Because I have worked in animal shelters most of my career, it is tempting to adopt needy pets and quickly create an overwhelming situation in my own home. Years ago, I set my limit at two dogs, two cats and two horses because I only have so much time and money to provide them each with a quality life. Currently, I don’t have enough time for horses, so I am down to two dogs and two cats.
So how do you know when you have too many pets?
When you can’t afford to feed them properly. Feeding pets good quality food is essential to maintaining their health and prolonging their life. Because of the quality pet foods available today, many cats, dogs and horses are living much longer lives. Today, it is not uncommon to meet cats over 20 years old, giant breed dogs over 10 years old and horses in their late 30s. Quality pet food is expensive, but in the long run is worth every cent in preventing health problems for your best friend.
It is important to find enough time to spend at least 30 minutes a day with each pet. This is probably the most critical neglect issue I witness every day with pets on Kaua‘i. Dogs confined to boxes, chain tethers or fenced kennels — rarely, if ever, walked or even petted. Domestic cats who have returned to the wild because no one took responsibility for them. Mules and horses tethered on ropes and maybe allowed to walk beyond 20 feet on a weekend ride. Dogs, cats and horses are companion animals and yearn for the human touch. They need exercise daily for their muscles and bones to be healthy. This is especially true for working pets such as hunting dogs and roping horses used for sport by weekend warriors.
A big issue is not being able to afford to go to the veterinarian when it is needed. Each pet deserves to be seen by their doctor at least once a year for maintaining a good quality life. Huge advances in veterinary medicine have helped pets live long healthy lives. This is probably the most expensive issue with pet ownership, but essential for maintaining their health.
Please, if you are a Kaua‘i pet owner, ask yourself these three questions. Maybe set your limit and consider finding new homes for some of your pets so they can have a better life.
• Dr. Becky Rhoades is the executive director of the Kaua‘i Humane Society.