Admittedly, I am not always a very environment-oriented person. If I need something, I buy it from a store without considering a second-hand item. I often leave the tap running when I brush my teeth. I’m not a vegetarian. However, there is one aspect of ethically conscious behavior I have taken part in more than once. The most recent instance happened on March 16th. On that day, I received a very special bundle. She had made her way all the way from Russia with two women and another bundle, looking to start a new life in a new home. She meowed quietly and disappeared under a shelf the second she was out of her carrier.
Said bundle sleeps curled up in my lap as I write this. She’s one of the countless cats abandoned every year, but she’s also one of the lucky ones: a person looking for a pet, namely yours truly, found out about her, got the wheels of adoption rolling and that road has led her to Helsinki to her forever-home. Since huddling in the sauna, unsure and frightened, she has moved onto terrorizing me with V6-level purring at 6am on a daily basis.
I made a conscious choice in choosing to adopt rather than going for a breeder’s kitten although I gave it serious consideration. Number one reason was the fact that homeless cats - like my Usva - are in dire need of a safe home, someone who will take care of them. A breeder’s kitten is pretty much always guaranteed to find a home. A more practical reason was the issue of money. An adopted cat is easier on the wallet than a breed cat who will take a chunk out of your bank account. And that’s before the expense of all the required kitty gear from bowls to scratching posts.
Unfortunately, the lure of affordable pets has given rise to a more sinister phenomenon than the slowly rising popularity of shelter animals. The practice of puppy mills. What it means is that a person or persons looking to make a quick profit at the expense of the welfare of animals breed popular companion dogs and sell them at a significantly lowered price than a well-established, responsible breeder. These puppies are often too young to leave their mothers, have not been vaccinated and are often riddled with problems that start arising once the new owner has had their puppy for a while. The result is ill puppies, often beyond veterinary help, a slice taken out of the wallet and, of course, a broken heart.
While I understand why less than half the price of a kennel-bred puppy is tempting, there really should be no cutting corners when we are talking about acquiring a pet. It’s a serious commitment and you should never look for a bargain at the expense of the animal’s paperwork and health. If money is a huge consideration and you’re not willing to dole out 1000 euros for a German Shepherd or a Siamese cat, consider looking at local shelters.
Especially toward the fall, shelters are at full capacity and then some with abandoned dogs, cats and other animals looking for a second chance. Adopting from a shelter also helps the shelter itself to make more room for animals in need. It is customary for shelters to only ask for a low price which covers any vet expenses and a little something for the shelter so they can keep going. In my case, I only paid for the vet bills. Usva herself had a price tag of zero euros and the person I adopted her from took care of all the necessary paperwork to bring her across the border. All the more chance for me to blow money on her toys, beds, and food.
The perks of an adopted pet, either from a shelter or a private person (Usva came from a vet student) looking to find a permanent home for an animal, include but aren’t limited to 1) making the world a better place, 2) going easy on your wallet, 3) you get a friend who in their animal brain knows that you are a friend-beast (to borrow Oatmeal’s term) who found a place for them in their home and in their heart.