Written by: Alison Laurie, Senior Consultant, Crown Vets Inverness
What do I need to know before I get a pet?
For many people a pet is a very significant part of the family. While owning a pet can be extremely rewarding, it is always important to remember that pet ownership is also a huge responsibility and that this responsibility is for the entire lifetime of the pet. As the pet owner you will be committed to providing for all the essential requirements of your pet such as: food, exercise, housing, grooming and regular veterinary care. It is absolutely essential to thoroughly research the basics of pet care before acquiring any new pet, to ensure that you have the capacity to meet the physiological, behavioural and social needs of any animal.
Take the time to research the species or breed that you are interested in purchasing well before bringing them into your home, so that you are sure that your choice of pet will be appropriate for your lifestyle and that you are also well prepared for their arrival.
Purchasing a pet should never be an impulsive decision. Sadly, Pet Rescue shelters receive thousands of unwanted and abandoned animals each year and these are often the result of an ill-considered decision.
So, before you make the decision to become a pet owner you should ask yourself the following questions:
1) Am I prepared to care for a pet for its entire life?
The average lifespan of dogs and cats is around 10 to 12 years, with some dogs now living until 15 and cats even until mid-teens up to 20 years of age. So it really is a long-term commitment. While puppies and kittens are irresistibly adorable, you will need to be well prepared to provide for the adult animal too and certainly in the case of some dog breeds, a much larger, adult pet with the resultant increased healthcare and exercise requirements and often a sizeable appetite!
2) Can I afford a pet?
There are many costs involved with pet ownership. The immediate and advised up-front costs for cats and dogs include: their initial vaccinations, microchipping, worming and flea and tick treatments and neutering. However, you will also need to be prepared to pay for further ongoing associated costs e.g. advised and appropriate good feeding, lifelong Pet Insurance, annual vaccinations and regular vet check-ups, training, boarding fees, toys and bedding, bowls, leads, collars, cat baskets and litter trays. Also remember that these costs are for the entire lifespan of the animal. Also, if an emergency or accident occurs, you are as the pet owner always responsible and you will need to ensure that you can then afford to pay for any emergency veterinary treatment required. So do make sure that your pet is well insured for any unexpected accident and emergency vet bills.
The costs of pet ownership will vary, depending on the type of pet you choose. Remember that they are an expensive addition to any family. Are you able to afford a pet, covering their basic needs and the veterinary attention that they will require for their entire lifetime?
3) Do I understand how to care for a pet?
It is your responsibility, as a new pet owner, to thoroughly research the basic requirements of your chosen pet. You should do this before considering purchasing your pet and prior to bringing your pet home so that you are well informed about the species-specific needs of your pet and that you are immediately ready to take excellent care of them. You could look for a comprehensive book and also research for information about your chosen pet and breed. If you are considering taking on a rescue pet, do talk to the relevant rescue pet organisation and ask for plenty information, or , if you are purchasing from a breeder, ask the breeder for more information such as how much space and exercise is needed and feeding requirements for your chosen breed.
4) Do I have time to care for a pet?
Caring for a pet takes a considerable amount of time each and every day of their lives. Exercise, socialisation, grooming, feeding, regular training, play-time, providing company and attention and Vet visits, all these take time and they are all critical aspects of good pet ownership. Some pets will require more of your time than others, but each pet will require some daily care, so you need to be sure that you have some time made available each day for them. Puppies and kittens initially involve a particularly large time investment.
5) Do I live in suitable accommodation with adequate space for a pet?
Firstly carefully consider if you can provide suitable living accommodation for your pet both now and well into the future. Do you have space and room in your home for your planned pet? Are you allowed to keep pets at your current residence? Your home size and/or garden size are also factors in determining your suitability as a pet owner for certain types of pets. In particular if you're thinking about getting a pet dog, do you have a garden? Is the garden secured? If you rent your property has your landlord given you written permission to have a dog or other pet? What would happen if you have to move home? If you have young children or grandchildren visiting do carefully consider the type of pet you plan to introduce into the family home if there are young children in the home.
6) Will a pet fit into my particular lifestyle and priorities?
Working hours, a busy social life and taking regular trips /holidays away are all factors that need to be very carefully considered before purchasing a pet. Companion animals thrive on human company and they will always depend on you as their owner. So you must be sure that your current working lifestyle will accommodate them.
So before you purchase a pet do consider their specific requirements. Are you prepared to walk your dog every day and let your dog out regularly for toileting? When will the dog go to the toilet? During the day can you get home to let your pet dog outside to toilet and can you accommodate this and take him for a short walk every few hours? Are you happy to have a cat litter tray available and a cat flap available for your cat? Are you prepared for certain accompanying disruptions within your home and garden, particularly when taking on a young kitten or puppy? Are you home often enough to keep your cat or dog company and give them plenty attention? Do you have the time to give your puppy the required basic training and the socialisation he needs? Who will care for your pet when you are away from home working, or when you are on holiday?
These are all very important questions to ask yourself before you consider taking on a pet as a new family member.
If you would like good professional advice on pet care and on acquiring a new pet do contact the practice.