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Pets and the organized life

We organizers see collections of all kinds, and sometimes clients end up with an overwhelming collection of living creatures. It’s not hard to see why. Children beg for dogs, cats, parakeets and komodo dragons. Cats have a litter of kittens just before their neutering appointment with the veterinarian. Or we collect strays, thinking we can give them the home they need. Sometimes it’s a wonderful thing and all beings thrive. But sometimes even a single goldfish is one pet too many.

Think long and hard before bringing any animal into your life. Ponder the following:

• Can you afford the inevitable vet bills that come with having an animal? Then think about the food, bedding, collars, obedience training, flea and tick medicine, saddles and bridles, boarding during vacations and business trips — the list of expenses goes on.

• Do you have the time to properly care for the animal? How big will it get and do you have the space it requires? Even small animals have their space issues. A cat is a common pet for a city dweller, but in a studio apartment, where do you put the litter box? Under the coffee table? Think it all the way through.

• Do you travel frequently, or would you like to? A pet can tie you down. Boarding costs and pet sitters aside, there is almost always big guilt about leaving a poor animal in a cage for more than two or three days.

• Do you or any of those who live with you have pet allergies? Cute as it may be, is the kitten worth having watery eyes and sneezing for the next 15-plus years?

As with people, pets’ lives can take unexpected turns. “In sickness and in health” goes for pets too. Once you own an animal, you will need to schedule its vet visits just as you would a child’s. It requires vaccinations, teeth exams, worming and other procedures and require wellness exams each year. For this, you’ll need a calendar, input from your veterinarian, the appropriate carrier to transport the animal safely to and from home and a list of anything about your pet’s health that has come to your attention.

Sometimes the smallest thing you notice about your pet’s behavior will have important repercussions for its health. For example, I noticed that one of our cats would eat a few bites of food, then run away from the bowl. Our vet knew that this behavior meant that the act of eating was painful and the probable cause was a tooth infection. He was right, and the infection was treated. It was like a little kitty episode of “House.”

You will need to have plenty of food, bowls, leashes and collars. You will need to handle any paperwork such as licensing a dog or transferring title to a horse. You will have to handle fencing around your home, if applicable. You’ll have to come up with a plan to deal with the waste products, such as designating someone to clean the litter box or pick up the dog poop each day.

Note: If you have indoor pets, and have area rugs or carpeting, be prepared from day one with a good spot remover and pet deodorizer. You will need it.

Decide also what you don’t need. In the endorphin-rush that comes with getting a new pet you may be tempted to blow a bunch of money at Fideaux or Petco on toys and leopard-print bedding. A tennis ball or old sneaker may be the only toy your puppy needs, and cats would typically rather chew on your ipod ear buds than a fancy feather item. So don’t add more clutter to your life — wait and see what happens and get to know your animal.

• Decide in advance what your budget would bear in the case of an emergency. Make sure your family agrees with and fully comprehends what this means. At what point would you euthanize your animal, if at all? If you are the type that would spare no expense to save your pet’s life, you may want to consider pet insurance. When our cat Coco was attacked by a bobcat and nearly killed, my husband and I looked at each other and I said, “A thousand dollars.” He replied, “I can live with that.” The bill came out to something like $999. Coco is alive and well.