Adding a pet to your family is a far bigger decision than just falling in love with big puppy-dog eyes or a sweet nature. There are a whole lot of other factors to consider.
If your kids have been begging and pleading for a puppy or kitty with promises that they’ll take care of the new addition, don’t fall for it. It’s not going to happen. Children younger than seven simply aren’t capable of looking after an animal; so, if you do cave to the pressure, be prepared to take on the responsibility yourself (even if your offspring are older). And you’ll have to look for a breed that’s good with kids. Highly-strung, skittish dog breeds are going to have a tough time dealing with little hands, loud voices and rough handling, and cats are just going to hate it.
Before choosing a pet, look at your lifestyle. If you’re hardly ever home, then a dog (even the most laid-back Snoopy) isn’t a good choice, because they are pack animals and require attention. If you opt for a dog, you’ll need to set aside time for training and exercise. Although relatively small and very good-natured, collies and shepherds, for example, are highly intelligent and need a lot of stimulation.
If your life is quite hectic, but you still need some pet affection, a low-maintenance cat might be a better choice.
Another important consideration is your property size. Realistically, a Great Dane is not going to work if you live in a townhouse or a flat, even though they are complete couch potatoes. On the other hand, a so-called small breed like a Jack Russell has a lot of energy, and if confined to a small area is going to start digging or barking and generally driving your neighbours crazy. Again, a cat will work better when you have minimal space.
Can you afford a pet? There’s not only the monthly food bill, but also pet insurance as visits to the vet do mount up. Puppies and kittens are going to need the full range of vaccinations, while spaying or neutering can be quite pricy. Then, there’s also the cost of any injuries or illness that needs to be considered.
Where to Get Your Pet
This is a tricky one, as there are ethical (puppy farming is a reality) and health issues at play. You are taking a risk by choosing a pet from an ad in the local paper or on social media, because it’s sometimes hard to verify credentials of the breeder or the genetics of the parents (here, you’re looking at hereditary disorders such as hip dysplasia in German shepherds).
Think about getting your new pet from a rescue organisation. They will ensure that all the jabs are up to date, and that your dog or cat is sterilised before you take it home. They also carry out a home inspection to check that your environment is suitable for the pet you’ve chosen. In addition, if you don’t want to go through the hassle of house-training a pup or a kitten, they have older animals available for adoption too.
A new pet is a long-term commitment, so proper research and preparation is essential before introducing a four-legged friend to your family.
By Nicci Botha
DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or need health advice, please consult a healthcare professional.