Before you get a new pet – THINK!

lots of pets

It is a wonderful feeling to be the proud owner of a new pet and anyone who has taken on a pet will know that, within a matter of hours, you are completely hooked, but there are a few things to think about before your commit to and bring home your new bundle of fun and cuteness.

1. Cost

piggy bank

Can you afford the costs necessary to give your chosen pet the correct care? The average annual costs of owning a pet can be quite high and have been estimated at £1000 – £1500 for a dog, £1000 for a cat, £400 – £500 for a ferret, £500 for a rabbit and £400 for a guinea pig. (For cats and dogs that amounts to approximately £12000 – £18000 over a lifetime!) You will need to think about the costs of providing food, bedding, Housing for small animals, a bed, routine vet bills and pet insurance for accidents and illnesses.

2. Size of the petsize of pet

Do you have enough space at home and in the garden for your chosen pet? Even small pets like hamsters and rats require fairly big cages. Where will your pet eat, drink and sleep? The size of the pet will also effect how expensive it will be  for vet bills, insurance, food, housing and equipment.

 

3. Coat types and grooming

Most pets will require grooming and/or bathing of some sort and you will need to check their coats, mouths, ears, eyes and bottoms every day to make sure they are clean and healthy.
Pets with long coats will require daily grooming to prevent matting and you will need to consider if you will have the time to do this. Some animals shed lots of fur which may not be good for allergy sufferers.

long haired pets

4. Breed of pet

Different breeds of animals often have very different personality traits so you should consider what your pet has been bred to do in the past before making your decision; for example everyone loves the look of the stunning Dalmatian or the handsome Siberian Husky, but you might not realise that these dogs were originally bred to run for miles and have huge amounts of stamina so, therefore, require lots and lots of exercise and mental stimulation to keep them happy and prevent unwanted behaviours. Terriers have been bred for their ability to dispatch rodent pests quickly so don’t be surprised at their feisty and bold behaviour. In the cat world the Siamese can be very vocal, Maine Coons are known for being very affectionate and Bengals can be very destructive when they get bored. With rabbits the Dwarf-Lop is generally friendly and outgoing where as Netherland Dwarfs can be very skittish and are generally unsuitable for children.

breeds copy

5. Time

Do you have enough time to keep your chosen pet properly exercised and mentally stimulated? Exercise is really important for the health, fitness and well-being of your pet and you will also need to spend time with your pet so you can play with it and provide any training it might need.
All dogs need at least 2 20 minute walks a day (most breeds need much more than this) and the opportunity to run about off the lead in a safe area and meet other dogs if they are socially inclined. Depending on the breed of dog you choose, you may need to provide activities such as agility and training classes to keep it fit and stimulated.
In an ideal world a cat should be able to get outside, but if you have decided to keep your cat indoors then you must provide adequate mental stimulation for it and it will need much more of your time than an outside cat would to prevent boredom.
Rabbits, guinea pigs and ferrets need an outside enclosed run or they can be exercised on harnesses in safe areas.

Exercise

6. Genetic and hereditary Problems 

cat ok

Some breeds of animals have inherited genetic problems and this should be researched before you get a pet as these problems can cost a lot of money to treat, for  example hip dysplasia, heart disease, respiratory problems, eye problems and dental problems. If you are buying from a breeder you should always ask if the parents have been tested for disease and problems associated with the breed.

Looking for and choosing your new pet

Before you get a new pet we recommend that you take your time to find and get to know a good breeder or if you are getting a pet from a rescue centre, try to get as much background information as you can from the staff.

Many animals are being bred purely for profit (‘farmed’) without care for their welfare, health or temperament and are usually passed on to a seller or dealer before being sold on to the public. Avoid buying pets from pet stores or places that have many litters of pets for sale (this even applies to birds, reptiles, rabbits and other small mammals); it is worth paying a little extra to obtain an animal from someone who has put a lot of time and effort into ensuring the health and wellbeing of the parents and offspring.

If you are getting a puppy or kitten make sure you see the mother with her babies and check that she has been regularly vaccinated; cases of poor health and diseases such as Parvovirus in puppies and Flu in kittens obtained from unscrupulous breeders, are often seen in veterinary practices and very young animals have tragically died, leaving new owners distraught and heartbroken.

Pedigree Breeders

These are ideal if you are looking for a specific breed of pet. A good breeder may do a home check and will ask lots of questions to make sure you can provide a suitable home for your new pet. Do your research regarding the average cost of the breed you are interested in and expect to pay quite a lot for rarer breeds. The Kennel Club has a list of breed clubs and breeders for puppies and is a good place to start looking.

Hobby and ‘Accidental’ Breeders

These may be owners who have decided to breed a one-off litter from their pet or their pet has had an accidental mating. most of the guidelines for pedigree pets should apply when you are visiting and asking questions of the owner. If the pets are crossbreeds you should also try and find out what the breeds are so you will have an idea about how big your new pet may grow.

