Whether dogs, cats or even rabbits it is important to realise that taking on a pet is a lifelong commitment, says Auckland SPCA spokesman Bob Kerridge.
Choosing a pet should be a family decision
"Its a good thing if a family talks about it together and they work on the basis that if they get the puppy or kitten, the child would have to play their part in being responsible," Kerridge says.
"If it is a big dog, that they would take it for a walk, feed it and make sure it is fed, always has water all the things that animals need. Parents need to tell their children that they are a part of that process."
Once the family has talked it through, they would then need to look at their circumstances. If for example you are planning on getting a puppy or a dog, the size of the dog would matter.
A bigger dog would need more space and would need to be walked once or possibly twice a day.
"Walking the dog for example would have to be a part of the family's routine and it would be important to look at whether the pet would fit into the family pattern."
While cats are more adaptable to their environments, it is still important to make sure that if you go away someone is able to look after them.
Pets are good for kids.
"We certainly encourage families with children to have animals and to put the child in charge of looking after the animal," says Kerridge.
"As an early lesson in life, learning to look after someone or something else in the form of an animal is a very good lesson, it teaches responsibility and it teaches them that there are other people who matter besides themselves."
If your child is dead-set on having a dog and is nagging you for a puppy, but you aren't sure if they are ready for such a big commitment, it might be worth looking at getting a budgie, or a gold fish first. If they can learn to take care of their smaller pet and can demonstrate they are responsible, them look at adopting a more high-maintenance pet.
It is important to take into account the breed of dog before you adopt and see if the breed is well suited to your family. If you have a two-year-old for example, a very big dog might not be the best choice.
"I would advise people do some reading up on different breeds before making a decision," says Kerridge.
Dog training, especially if you are getting a puppy is also a good idea.
"From the start, the dog needs to know where its place is in the family so to speak. You are their pack leader, one in the family will do this, and it could be the mother or the father. But it is important for the leader to extract the best behaviour from the dog that they can."
Remember to think of the practicalities
Shelly Turner, a Wellington pet dog owner and volunteer dog trainer Turner says it is important to institute a routine with your new pet.
"Any dog of any age will need time to adjust and get acquainted with its new family and surroundings. The holiday season provides a unique opportunity at that time of year to devote the time to being able to settle a new member of the family in," she says.
Some questions to ask yourself, before adopting
If you can answer yes to the following six questions than your family might be ready to adopt.
1. Can you care for a pet for its whole life?
The average lifespan of dogs and cats is around 12 years, with some dogs and cats living until 15 or even 20 years of age. While puppies and kittens are irresistibly adorable, you will need to be prepared to provide for an adult animal too and, in the case of some dog breeds, a much larger animal with considerable exercise requirements and a sizable appetite.
2. Can you afford a pet?
All the animals the SPCA has available for adoption have been vaccinated, micro chipped, and de-sexed but you will need to think about ongoing costs like food, toys, bedding, worming, annual health checks, vet bills, and other costs for the life of the animal. The costs of pet ownership will vary depending on the type of animal you choose. The cost of caring for an average sized dog can be $20+ a week, and this does not include any emergency vet care they may need.
3. Do you know how to care for a pet?
As a pet owner it is your responsibility to know how to properly care for your animals.
4. Do you have time to care for a pet?
Exercise, grooming, obedience, and play are important aspects of pet ownership. Some pets will demand more of your time than others. Puppies and kittens are a huge time investment - you will need to ensure that they settle into your house comfortably, are house trained, learn obedience, and are fed, walked, and taken to the vet when necessary. Adult animals are no less work. You will need to set aside time to exercise, groom, and play with your pet for its entire lifetime.
5. Is your home suitable for a pet?
Carefully consider the kind of accommodation you will be able to provide for your pet. Your home and garden size are significant factors in determining your suitability as a pet owner. If you live in a rented property think carefully before committing yourself to a pet. While some landlords allow pets, many do not. The SPCA sees a lot of dogs brought in because the owners are unable to find a dog-friendly place to rent.
6. Will a pet fit into your lifestyle?
Working hours, a busy social life and taking regular trips away are all factors you need to consider before adopting a pet. Companion animals like dogs and cats thrive on human company and will always depend on you - you must be sure that your lifestyle will accommodate them. Before you adopt a pet consider their specific requirements:
- Are you prepared to walk your dog every day?
- Are you home often enough to keep your cat company?
- Do you have time to give your puppy or kitten the basic training it needs?
- Who will care for your pet when you are away from home?
Pets aren’t gifts
The SPCA occasionally gets cats and dogs dumped on them after people are given pets they don’t want.
"It does happen if people have given someone a pet as a present, for example, buying nana a pet cat to keep her company, a cat she may not want," he explains.
"If you are thinking of giving someone an animal, the first thing you should do is consult with them that they want it and make sure they are with you when the animal is chosen."
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