Buying a pet: what you need to know

Australians just love their pets – and most of us consider owning a pet to be a normal part of family life. However, it’s important to be aware of what is involved in pet ownership before you take the big step of bringing a dog, cat, or other furry, feathered or scaly friend into your home.

Most importantly, owning a pet is a long-term commitment. The average lifespan of dogs and cats is around 12 years, with some living until 15 or even 20 years of age. If you’re thinking of getting a bird such as a Cockatoo, you may need to consider adding them into your will since they can live upwards of 80 years!

We all know that baby animals are adorable and the desire to bring a puppy or kitten home after your first meeting or seeing their cute photo online can be very strong, but they all grow up and their long-term needs must be considered before you decide to add them to your family.

Some of these important considerations have been summarised below:

Cost

To purchase a pet these days often entails a significant initial sum, especially for many popular dog breeds. It is not uncommon for purchase prices to be in the thousands or even tens of thousands. However, no matter how much it cost to obtain your pet or even if they were free, looking after a pet can be an expensive business and you need to make sure that you are financially equipped to be able to care for them long term and especially in their times of need where they may medical attention from your veterinarian For more information on the costs of pet ownership check out our article here.

Time commitment

While owning a pet is incredibly rewarding and interacting with them provides you with joy, they do need a regular commitment of time from their owners to ensure they live enriching and enjoyable lives. The time you have available to commit towards your new pet is a big factor in the species or breed of animal you choose to bring into your home and is something you can raise with your veterinarian prior to acquiring your new pet.

If you decide to bring a new puppy or kitten home, they will require a lot of time in the first few months to toilet train, socialise them and help shape their behaviour for their coming years. Most dogs will need regular walking, playtime (especially when they are puppies) and one-on-one attention to ensure they don’t become bored or frustrated as this can lead to destructive or undesirable behaviours. Cats, too, require and enjoy socialisation and attention, although it will often very much be on their own terms.

Grooming

All dogs and cats will generally need some help with grooming, but the amount of time and cost involved will vary depending on the breed. Read our article on Pet Grooming to make sure you are choosing a breed that fits with your family’s lifestyle and desires.

Is your home suitable for a pet?

Take a look around your home to make sure that it is suitable for a pet. Check the fencing and access points to make sure your dog can’t escape and ensure there is adequate shade and access to water if your dog is being left outside. The size of the backyard and space available is suitable for the particular breed of dog you wish to obtain. If you are considering getting a cat and want to allow them access to the outdoors, ensure they aren’t able to leave the property. Outdoor cat runs are great for enrichment and allowing them to enjoy time outdoors safely. Depending on your local council regulations cats may be required to be kept indoors or within a run at all times. Furniture should be secure and ensure your pets have no access to toxins such as rat or snail bait. Providing your pet with safe toys and activities to keep them occupied while you are out is also recommended as can help prevent unwanted destructive behaviour within the house.

Do you have young children?

Choosing a pet that is suitable for the age of your child is essential to ensure that the best interest of both the animal and your child is considered. Take your time introducing a new pet to your children and make sure all contact is supervised. Never leave children under the age of 10 years alone with a dog, even the family pet. Children don’t always understand the most appropriate ways to interact with animals and even the gentlest of dogs can be dangerous if provoked or feels threatened.

Do you have other pets?

Talk to the breeder or animal shelter about your new family member to make sure they have been socialised from a young age and will get along with other pets you might have in the household. Sometimes older animals can get jealous or territorial when a new animal is introduced, so slowly introducing new pets is essential. Unfortunately, not all animals enjoy or are suitable to have companions, so considering the wellbeing and interests of your current pet is something that should always be considered prior to introducing an additional pet into the family

Do you and your family travel regularly?

Unfortunately our pets can’t always be taken with us on holidays, so ensuring you are able to make arrangements for your pet to be cared for while you are away is a must. Finding friends or house sitters to look after your pet when you are away is a great way to allow your pet to stay in their home environment, which is particularly helpful for anxious animals. There are also many fantastic boarding facilities where your pet can visit and stay for a holiday of their own while you are away.

Allergies

If you have a family member or close friend with an allergy to cats or dogs, consider how this may affect your lifestyle. There are some low-allergenic breeds of dogs and cats which may be suitable for your situation or you could even consider a different species such as a rabbit or bird that you may have not thought about owning before.

Research the needs of the pet

Educate yourself about your pet’s particular needs according to their species and breed. It is important that you research the characteristics and needs of the animal you have chosen. Thorough training will help your pet with behavioural issues, but there are some elements of every animal that are inbuilt and can’t be changed. All the factors listed above should be considered and tailored to ensure they meet the specific requirements of the animal you have chosen to bring into your home

Where to obtain your pet

It is important to make sure that you purchase or adopt your pet from a registered reputable breeder or accredited animal shelter. This will ensure that your dog or cat has been health checked, immunised and microchipped by a veterinarian. If you decide on a rescue animal, it is important to realise that some of these animals will have special needs, so talking to the shelter about the animal and your personal situation is essential to make sure the two of you are a compatible match.

Now that you’ve considered all these factors, it’s time to welcome your new companion into your home!