Sunday, January 28, 2001
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Posted on: Sunday, January 28, 2001

Animal Companions
Before deciding to get a pet, see how you score as an owner

Advertiser Staff

Is it a good time to add an animal companion to your life?

The short answer is, yes, if your life is calm and organized right now. Take this quiz, used by permission of the Denver Dumb Friends League, to help you decide if this is the best time to adopt.

Check the following events that have either occurred in your life in the past six months, or that you think may occur in the coming six months:

Divorce or end of a relationship


Change in living arrangements (new roommates or moving in with someone)

Move to a new residence

Pregnancy or new baby

Longer hours or increased responsibility at work

Financial concerns

Children leaving home or moving back home

Care-taking responsibilities for elderly or ill family member

Significant changes in family routine

Death of a family member

Death or disappearance of a family pet

Relinquishing of a pet (given away or taking one to an animal shelter)

Significant health problems of a family member

Change in working status of a family member (begins work, changes jobs or retires)

Frequent travel, either for business or pleasure

Limited leisure or free time

Graduation from high school or college

Disagreement among family members about adopting a pet

Add one point for every pet you currently have (one aquarium counts as one pet).


0-3: Your life seems fairly stable. Now is probably a reasonable time to acquire a pet.

4-6: You have a lot of responsibilities right now. Although adopting a pet may still work for you, a small mammal, an adult cat, or well-trained, adult dog would probably be more appropriate than a kitten, a puppy or an active breed of dog.

7-10: Let’s think twice about this. With all the changes and responsibilities in your life right now, you may not have time to care for a new pet. It would probably be better for both you and the pet if you wait until your life settles down a bit.

10+: STOP! DON’T PASS GO! Acquiring a pet now is not a wise decision. Why not consider a pet rock or a "computer-pet" instead?

This eye-opening quiz takes all kinds of events into account, everything from financial concerns to a new baby. You can check "yes" to a few scenarios and still be in a position to adopt a new pet. But if you check five or six or more, this is probably not a good time to take on the responsibility of providing 15 or more years of care for a companion animal.

Adopting a pet from the Humane Society can be a joyous occasion for the whole family. Phyllis Davis gets a kiss from newly adopted 8-month-old Sadie, as her son, Ethan, extends a welcoming hand.

Hawaiian Humane Society

Before you begin your search for an animal, make a list of the qualities you expect from a pet. Include the amount of time you can spend with a pet, frequency of your out-of-town travel, the size and location of your house or apartment, and your level of energy.

Do you expect one-on-one amusement from your animal companion, or is socializing with other pet people a priority? Would you like to get outdoors and get more exercise with your new best friend? Will you want this five years from now? Do you want an animal that will play quietly by itself or rely on you? Are you financially able to provide proper health care and food?

When you know the answers to these questions, then visit the Hawaiian Humane Society, even if you think you may get your pet elsewhere. The society’s counselors can advise you on the type of pet that best suits your lifestyle, the amount of time required for proper care and tips on training. Then it will be easier to pick a suitable pet.

Here are some pets to consider:

Pocket pets

Mice, guinea pigs and domestic rats have earned this nickname because they enjoy being physically close to their humans and don’t require much elbowroom. Gentle, inquisitive and very social, these animals make wonderful pets for people with limited living space. Mice and domestic rats also are nocturnal, which means they will sleep peacefully all day while you work and will be ready for playtime when you come home in the evening. They are quiet, easy to feed and clean up after, and require only a cage with toys to entertain them, along with human affection.

Fish are ideal pets in small spaces for busy people. You can watch the fish tank and its inhabitants for a calming effect after a jam-packed day.

Wing things

Many types of birds are easy to maintain, live 30 years or more, and are wonderful companions. Parakeets, for instance, thrive with only some proper food, fresh water, a clean cage and a daily dose of loving attention from you.

Larger exotic birds like parrots take more care and special feeding and may be very noisy. There are many things to learn about their proper grooming, care and diet.

But birds reward your investment of time by bonding closely with their owners and taking an active interest in everything that happens in their household.

Those that learn to talk are especially entertaining.

Rabbit habit

Gentle and sometimes shy, rabbits enjoy human interaction but do not require constant attention. Rabbits are quiet, tidy and adjust easily to apartment living. They need a clean cage, a simple diet, plenty of water and some love, not necessarily in that order. Since the skeletal structure of the rabbit is fragile, they are not appropriate pets for families with young children. Some rabbits can be trained to use a litter box and enjoy living with cats and dogs.

Cat crazy

Cats have as many personalities as people do: independent and aloof, inquisitive and adventurous, cuddly and loving, or many other combinations.

Because there are so many potential dangers for cats that live outdoors, keeping them as indoor pets maximizes their enjoyment and length of life.

Feline companions can live happily in apartments. You’ll need to keep their nails trimmed and provide proper scratching posts, feline diet, water, kitty toys, a clean litter box and a seat in front of a sunny window. Owning one cat is satisfying, but the interaction of two felines is more than twice the fun. Some people think of the time spent grooming their cats as therapy.

Doggone pups

Dog breeds and sizes can range from tiny to huge. If you have "quality time" to spare and crave devotion from a pet, then a dog is the animal for you. Most dogs need a yard to run in, plus a human to take them for long walks, an evening jog or a hike in the hills.

Some working couples mistakenly rule out dogs as potential pets because both are away from home during the day. Dogs sleep about 18 hours a day, so regular evening and morning exercise will keep them happy, along with plenty of love and attention.

Don’t choose a dog just because you like how it looks; personality and behavior traits are much more important. Read about different breeds to make sure the dog’s behavior will mesh with your family’s lifestyle. Spend some time at McInerny Dog Park or Bark Park, talk to owners (a notoriously chatty bunch), listen to their joys and frustrations, and meet their dogs.

In deciding between a puppy and an adult dog, remember that puppies demand a great deal of loving care and attention. Puppy people must be prepared for nights of crying, messes in the house, chewing and rambunctious play, all normal for puppies for many months.

Adult dogs have already established their personality traits and size, so you know how they’ll look and act. Full-grown canines retain training lessons quicker but need training, nevertheless. They are not as demanding as puppies but become just as devoted to you.

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