The choosing of a new pet is a very exciting time and a big decision. If you choose the right one you will have many years of fun, love and companionship. If you choose the wrong one it will be stressful for both you and your pet. There is no one size fits all and it is important to think carefully about what you want from your pet, and what you can give it back.
What kind of pet do I want?
Dogs make great family pets, and companions for older people. The range of breeds can be slightly overwhelming, and picking the right breed can make all the difference. Some dogs are highly intelligent, working breeds (eg border collies, springer spaniels, belgian shepherds), these dogs need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation or they get very bored. When they get bored they become destructive. This is the most common reason border collies end up in rescue centres. Other dogs are more lazy (eg greyhounds) and will be quite happy with a short lead walk and then stretch out on the sofa. The critical thing is to identify the right breed for your situation. The points to think about are:
- How much exercise can I give it (everyday, not just weekends)
- What size is my house/garden
- Is there someone at home during the day or can I bring it to work
- Do I have other pets
- Are there young children about
- Do I want to spend much time grooming the dog
- Am I concerned about possible damage/dirt in the house
- How much experience do I have training dogs
If you are thinking of getting a new dog come in and talk to us at the planning stage and we will help you work out what is right for you.
Cats are intelligent, independent and amusing pets and generally require a lot less time commitment than dogs. They can also be great companions. There is less breed variation than dogs, but certain breeds do come with more demanding behaviours (e.g. bengals and siamese) – so if you are thinking of a specific breed come and have a chat with us first. If you are planning on getting a kitten, consider getting two littermates, as a playmate is very important to them and you may not fancy it being you at 4am.
Rabbits are cute and inquisitive and can be great pets. However, they are not the easiest to handle. With their very powerful back legs, they are not ideal for young children. The more you handle and interact with them the more responsive they will be. They can also be trained to use a litter tray, meaning that they can live indoors rather than in a hutch at the bottom of the garden. If you are planning on having an indoor rabbit, ensure you rabbit-proof your house first, remember they have very sharp teeth (check out www.houserabbit.co.uk).
Guinea pigs are very endearing little animals. They are very social and should be kept in groups as they get stressed when on their own.
Chinchillas are South American rodents and a critically endangered species. Their looks, soft fur and long lifespan (they can live up to 20 years) have made them popular pets.
Although many people can be squeamish about rats, they make make great children’s pets. They are very inquisitive animals and interact well with people.
Mice are a smaller version of the rats. Again they are very intelligent and engaging. Due to their small size and rapid movements, they are harder to handle. They are often best just for watching rather than stroking.
People often get hamsters as a first pet for their children. Although Syrian hamsters can be fun and engaging, they are nocturnal and so there will be limited interaction time. We would also not recommend keeping the cage in your child’s bedroom as the noise of their activity at night can be considerable.
Russian and Chinese dwarf hamsters are awake during the day. This means people often buy them for children but they are generally not friendly. They don’t respond well to handling and their teeth are very sharp.
Many people feel that when they take on a new pet they should get a rescue pet as there are so many looking for homes. This can be a great thing to do, however even more thought should go into taking on one of these as getting it wrong here could spell disaster for the pet. Often dogs end up in rescue homes because they have problems (unfortunately most of those problems have been caused by the previous owner getting an unsuitable breed of dog, or by not having the time to do appropriate training). And although these issues can often be sorted, it does take time, effort and experience. If you have the resources to help one of these animals the rewards are great, but if not it is best to start off with a pet that more easily fits into your lifestyle.
There are a lot of cats in rescue centres, these rarely have any major behavioural issues and often settle quickly into family life. It can be difficult introducing an adult can into a home with other cats, so please take advice from a vet or behaviourist before doing this, and if going ahead give enough time to see if they settle together (it will often take 2-3 weeks or more). Cats that have spent a lot of time in kennels will have had increased exposure to infectious diseases, so make sure any rescue has had a full health check before you take them on.
Rabbits and “small furries” also often end up needing new homes, so consider checking out the rescue centre before going to the petshop. They will frequently already be vaccinated and neutered too.