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Clara, a cat at the Humane Society of Greater Nashua. Courtesy photo.




Consider time and money
High-maintenance or low-maintenance?

02/26/15



Do you have lots of time and money and the desire to use plenty of them on your pet? Or would you rather have a pet that isn’t quite so needy? Animals can be high- or low-maintenance, and you should know what you’re getting yourself into before you pick a pet.

 
Rodents and reptiles
Heidi Hanneman, manager at Family Pet and Aquarium in Nashua, pointed out some lower-maintenance pets that might be good for families or people who don’t have a lot of time or money to devote to a pet.
Chinchillas are small rodents that stand about 6 to 8 inches tall, are pretty clean and don’t have much of an odor. They are usually grey, like a squirrel, with a bushy tail and little whiskers, and they’re very sweet, Hanneman says. You don’t have to bathe them, and they eat chinchilla food.
“They do make an ideal family pet because they are something the whole family can enjoy, not just one person. They are definitely pretty low-maintenance,” she said.
Even more low-maintenance than chinchillas are snakes and other reptiles, according to Dave Yao, owner of Dave’s Dragons in Manchester.
“Probably the biggest expense with reptiles is their initial setup — proper lighting, proper cage, heat lights,” he said. “Once you got that, they are pretty low-maintenance.”
He said snakes in particular are low-maintenance; they’re fed and they defecate once a week, so there is not much clean-up. Other than that, they just need fresh water.
Lizards are more active and are probably the highest-maintenance reptiles, Yao said. They require food daily; some eat only live insects, like crickets, worms and roaches, while some eat only vegetables and some eat a combination. With lizards, you can expect daily cleanup, too. But even so, it’s still not a lot of work compared to, say, a puppy.
“Amphibians are pretty low-maintenance because you can house them in a live planted vivarium,” Yao said
In general, you just need to throw in a dozen crickets every couple of days and spray the cage a couple times a day, he said. Even with lizards there is not much to clean up, because plants will use the feces as fertilizer. 
Chameleons are more on the lizard spectrum of required care. They have to be sprayed regularly for humidity, and the cage needs to be thoroughly cleaned daily, Yao said.
“You have to be very meticulous about temperature, humidity and cleanliness,” he said. 
 
The birds and the bettas
Fish tend to be low-maintenance, although it can be more difficult to keep them alive than people tend to think, with factors like water temperature, filters and regular tank cleanings impacting the length of a fish’s life. If you want one that lives for longer than the standard goldfish, Hanneman suggests a betta fish. Also known as siamese fighters, they can live in just about any kind of tank in room-temperature water. They do need to be fed every day, Hanneman said.
As for birds, Hanneman said more common birds such as parakeets, cockatoos and doves can be kept in an average-size cage. They need food and water every day, and keep them away from drafts, Hanneman said.
“They’re not what I would consider a real high-maintenance creature. They are fairly simple pets to have as an alternative to dogs and cats,” she said.
Exotic birds, such as lori parrots, toucans and macaws, are higher-maintenance, Hanneman says. She says they require large housing environments and have special food requirements — pellets, liquid, fruit or nuts. Macaws eat big piles of nuts, and when the price of seed and grain goes up, it can be costly to feed them. Additionally, when they get sick it’s not always easy to find an avian veterinarian. Depending on what is wrong with the bird, it could be expensive to save its life, she said.
“People who have them are advocates of them, but they are definitely not for everybody,” Hanneman said.
 
Cats and dogs — and horses (oh my)
Dogs and cats are generally more high-maintenance for a few reasons, not the least of which is that they need to be taken to the veterinarian regularly for shots and de-wormers, Hanneman said. Additionally, puppies need to be trained to go to the bathroom outside, or even go to dog training school. Expect regular trips to the market for pet food and doggie “wee-wee” pads, she said.
If you work a 9-to-5 or similar eight-hour shift, it can be hard to train your pet because of the amount of time you are gone, Hanneman said. Even if they’re trained, dogs still need to be let out for walks or to relieve themselves. Cats can use litter boxes and can be left alone for longer periods of time, but not much longer than a day or two.
“It’s definitely easier when you have a family and more than one person in your home to take care of dogs and cats,” she said.
In some cases a cat or dog might need physical therapy to overcome an ailment. 
Jennifer Brooks is the owner of and physical therapist at Horse ‘N Hound Physical Therapy in Nashua. For cats, in terms of physical therapy for maintenance, Brooks said four-limb arthritis is seen frequently. For dogs, it’s a problem with the cranial cruciate ligament, the equivalent to a person’s anterior cruciate ligament.
“Dogs blow those out a lot,” Brooks said.
In additional to the CCL injuries, Brooks sees hind-end weakness. She says when dogs get older, people ask less of them and eventually they can’t get off the floor.
“Really, as pet owners, we have the responsibility to keep our pets active throughout their life,” Brooks says. She said it’s the same as with humans: Exercise and regular activity are key, which also helps with obesity — a huge link to arthritis.
Brooks also works with horses, which are probably the highest-maintenance pet you can own (the reward for many horse owners being that you can ride them and show them). Along with high costs to house and feed them, they require regular care to keep their teeth and hoofs healthy, and because they are ridden, Brooks said, they have a lot of back pain issues, as well as arthritis of the neck and spine. 
 
As seen in the February 26, 2015 issue of the Hippo.





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