some wonderful, older animals that are very loving and will be deeply grateful for a second chance. And for those with truly hectic, jet-setting lifestyles, you might find that a lower-maintenance animal, like a fish or a bird, is the best choice.

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