Most animal lovers have a dream pet, whether that’s a dog, cat, rabbit or something a little more exotic and unusual, like an iguana. Some people have their hearts set on something a little bigger, such as a horse, while others want something completely unreasonable, like a red panda or a unicorn.
The reality of getting a pet is often very different to the dream. Obviously, this is a living creature with its own needs and personality so it’s essential to find a pet that is suited to your lifestyle and one whose needs you’re able to cater for without throwing your own into turmoil. If you’re stuck wondering “What pet should I get?”, here are some important things to think about.
Dogs can make excellent companions. They can become a loving, energetic playmate and a best friend, but they also require a lot of exercise and stimulation and they can become destructive if bored or left alone. If you work during the day, you will probably need to arrange a dog walker or sitter to keep a dog company and healthy and mentally active.
They also need regular grooming and many shed a lot of hair so your love of dogs might not sit too well with any allergies you or your family have. Some breeds are advertised as being ‘hypoallergenic’ but this is only up to a certain extent. All dogs shed to some degree.
Don’t just decide on a dog based on its appearance, popularity or because it’s a cool pet to have. Personality is key and most breeds have traits that are common throughout. Do your research and find a breed that fits with your lifestyle and needs. If you have children, find a calm, patient, friendly breed, rather than one that is nervous, excitable and territorial. If you have limited space, opt for a smaller breed that won’t feel confined, rather than a traditional working dog that loves to be out running around.
Dogs aren’t cheap to look after so do your sums and be completely confident that you can afford to care for one. Take into consideration potential vet costs and look at getting pet insurance in case anything goes wrong.
If you’ve examined all the pros and cons and have decided on a dog, it’s important to think too about where to get it. Be very wary of puppy farming. It’s an unethical practice that often results in dogs with behavioural problems.
Read our considerations if you’re thinking about rehoming a dog; a rescue dog can be a great way to give a second chance to an unwanted or abandoned animal, but be sure that you can give it the love and attention it may need and be aware of any past troubles the dog may have had, especially if you have children. Some rescue dogs can have emotional troubles and will need your help and patience to readjust. If you are going to buy a dog as a puppy, be sure that the breeder is registered with the Kennel Club.
Cats are generally less work than dogs. They don’t need to be walked and they require little training, but the counterpoint to that is that they tend to be very independent creatures that are unlikely to shower their owners with love and affection, except on their own terms.
You’ll need less space than with a dog but most cats like to be able to come and go as they please so it will make life much easier if you can install a catflap. Otherwise, be prepared to be harangued into getting up to let the cat out, and they’re not animals that take no for an answer. Also, you’ll need somewhere in your house for a litter box.
If you’ve decided on a cat, seriously consider a rescue centre as the UK has a problem with the number of cats they have to try and rehome. We offer six weeks free insurance when you rehome a dog or a cat through the RSPCA.
Once you have your new kitty, get him or her neutered as soon as they’re old enough as unneutered pets can be more prone to serious and fatal diseases and behavioural issues.
Rodents just aren’t for some people, but for others, they’re adorable little balls of fur. Gerbils, hamsters and guinea pigs have always been popular, but the degu is currently giving them a run for their money.
A lot of people consider rabbits and rodents as the best pets to have to teach a child responsibility, but this can be problematic. They can be nervous creatures and are usually not huge fans of being picked up and cuddled, so they’re not ideal for children. A child can inadvertently crush a small rodent while it’s squirming to get away. Degu’s tails fall off if pulled, which is incredibly painful for the poor creature. Many rodents are also nocturnal, so they’re likely to be asleep when the kids want to play with them.
Rabbits and guinea pigs can suffer from depression when kept on their own, so it’s strongly recommended to get two together. They also need a large run or garden, so they’re not suitable for small flats.