When Your Parent Wants To Get A Pet

My mom called me all excited this morning, because she has sent an email about getting a dog.

Inside, I cringed.

I have very mixed feelings about pets around my mother. When I was a small child, we had a dog. One day I went to school and when I came home - my mom told me she had him put to sleep. Evidently, he had broken loose from his chain and was seen running wild with some other dogs.

I cried a lot, but accepted that this was how it goes sometimes.

When I was in my early 20s, I had a tiny little cat that I loved very much. We were perfectly happy in our little apartment. But circumstances changed, and I moved back home to help out my mom while my parents were getting a divorced. My mom didn’t like my cat because it sometimes peed on the carpet (it felt threatened by my mom’s cat) and one day I came home from work and she had given my cat away.

I was furious - but as I had no idea who she had given my cat too - and was too proud to air my dirty laundry to the outside world, I didn’t call the police or anything.

I moved out soon after that. In the course of the next year or so, my mom saw fit to give her cat away and then put her new dog to sleep. Then she kicked my sister out of the house (on the phone, while my sister was over my house for dinner, but that’s a different story.)

That was over a decade ago. A few years ago, my mom had relocated down south to be closer to all of us, and I had lived with her for a while when her roommate moved out and I was looking for a place to rent. She decided she wanted a dog again. I helped her find a cute little puppy named Micah. He was just a wiggle worm and a bundle of energy.

When it came time for me to move out, she joked that I should take him or my boyfriend should. But I declined - I love animals but I’m at a point in my life where I don’t want pets. Within a year of me moving out, my mom let Micah out to pee without a leash (something she never does) and he ran in front of a car and was killed.

Accidents happen. Pets die. But a part of me is worried that when my mom gets tired of this new puppy, something will happen to them too.

I don’t live with her, she’s an adult, I can’t stop her from getting a pet. Can I?

My mom is in her 60s, a very able-bodied person. I just think when it comes to pets - she wants them for a little while and then gets tired of them and gets rid of them. The only reason why our cats lasted so long was because they were outside cats that only came inside to eat and sleep. But now she’s allergic to cats - so she keeps trying dogs instead.

I don’t think you can stop her from getting one if she’s bound and determined, no, but I think you can tell her in no uncertain terms that she has a very bad track record as a pet owner, that pets require a lifetime commitment from their owner, and that they’re not something you can just give away or let run away when you become bored with them or they do something annoying. And they’re pets. They’re eventually going to do something annoying. Perhaps recommend that she get a goldfish instead.

I sympathize. Without going into a lot of really unpleasant detail, I will just say that my mom and stepdad had a succession of very, very poorly-treated dogs over the years. When my mom and stepdad broke up and my mom announced that she was getting a cat…well, I wasn’t optimistic. However, luckily my youngest brother (age 10 at the time, age 16 now) has taken over care and feeding of the cat and by all reports is a fantastic cat owner, so it turned out OK. But my mom should really never own an animal, and it sounds like yours shouldn’t either.

No sooner had I posted this, than she sent me a picture of the puppy she’s interested in.

I guess I just have a really soft spot in my heart for puppies and can’t stand to think of anything bad happening to them.

Many people consider pets to be more or less disposable. She does; you don’t.

She’s a competent adult. Tell her your opinion if you want, but expect to be ignored. Any attempts by you to control the situation will do a lot more harm to your relationship than it’s worth.

Express your opinion to her. Tell her you’d love to be excited for her but you’re aware of her history with other pets. Tell her you’d feel better about it all if she’ll promise that, should she tire of the animal,she will find it another home, rather than put it down or just let it loose. Who knows, it might sink in. Either way you have expressed your concern, which is all you can really do, as she’s an adult.

What you need to do is subtly remind her of what happened to her previous pets.

Something along the lines of “Remember Fluffy? He was a wonderful little dog. What happened to him? Ah, he got run over, didn’t he? Nevermind, what about Snuggleplum? She was a beautiful cat. What happened to her, again? Oh, that’s it - you gave her away because she pissed everywhere!” should do it.

Even if it ended badly for most of her pets, at least they had several happy months or years with her.

That’s a lot longer than they would survive at the overcrowded local animal shelter!

Well, the pet she was looking at was evidently part of a online scam or fraud - maybe that will have soured her enough to think twice.

She did mention yesterday that she would never let her animal outside without a leash of some kind again.

I am sorry you had to see this going on growing up. It almost seems like she is not capable to be responsible for a pet.

You can do something by reporting her to the ASPCA and any local shelters in her area. People can get black listed from being able to adopt in animals cruelty cases. I don’t think your Mom is cruel just unfit to be an animal owner.

There was a man in town that got black listed for being reported after tying out his dog without food and water for days. His name is at all shelters as not a person to adopt to. Good Luck.

I would try and dissuade her as much as you possibly can. If she is interested in a rescue, tell the rescue her past experience. On our application, we ask for past history with animals, but people lie on their application.

How would she feel about volunteering at the ASPCA for a few hours a week? Lots of cuddly puppies and kitties without the responsibility of taking them home and loving them 24 hours a day.

This is a terrific suggestion. if your mom even hesitates when you bring it up, you can point out that having a personal pet carries all the same unpleasant duties and expenses of volunteering at the shelter but 24 hours a day, including late Sunday night. Anything deterring her from the shelter experience would likely also be a factor with a pet.

I’m not sure that I’d call her a competent adult. She is certainly not a responsible adult, at least where pets are concerned.

One way to help your mom succeed with the puppy would be to encourage her to enroll in a dog training class. She’ll be around people who really care for their dogs, and she might be less likely to dispose of a dog if it’s well-trained, and if she has an investment in the training.

Wow, you have my sympathy. I have a similar situation: we always had cats when I was growing up, but they never lasted long. My mom didn’t believe in indoor cats, and we lived near a highway. It didn’t take me long before I stopped believing “the cat ran away” stories.

My parents came to visit us recently (we have several cats, all indoor-only) and my mom kept saying that she’d really like to get another cat. I just can’t stand the thought of her having a cat because I just know she would tire of it just like she tired of all the other pets we ever had. Fortunately she never gets past the “talk about it” stage, and she gets her feline fix from feeding and playing with the neighbor’s cat. Hopefully I won’t have to worry about it. I can’t bear thinking about anything happening to a poor little kitty.

“Peeing and pooping everywhere, digging up the yard, scratching up the floors, chewing up your stuff, signing over half your pay to the vets, fleas, worms, barking… haha, better you than me, Mum!”