Imagine the awkward silence that always ensues in family gatherings after I joke about how I would rather raise a herd of Welsh Corgis than have toddlers or babies.
Everyone jokes about becoming a “crazy cat lady/man” as opposed to having children, but in reality, raising pets can be just as time-consuming. Throughout high school, I’ve always considered the responsibility of taking care of my two dogs as part of a zero-credit extracurricular activity that I have to be held accountable for no matter what. Now that I’m in my senior year, it’s clear to me that the most difficult part of caring for pets as a high school student is being able to make time for them despite having to deal with academics, extracurricular activities, and any sort of social life that might be present.
If you have pets of your own or are interested in taking on life as a pet owner, try to keep the following tips in mind.
1. Make a schedule.
Set designated times for feeding your pets, spending time with them, and taking them out for walks. If necessary, try to make alarms or giant post-it notes to remind yourself when to feed your pets or spend a few minutes playing with them. You’re more likely to commit to caring for your pets if you know that there are specific parts of the day in which you shouldn’t be doing anything other than taking care of them. Plus, your pets are more likely to appreciate having a consistent schedule instead of waiting hour after hour without knowing what to expect each day.
2. Think of the animals!
Don’t turn your responsibility as a pet owner into something about you. The wellbeing of your pets should always be your primary concern given that you accepted the responsibility of raising them. You might have five tests, three after-school meetings, and four parties to worry about, but at the end of the day, you are the only person your pet can depend on for meeting their survival and social needs. No matter how tired you are at the end of each day, don’t skip out on attending to your pets. Think about how disappointing it must be for them to be pushed aside after sitting around the whole day and waiting for hours on end.
3. Distribute tasks amongst family members.
If you didn’t buy your dog/cat/goldfish/SeaMonkey with your own money, it’s safe to assume that your pet is a shared responsibility. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help from your family members if it’s getting too difficult for you to strike a balance between caring for your pets and meeting the demands your everyday life. It might help to post a schedule on the refrigerator so that everyone will be less likely to forget that it’s their turn to attend to the needs of the extra family member who didn’t really choose to be in the family yet is still dependent on others for their survival. Keep in mind that you or your family put your dog in whatever situation they’re currently in and will be in for the rest of their life, and it’s because of this that the responsibility of caring for them should always be taken seriously.
4. Reevaluate your priorities as a pet owner.
If you’re trying your hardest and are still unable to meet your pet’s basic needs each day, it might be time to consider giving them up for adoption. To genuinely care for your pet is to always have their best interests in mind, whether this entails setting aside extra time for them or giving them to someone who has more time to take care of them. If the situation gets out of hand, you need to think about what’s best for your pet regardless of how much you’ll miss them.
If you’re in high school and are just thinking of getting a pet, keep in mind that it will entail a lot of sacrifices and commitment. You’re essentially taking on the responsibility of another being’s life, and this gives you the power to determine how your pets will spend their short lives. Above all, remember to always be conscious of how your decisions influence your pets and make sure that they are never cast aside as a second priority.