We took our kitty, Rascal, to the vets on Tuesday to get him neutered, update his shots and have checked for worms. The bill was a shocking $250.00!!! This got me thinking about animals and preparedness.

There are three kinds of family animals. First we have pets. A pet has no function beyond making people happy. For some people, pets hold the same status as a child. I am not one of them. I like our kitty well enough but you will never see me shelling out cash to equip old Rascal with a rhinestone collar. The second category if working animal. That is actually the slot I stick Rascal in. We live in the country and I expect Rascal to earn his kitty kibble by catching mice. Dogs who guard homes or grazing animals are working animals which doesn’t mean that most are not also loved by their owners. Again, no rhinestone collars here but there certainly a mutual respect. The third category of animal is food. A word to the wise from someone who has raised both children and food animals. If you plan to eat her, don’t name her Becky.

Before you commit to the responsibility of an animal there are some things you need to be aware of. Animals are, unless we are talking goldfish, not cheap.  And, even if you are not the kind of person who dresses her dog up for Halloween (please, tell me you are not one of those people) you still have to properly care for any creature who can’t see to himself. That means medical care including spaying or neutering, proper diet, enough space and some attention. It also means making sure your animal is not a nuisance to others. This involves the removal of wastes and controlling the noise level. It also means preparing to take care of your animal in an emergency.

Just as you store food for your family, you should store food for your animals. Most animals will not do well with a rapid change in diet so you have store what they normally eat. Animals also need to be considered when you are calculating how much water to store. Dogs and cats seem to drink out of some pretty yucky places like the toilet without suffering from it but I don’t think you should plan to let an animal forage for water.

Pets must have records of all immunizations. If you should have to place your pet in a shelter if , for instance, you had to evacuate, a shot record will be mandatory. Have a familiar collar and leash along with a crate for a dog and a carrier for a cat. I suggest you also have a picture of your pet.  If you lose him during the chaos of an emergency a picture will make finding him later a lot easier. Obviously, a tag with your phone number is a good idea.

I think a lot of people are being a bit cavalier in assuming they can raise animals for meat or eggs if things get tough. It is a little more complicated than that. It takes lot of advance planning before acquiring a food animal. Even the toughest critters like goats have specific diet and housing needs. The time to learn about them is not when they are bleating away in the back of your pick-up. That’s the kind of impulsiveness that leads to the fisher cats eating your chickens, your goat getting loose and depriving you of a years worth of tomatoes or that day old calf dieing needlessly of the scours. If you are considering food animals, find a good mentor and start learning now. You will also need time to acquire all of the accoutrements like buckets and shovels and grooming equipment.

As you can probably guess, I am not a big pet person. I have spent most of my career taking care of kids who have been sadly neglected or abused. It kills me to see a dog elevated to baby status when I know we have about 600,000 kids in foster care in the US who could use that kind of attention. Still, that does not mean that I would ever advocate giving any creature anything less than good care. Heck, I will even admit to enjoying petting Rascal while he sleeps in  my lap.