1. Learn the good, bad, and ugly of raising pets. Cute and fuzzy, big eyes and ears, a cute wiggly tail and a button nose - the perfect, cute, lovable pets that we bring into our homes and promise to love and take care of forever.
The loving part often comes naturally, but taking care of them forever is way more than it may appear to be. These cute lovable babies need training in socializing and housebreaking - they have to learn not to chew cords, where and when they can use the facilities, what toys are meant for them and what toy-lookalikes are not. They must learn what they are allowed to scratch, and they all must take baths sooner or later.
Pets don't come with instruction books, and just like children, it takes time and patience to teach our pets what is acceptable behavior, and will need to learn to listen and obey. Further, they will need medical care such as getting them to a vet to have their shots and spaying or neutering, and sometimes they require special medical care for things such as diabetes or heartworm. Just as humans develop illnesses and get injured, so do our pets. In addition, throughout history we have breed animals for various characteristics; therefore, if we adopt a certain breed, it would be wise to learn the characteristics of the animal that you are inviting into your home. Some were meant to be hunters, some have higher energy levels, and some are better with people and/or children than others.
Another thing to consider is the type of pet that you are adopting. Learn about the type of animal that you are bringing into your home and any potential problems or issues they might have from their past experiences. For example, there are feral animals, wild animals, pet shop animals, mill animals, and those who are being temporarily cared for by caring humans at local humane societies or rescuers. An animal who was abused or neglected will have an extremely different background than the one who was lovingly cared for but is up for adoption because his/her owner passed away.
2. SPAY OR NEUTER YOUR PET! I know everybody has heard that they should spay or neuter their pets. This makes a lot of sense. In my experience many people don't spay or neuter their pets because they want their pet to reproduce one or more times, because they have a male pet and therefore think they are exempt from being a part of the problem, or because they cannot afford to do so.
A common reason for allowing their pet to reproduce at least once is so that their pets have a "full life" and are able to experience reproduction. I have seen many pets spayed or neutered early in life and don't seem to see life differently even though they haven't had the experience. When we think about both sides of the story, I think that those who want their pets to experience reproduction should not only think about their one pet, but about the litter that they are helping to bring into this world. How often does a human being want a cute, baby pet, and then are unable or unwilling to take care of them as their pet ages? How often are pets bought as gifts that may not be wanted? How many young pets are brought to the "pound" as soon as they are old enough to be weaned? Sadly, I've even heard of people bringing their whole litter to the woods, in a box to a farmer's door without permission, and even to the extent of drowning the litter in a river. When I've asked about these sad endings, I have heard that the original owners couldn't care for them, that the drowned litter was better off dead than alive, and that the farmer could surely afford to feed and shelter the litter of cats because they have lots of other cats hanging around. All because they wanted their one pet to have a "life bearing" experience. Tsk. Tsk. The consequences to the litter of babies far outweighs the supposed "desire" of the pet. What does the pet lose by not having a life-bearing experience? What does the litter go through? Spay or neuter your pets, if not for the best interest of the litter(s) brought into the world, then for your own peace of mind, as a duty to society, or for the sake of the animal kingdom as a whole.
As far as having a male and therefore having no responsibility to neuter, think again. Males who are not neutered seek to reproduce. I have seen male animals break through screens, scale fences, and go to various extremes to get to a female that is in heat. While some of these males make it back home, many don't. They get lost, they get hit by a vehicle, they are captured by someone else, they are stolen for use in pet fighting, and any other possibility that can be thought of and more. Males who are not neutered will also spray their territory to mark it as taken. This is normal male animal behavior, but all too often they think their territory included your clothes, your furniture, and anything else. Unfortunately, neutering them after they begin spraying doesn't always correct this behavior and I've seen far too many male animals sent away because of their spraying behavior, which could have been prevented by neutering your pet. In this instance, not just the litter becomes a problem, but so does the male pet itself. If not for the sake of your pet, their future litter, then do it for peace of mind, as a duty to society, or for the sake of the animal kingdom as a whole.
There are many programs out there to help you with the costs if money is the issue. Contact your local humane society or pet rescue to begin your search for assistance. There are also many animal clinics and hospitals that offer discounts, payment plans, or free services. Care Credit is another potential resource that offers credit lines for veterinary care.
3. Get your next pet from a local Pet Rescue, Humane Society, or other animal shelter. The animals waiting for adoption are all breeds, sizes, ages, and come from all walks of life. Some have been trained, some are babies, some have special needs, and one of them is just right for any person seeking a loving companion. Sadly, many of these pets could have been a loving, loyal companion, but because they were overlooked they end up euthanized or endure an alternate ending of their life.