Guidelines for choosing your pet

  • Always visit the ‘breeders’ home to meet the litter.
  • Always see the mother with her litter – do not accept any excuses for the mother not being there.
  • Handle the litter (as long as they are over 4 weeks old)
  • Check that the litter and mother looking healthy and happy
  • In the case of puppies and kittens, are they happy to come over and interact with you?
  • Expect lots of questions from a breeder that cares about where the pets are going to and how you will look after them.
  • Ask about the type of food they will be weaned on to
  • Ask whether the parents have been routinely vaccinated, flea treated and wormed
  • Don’t be overwhelmed by the cuteness of the animals in the first litter you visit! If things don’t feel 100% right to you walk away, the right pet is worth waiting for.

Cat specific checks

  • Ask if the parents tested for Feline immunodeficiency virus and Feline Leukaemia before mating
  • Have they been raised indoors or outside? Indoor raised animals are much happier with the day to day sounds of a busy household and the coming and going of people and other pets.

Dog specific checks

  • Handle the mother so you can get an idea of her temperament (it is not always possible but if you get the opportunity, meet the father too)
  • Ask about how the puppies will be socialised and what experiences they will have had before they come home to you (will they have seen lots of people, travelled in a car, experienced household noises such as the washing machine and vacuum cleaner?)
  • Have they been raised indoors or outside? Indoor raised animals are much happier with the day to day sounds of a busy household and the coming and going of people and other pets.

Pedigree specific checks

  •  Ask about any genetic/hereditary problems in the breed and what tests have been done to ensure that the parents don’t have these. A good breeder will have no problems discussing these issues with you and will have had the appropriate tests done on the parents.
  • You will need to obtain a pedigree certificate and a contract of sale when you take your new pet home with you
  • A good dog breeder will ask you to spend time with adult dogs of the same breed and chat to other owners so that you know exactly what you are letting yourself in for! This is particularly important if you have chosen one of the less commonly seen breeds.

mums and babies

Rescue Centers

These places have lots of pets in need of new homes and are a good place to start if you don’t want a pedigree animal. They may visit your home and ask lots of questions to make sure you can provide a suitable home for your new pet and that you understand how to care for it correctly.
Some places to try are
Woodgreen 
Battersea Dog and Cat Home
RSPCA 
The Blue Cross
Diana Brimblecombe Animal Rescue (Berkshire)
Cat Protection

Puppy and Kitten Farms or Mills

Puppy-mill1220110puppyfarmdog1

These are commercial animal breeding facilities that are operated with an emphasis on profits above animal welfare and are often in substandard conditions regarding the well-being of animals in their care. The animals from these places are not looked after properly and will not have been bred for good health or good temperaments. Sometimes these animals are transported for huge distances to be sold by middle parties or pet shops to new owners.  Remember that NO responsible breeder would ever have their litter sold by a pet shop or anyone other than themselves.

  • Every animal purchased from an irresponsible breeder leaves a space for another to take its place. 
  • The trade in pet farms, pet mills and pet shops is consumer led.
  • Many animals become ill soon after purchase, some even die. 
  • You are the consumer – make a wise choice.
To avoid falling into the puppy/kitten ‘farm’ trap
  • Always see the mother with her babies – if you cant see the mother interacting with her offspring how do you know she is the mother? Don’t accept excuses about the mother being out for a walk or sick – if you don’t see the mother how do you know that she has a good temperament?
  • Never let the breeder bring the animal to you – if they offer this how will you know anything about the environment they have grown up in or the temperament or health of the parents?
  • Don’t buy animals from pet shops or garden centres – these animals are usually from puppy farms and kitten farms or from people that breed solely for profit. You will have no idea about their history, temperament or if their parents suffered from any genetic disease or ill health.
  • Always buy puppies and kittens that have been raised in a household environment rather than a kennel, shed or barn (these animals will not have been used to regular human contact or common household noises and events, which can make them fearful and nervous and can lead to behavioural problems)
  • Always make sure that the mother has been regularly vaccinated; diseases such as Parvovirus in puppies and Flu in kittens obtained from unscrupulous breeders, are often seen in veterinary practices and very young animals have tragically died, leaving new owners distraught and heartbroken.
  • Don’t buy from any breeder that has more than two bitches or queens with litters.

If you find yourself at what you suspect is a puppy or kitten farm, please do not buy a puppy out of sympathy because any purchase will only encourage these people to continue. If you feel that the adult dogs or puppies are being neglected in any way contact the RSPCA.

It is not acceptable to obtain puppies (or kittens) from “Puppy Farms” or other establishments who sell them on for these unscrupulous breeders. A national campaign called PupAid has been set up to raise awareness and stamp out unacceptable breeding practices.

 

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For further advice you can telephone the surgery and speak to, or make an appointment with, one of our veterinary nurses who will be happy to discuss breed types, personality traits of pets and where to look for a good breeder with you. You can contact us by telephone: 0118 9574488  or by visiting the Castle Vets Website

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