New year, new pet? It’s great if you are considering a new addition to your family, but there are a few things to think about before your commit to and bring home your new bundle of fun and cuteness.
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.
Size of the 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.
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 sweet-natured Dalmatian or the handsome Siberian Husky, but forget that these dogs were originally bred to run for miles and have huge amounts of stamina so, therefore, require lots and lots of exercise. 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.
Coat types and grooming
Most pets will require grooming 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.
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.
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.
Once you have decided on a type and breed of pet you need to start looking for places to get one from and there are several options.
These are ideal if you are looking for a specific breed of pet. A good breeder will normally do a home check and 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 (http://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/item/2101) and is a good place to start looking.
You should always follow these check lists if you are buying a puppy, kitten or rabbit from a breeder.
Dogs, Cats and Rabbits
- Always visit the breeders home to meet the litter.
- See the mother with her litter
- Handle the litter (as long as they are over 4 weeks old)
- Are the litter and mother looking healthy and happy
- 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.
- 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
- You will need to obtain a pedigree certificate and a contract of sale when you take your new pet home with you
- 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.
- Ask if the parents tested for Feline immunodeficiency virus and Feline Leukaemia before mating
- 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).
- A good 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 common breeds.
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. All of the same guidelines above 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.
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
NEVER Buy From Puppy ‘Farms’
These are commercial dog 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 temperaments and health. Some times puppies are then sold on to middle parties or pet shops before being sold on to new owners.
To avoid falling into the puppy ‘farm’ trap
- Don’t buy from any breeder that has more than two breeds of dogs with puppies
- Always buy puppies that have been raised in a household environment rather than a shed or barn (these puppies will not have been used to human contact or common household noises and events, which can make them fearful and nervous and can lead to behavioural problems)
- Always see the mother with the puppies – if you cant see the mother with the pups 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 puppy to you – if they offer this how will you know anything about the environment they have grown up in or the temperament of the parents?
- Don’t buy puppies from pet shops or garden centres – these puppies are usually from puppy farms and you will have no idea about their history, temperament or if their parents suffered from any genetic disease or conditions.
If you find yourself at what you suspect is a puppy 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.
Castle Vets Reading hope this guide is useful to anyone considering getting a new pet. 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 and personality traits of pets with you before you buy. You can contact us by telephone: 0118 9574488 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org