Getting a pet can be a wonderful experience. There are many advantages to having a furry new addition to your home including companionship, a reason to stay active, and if you have young children, the chance to give them a little more responsibility. But there are several things to consider before you take the plunge.
Where to buy
There are numerous options for places to pick up a new pet, including shelters or reputable breeders. If you opt to get a pet from a breeder, there are several things to consider, such as making sure you see the animal and mother in their home environment first. If you're not sure of what to look for, or what sort of questions to ask, then Dogs Trust has a useful guide that makes a good starting point. For those willing to give a home to an older dog, then a shelter is a great option, and if you have your heart set on a specific breed, many shelters have waiting lists and should be able to accommodate your needs.
Consider your needs and the needs of the pet
It's important to think about what kind of pet suits your needs and whether your lifestyle suits theirs. For example, smaller animals such as hamsters, rabbits or guinea pigs, take less space and effort than their larger counterparts. If you're keen for companionship but don't have the time for a needier pet, then a smaller animal could be ideal. Likewise, if you have children and want a pet that they can care for easily, then starting small is a good idea. You can get an idea of how a pet might fit into your family, including the benefits and what to look out for, in our Pet Effect Survey.
Getting a cat
If you're looking for a feline friend, there are several things to take into consideration. Firstly, whether you want a kitten or an older cat, and secondly, whether you want to buy from a breeder or adopt from a shelter. After that, you'll have to think about whether you'd like your cat to stay indoors, or if the area you live in is safe enough to let it roam free.
From the time it's ready to leave its mum (around seven to eight weeks) to the time it's an adult (around six months), your kitten will rely on you to shape its behaviour.
A kitten can be a little costly at first – vaccinations, neutering, microchipping and so on can all add up. There are some other investments to be made when you get your pet, too, such as a litter tray, bed and toys, as well as the regular cost of food, cat litter, vet check-ups or minor treatments (flea treatment, worming etc). You may also want to consider pet insurance. And, as kittens are curious creatures, you can expect your furniture to be used as climbing frames, chew toys and scratching posts, and there is always the risk of carpet-ruining accidents during house training.
Kittens might be cute, but an older animal can also bring a lot of joy. If you're willing to take on a fully grown cat, then a shelter will have plenty to choose from. Some will have been abandoned or mistreated, while others might have been left because of owner circumstances. Either way, giving a new home to an animal in need can be a very rewarding experience.
There are several benefits to getting an adult cat. Firstly, it's likely they will have already been vaccinated, neutered and even microchipped, so you can save on early vet fees. While your new addition might take a little time to settle in to a new routine, they will probably already be housebroken, and less likely to get their teeth and claws into your furniture. While you miss out on watching your cat grow up, older cats can still be just as much fun as kittens – and most likely considerably less demanding!
Choosing a dog breed
It might be tempting to go for whatever breed you find cutest, but when choosing a new dog you should be taking your lifestyle, time constraints and space into account, as well as the needs of your potential pooch.
Smaller dogs can be less costly, and will also need less space. If you work from home and have a large garden for example, then a dog that needs a lot of time and attention could be perfectly suitable, but if your home is less spacious, then a smaller dog would be better. There are plenty of breeds to choose from – do your research, considering the size, temperament and needs of the dog in terms of things such as exercise and grooming, or speak to breeders and owners.
We’ve created a series of guides that provide help on how to look after your four-legged friend. From exercise and nutrition to grooming, dental care and more we have the information you need.
Puppies are incredibly cute, but also a lot of work. Before picking up a new pup, think about whether you have the time to train and housebreak it, or the money to invest in obedience classes if needed. Chewing is a problem with young dogs, so your furniture, shoes and clothing could well suffer. Leaving a new puppy alone for long periods of time (more than three hours) is not advisable, so take your working situation into account. That said, watching a puppy grow and bonding with your dog from an early age can be a wonderful experience, and you'll be able to get them used to a routine and enforce behaviours early on.
As with cats, getting an adult dog will most likely spare you early expenses, such as the cost of spaying and neutering, and vaccinations. If the dog is already trained, then that's another time and money saver, although a new dog will still have to get used to a new home and routine. Remember, getting a dog is a long-term commitment – on average, they can live for around 10 to 12 years, possibly longer, so consider whether your lifestyle and circumstances are likely to change.
Whatever pet you choose, be sure to do your research. Charities and organisations, such as Dogs Trust or the RSPCA, are ready and willing to offer advice, and can help you make the right decision for you, your family and your newest bundle of joy.
Expert advice available 24/7
Vetfone™ is a 24/7 unlimited, free telephone or video call service that provides expert advice from nurses qualified with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. If your pet has a medical emergency, or you need reassurance on grooming, feeding or general advice, vetfone™ is there to help. Vetfone™ is provided at no additional cost with all Tesco Bank Pet Insurance policies.
You can call the vetfone™ freephone* number on 0800 197 4949. *Standard network charges apply. Mobiles may be higher. Please check with your operator.