I'm thinking of getting a pet
Pets are a major responsibility and will have a huge impact on your lives.
There are several questions you should ask yourself before deciding on a new pet, including:
- Why do you want a pet - is it as a companion, something to care for or purely a whim?
- How much spare time do you have to care for a pet?
- Are you aware of the long term cost of food, healthcare, veterinary care etc?
- How much space do you have in your home? How much space will the pet need?
- Do you have someone to look after your pet when you are away?
- What are its housing needs?
- Will your lifestyle be compatible with your choice of pet?
- Does anyone in the household or any regular visitors have allergies to animals?
For useful advice about owning a pet, have a look at the Blue Cross information leaflets link
Once you have answered the above and decided on a pet, you need to do your homework and find out everything you can about your chosen animal - from breed characteristics and level of exercise required, to what it eats and what its grooming needs are. The following are specific considerations that you should think about for common household pets.
Dogs make great companions but owning one is a long term responsibility as they will live for many years. Ask yourself:
- Do you have time to exercise a dog daily? Do not choose a dog if you have physical limitations that make it difficult for you to exercise it
- Where will you exercise your dog? (Some breeds need lots of open space to be happy)
- Are you prepared to be a responsible dog owner and poop scoop?
- Are you aware of the long term cost of food, healthcare, veterinary care and kennels, for example?
- Do you have time to look after and train a demanding puppy or would you prefer a more mature dog that is less boisterous and already housetrained?
- How much time are you prepared to give to grooming? Some breeds' coats require daily grooming (particularly long haired breeds); others require regular clipping. The smooth coat is the easiest to maintain with weekly brushing but keeping moulting hair off furniture can be a chore
- Do you want a male or female dog? Bitches will go on heat twice a year and male dogs can be more aggressive/hyper-sexed - both issues can be resolved neutering
- What size dog do you want?
- Do you want a pedigree or a cross breed dog?
- Do you want a rescue dog - these dogs are in need of a good home but may have some behavioural problems associated with how they have been treated in the past
Cats are entertaining, affectionate and self-reliant but still need lots of care and can live for a large number of years. They don't need to be taken for walks like dogs and are often happy to live indoors, or roam freely with the use of a cat flap. Ask yourself:
- Do you want a male or female? Male cats can be more territorial and less affectionate, although neutering can reverse this
- Should you buy a kitten or an adult? Kittens are demanding and will need house training and careful watching, but they can be more adaptable then adult cats
- What sort of coat does the cat have? Long haired cats need a lot of grooming to avoid large hairballs accumulating in their stomachs, whereas short haired cats will groom themselves
- Pedigree or non-pedigree? Pedigree cats are expensive and each breed has its own characteristics. Non-pedigree cats make great family cats and cost a lot less to buy - they are also less likely to suffer from health problems
- Do you want a rescue cat? As with dogs some rescue animals may have behavioural problems associated with how they have been treated in the past
Rabbits and Small mammals
Small mammals do not tend to live as long as dogs and cats but they are still a big commitment. Ask yourself:
- How long a commitment are you happy to make? Rabbits, guinea pigs and ferrets, on average, live for about 7 to 8 years, mice and hamsters for around 2 years, rats for around 3 years
- Do you have the time to look after them? Some types will need frequent grooming and their houses will need to be cleaned out on a regular basis
- Are you prepared to handle them on a regular basis? This is particularly important if you are you are buying babies as they will need to get used to you so that they don't bite or scratch as adults
Fish are the third most popular pet in the UK. Apparently keeping fish as a pet can lower blood pressure and relieve stress! However fish do have specific requirements. Ask yourself:
- Do you want cold water fish (e.g. Goldfish), hot water tropical fish or marine fish that live in salt water? Each type requires different care and equipment
- Can you afford the equipment needed to keep your fish healthy?
- Have you read up about the type of fish you wish to keep so that you understand its specific needs?
More to explore
- Is Pet Insurance Worth Having?
- Gallery 1
- Requesting a Written Prescription
- I'm thinking of getting a pet
- Travelling abroad with your pet
- Fact sheets
- Friends of Avon Lodge - need more help or advice?