Advice on Choosing a Pet

Cat & Bulldog pupPets provide us with company, stress relief and unconditional love.  Because cats and dogs can live for over 10 years, it's important that we understand the long term responsibilities we will have for our pets.


Being a responsible pet owner involves choosing the right pet for your lifestyle, complying with the law, and caring for your pet's health.


Deciding to become a pet owner requires careful thought and planning. Before you decide what type of pet you want, first ask yourself  "Can I look after a pet properly?".  If the answer is yes, the next step is to make the right choice of pet, based on your lifestyle and priorities.  



Can I look after a pet properly?

  • Can you care for a dog/cat for over 10 years?
  • Do you have time to care for a pet? eg: exercise, grooming, obedience and play.
  • Can you arrange care for your pet when you're away?
  • Do you live in a suitable location and type of housing for a pet?
  • Do you have adequate space for the pet you are considering?
  • What hours do you work, and will the pet have any company during the day?
  • If renting accommodation, are you permitted to own a pet?
  • If buying a puppy or kitten, can you provide care during the day and meals at regular intervals until it is six months of age?
  • Can you confine your pet in suitable accommodation? Dogs must be safely contained to your property, and some councils also require cats to be confined to their owner's property too.
  • Do you have young children? Some types of pets tolerate children better than others.
  • Does a pet fit in with your lifestyle, activities, sporting pursuits and priorities?
  • Are you prepared to have more than one pet? Some types of animals, such as birds and rabbits, need the company of each other to stay happy and healthy.


It's important to answer these questions honestly. Becoming a pet owner is an exciting prospect, but you shouldn't rush into it if you're not ready. Tens of thousands of pets are taken to animal shelters each year because owners can't look after them anymore. While shelters do their best to find new homes for these animals, sadly, many beautiful and healthy animals have to be euthanased (put to sleep). This is because not enough homes can be found for them – and we have an 'oversupply' of pets. 


Learn more about different types of pets:

  • Try searching online for information about different types of pets.
  • Contact dog and cat associations who can put you in touch with breed clubs who can provide information on particular breeds.  It's important to know the requirements of different breeds because they can vary significantly.
  • Speak to your local vet, animal welfare shelter, or people you know or meet who own the particular pet or breed you are considering.


Why do we need to choose so carefully?

Most pets become part of our family.  Companion animals rely almost entirely on their family to meet their needs and this responsibility should not be taken lightly.   Because of this, the choice of pet needs to take into account environmental and your family lifestyle, as well as financial considerations and time constraints.


You should never buy a pet on impulse. Animal welfare shelters are constantly stocked with pets that have been bought by families who have not carefully thought about if they are really able to look after them.  Statistics from the RSPCA and Council Pounds highlight the need for us be very careful and understand clearly what the responsibilities will be before taking on a pet.


Think about size and type of pet

Very cute little puppies and kittens grow up and unless we choose carefully we might end up with a pet that doesn't suit the family.  A cute little puppy living in a home with no garden might be all right for a while but if it grows into a very large dog it could cause a big problem.  By asking to see the parents of the pet you may get a better idea of what your cute little ball of fluff will look like when it grows.  If the mother and father are very big then the pup will be too!    Remember that the bigger the pet the more room (and food!) they will need.   If big pets do not have lots of room they will need lots of exercise.   If they are bored and unhappy they can often become a nuisance and upset neighbors.

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How much time do I have to spend with a pet?

Pets love to be around us and they need us to look after them. They cannot look after themselves. If we have lots of after school activities and holidays away, our pets will probably become bored and lonely. We need to spend time with our pets everyday. They need to feel loved just like we do.

It is important that your family understands the need to spend quality time with a pet, particularly in the first six months, so that they are socilalised well and develop the behaviours you are hoping for.   This is very important when dealing with young animals, and particularly for dogs and cats so that they are sociable, friendly and easy to handle. 



Where do I purchase a pet?

After you've researched thoroughly and have decided on the type of pet that suits your family you need to find somewhere reputable to purchase it.  The last thing you need is to purchase something only to find out that it is not what you thought it was, or that it is not healthy.

It is important that you purchase from a registered domestic animal business or a responsible breeder. This includes  breeders, animal welfare shelters and Government approved cat and dog associations.  All domestic animal businesses are now legally required to be registered with the local Council, and must follow strict regulations under the Domestic (Feral and Nuisance) Animals Act 1994.  Please see our advice on finding a good breeder here.


Businesses selling pets are required by law to sell every pet with a certificate of good health, which guarantees that it has been vaccinated and wormed. This certificate protects both you as the new owner of the pet and the business that sold it to you.  If you are unsure as to whether the business is registered, ask whether they will provide you with the certificate of good health. If not find somewhere that will.  Never purchase a puppy or kitten that looks unwell.


Choosing a Pet info courtesy of Bureau of Animal Welfare