Think! Before you get that new pet

The prospect of getting a new pet can be very exciting and it is a wonderful feeling to be a proud owner. 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.


piggy bank

This is not just the cost of actually buying the pet. 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, around £1200 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 – £20000 over a lifetime!) You will need to think about the costs of providing good quality food, bedding, housing for small animals, boarding kennels or pet sitters, routine vet bills for things such as parasite control and vaccinations, as well as pet insurance for accidents and illnesses.

Your family situation

Think about how the pet will fit in to your family and home.

  • Are you ready for this pet? If you are due to go on holiday, start a new job, move house or start a big project on your home, now is probably not the best time to get a pet.
  • Does everyone in the household want this pet?
  • Do you have children or do children visit your home? If the answer is yes, give special thought to the breed and type of animal that you want as a pet, as not all of them will be suitable. You will need to train the children (yes I did say that!) to respect animals and not to tease them, they will also need to know not to touch them without an adult present. Remember that most breeds/types of animal have the potential to bite, scratch or otherwise injure someone if they get scared, no matter how well trained and handled. If you are getting a dog, regardless of the breed, you must ensure that he or she is very well socialised with people of all ages from a very young age and that you understand canine body language well enough to remove the child if the dog starts to look uncomfortable with the situation it is in.
  • Does anyone have allergies and what will you do if you discover someone is allergic to your new pet? It has been shown that children that grow up with pets have less allergies and are healthier in that respect, but not everyone is that lucky.
  • Who will look after the pet? Never buy a pet for a child and expect them to take responsibility for it’s care and training. For most children the pet-owning novelty wears off very quickly once they realise its not all cuddles and walks in the sunshine! Obviously there are some exceptionally wonderful kids out there, but all too often the responsibility for the less glamorous parts of pet owning, such as cleaning up the poo and going for walkies in the rain, sleet and snow will fall back to one or both parents.

Size of the pet
size of pet

Do you have enough space at home and/or 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. Those giant breeds of dog can look fabulous walking next to you, but have you thought about how you will travel with it if necessary? Will it fit into your car? Could you carry it in an emergency?

Breed of pet

Have a really good long think before you settle on a specific breed and make sure it is absolutely right for you; please make your decision based on the animal’s needs and requirements versus what you can offer it, rather than on what it looks like.

Different breeds of animals often have very different personality traits (far too many to go in depth on this blog) so you should always consider what an animal 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.

Be especially careful when looking at ‘designer breeds’ (which are essentially very expensive crossbreeds or mongrels!); these animals have usually been bred to look a specific way and to make money for breeders, rather than for a specific function.  It is true that some of them are fabulous crosses and make great pets, but others can be bad crosses, especially if the parents had health problems or bad temperaments. Some examples of designer breeds include

  • Labradoodles and other Poodle crosses: The Labradoodle was originally bred to create a ‘low-allergen’ guide dog and quickly became popular because you could have a low-allergen dog (thanks to the poodle’s non-shedding coat) of small, medium or large size. But, did you know that the low-shed and low-allergen only happens with the first cross of labrador to poodle? (and not all of the puppies in a litter will have this quality!) Labradoodle x Labradoodle does not have this effect at all.  Other poodle crosses such as the CockerPoo or CaviPoo may have low allergen qualities as well, but it can never be guaranteed. Often these cross breeds make wonderful family pets, but not always as they are very active and smart dogs that need the appropriate care and stimulation.
  • Northern Inuit or ‘WolfDogs’: These dogs are not pedigrees. They have been bred purely to be a status symbol because they look like wolves (or what people imagine wolves to look like) and they are becoming hugely popular. The problem is that these dogs are the result of crossing many breeds together, such as the German Shepherd, Husky, Malamute, Canadian Inuit Dog, Labrador and Belgian Shepherd (to name a few!) Most of the ‘breeders’ are doing this with no regard to temperament or health of the offspring, and as a result these dogs can suffer from many conditions including epilepsy, heart problems, joint problems and endocrine problems. Not to mention the fact that these dogs are bred from VERY active and often high maintenance  breeds, so they are very active and very intelligent and therefore need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation in order to prevent behavioural problems.
  • Designer Cat Breeds: Examples include the Bengal, Ocicat, Sphynx, Tonkinese and Munchkin. On the whole these cats are quite healthy, with the exception of the Munchkin, whose short little legs can predispose them to spinal problems. Care needs to be taken with some of the breeds because of their ‘wild’ natures though.

While many crossbreeds and mongrels can be very healthy and make wonderful pets, sadly many unscrupulous breeders/farmers have jumped on the ‘designer pet’ bandwagon and are breeding animals for looks, rather than temperament and good health, for a quick profit.

Please read our guide on buying a new pet for more information on what to look out for and the questions you should be asking breeders and sellers.

breeds copy

Take time to research your breeds carefully or you might end up taking on more than you can cope with.

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. Even those designer pets with little or no hair (Chinese Crested dogs, Sphynx cats, Reptiles) will still need their skin looking after.

long haired pets

Time and Exercise

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 two 20 minute walks a day (most breeds need much, 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. They can also be exercised in safe areas inside your house.

Did you know that the majority of behavioural problems in animals happen because they are bored, under exercised and under stimulated?


How To Find and Choose Your New Pet

So, you have read this article and have decided that you can afford a pet, you have the time and space and now is the right time to do it. Congratulations! But where do you start? Head on over to our next article about “choosing a pet and where to get it from”. We cover everything from rescue centres to pedigree pet breeders, the golden rules of buying or adopting a pet and what you need to ask and look for.

Pre-Purchase Advice Clinics

The Veterinary Nurses at Castle Vets are happy to chat with you before you buy your pet. Our clinics cover

  • Breed types, personalities and traits
  • Potential costs involved in pet ownership
  • Where to look for your pet
  • Questions you should ask and what to avoid
  • How to avoid puppy and kitten farms

Please contact us at the practice for advice or to make an appointment on 0118 9574488 or you can send us an email for advice.


One thought on “Think! Before you get that new pet

  1. Pingback: National Pet Month, April 2016 | Castle Vets Reading

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