A study from the Ontario Veterinary College shows people often don't do enough research before bringing a pet home, and that's led a University of Guelph team to develop a dedicated website to help people with their decision-making.
"You're entering a lifelong relationship and people don't know what they don't know," said Jason Coe, a veterinarian and associate professor at the college.
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Coe said they learned a lot people put thought into some of the concerns and challenges when they were in the process of getting a pet, but prospective pet owners still tended to be cavalier in their choices.
"We caught them in that window when they had seen the animal and made the decision and were filling out paperwork," he said.
"Yet they still had some concerns...what was interesting to us was very few had gone out and sought advice and really took this 'lets hope for the best' kind of attitude."
Things to consider
Coe said people often identified "deal breakers" before getting a pet, which helps prevent situations where owners end up in over their heads and feel they have to give the pet up to a shelter.
But, he said, there's no one reason why someone ends a relationship with a pet, making it all the more important to consider a multitude of factors.
"It's useful to ask yourself 'over the next 10 years, where do I see myself?' " he said, noting the study found that a lot of people focus on animal-related issues and less on human-related issues, such as a person's lifestyle.
Moving, marriage and having kids will all influence your relationship with your pet, he adds.
And pet ownership can get expensive. The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association estimates it costs $1,800 a year to own cat and $3,000 for a dog, he said.
"When you're making that commitment, you're not doing it for the next year. You're looking at a 10 to 20 year life span," he said.
Website to help
As a result of the study, Coe and his team have created a website, beforeyougetapet.com, which gives new and veteran pet owners all the information they need to consider before bringing one home.
The website offers a questionnaire that asks what you are looking for in a pet, as well as a budget calculator.
Coe said they also have a myth buster quiz to clear up misconceptions people may have around a certain animal.
"The goal of our works isn't to scare people away from pet ownership, it's to help people become aware of the things they should be thinking about," he said.