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

• 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

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

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.