Which pet should I get?
A question I am asked regularly is: “How do I know which pet should I get?”
I am always pleased that people are thinking about this decision rather than making an impulse purchase. Pets are a wonderful addition to home life, and give back greatly with their love and affection. But there are certainly things to consider before taking the plunge into animal ownership.
First, animals are luxury items and come with a lot of associated costs after the initial purchase price. Even something as simple as a fish will have added expenses to be considered. Make sure you have looked at exactly what your pet will cost you week by week, also factoring in any potentially costly emergency care that may be required at short notice. Budgeting ahead of time will help you to offset issues quickly should they arise.
Next, I look at the amount of free time available to devote to your new pet. Are you a leisurely walker looking for a companion dog to stroll through the leafy trails with? Or are you a runner who likes a faster pace and daily exercise, someone who needs a more athletic pup?
Consider how many hours a day you are at home and free to attend to your pet. Can you leave work at lunchtime to let them out and have a run and stretch their legs? If not, do you have a reliable neighbour or friend who could help you out? Some of the happiest pets I see have multiple carers who stop by to break up the day. Retired people, who don’t want the commitment of a full-time animal but have a lot of love to offer part-time, can make excellent fur baby grandparents.
If it’s a companion you are looking for but you have less time to commit, or less energy for walks, a cat may be more suitable. Cats are very independent creatures which can be left for hours at a time without human interaction — they often prefer it that way.
My own two cats barely move from their sleeping spot while I’m out, and pay me little mind at all until it’s feeding time. They do, however, give a great deal back in companionship, coming for a cuddle at night, and I can’t imagine living without them.
Another thing to think about is the age of any children in the home. Studies have shown that living with animals as a young child may improve immunity to disease, but choosing the right pet for your child needs thought. My kids have two guinea pigs, which they love dearly but, despite my protests, the daily task of clean out mostly falls to me. I even gave them a bath the other day. Did you know guinea pigs love to swim? (Google it, it’s quite entertaining.)
Then there are the long-term implications. Dogs and cats can live for upwards of fifteen years, horses more like thirty and parrots and tortoises, fifty-five or more. You must make adequate provision for the entire life of the pet, however long that may be.
Pet ownership is a wonderful thing when carefully considered and planned for, and asking advice from your vet before you take the plunge can certainly help to prepare you for what’s to come. A little pre-purchase research can go a long way when making the decision to take on an animal.
• Lucy Richardson graduated from Edinburgh University in 2005. She started CedarTree Vets in August 2012 with her husband, Mark. They live at the practice with their two children, Ray and Stella, and their dog, two cats and two guinea pigs. Dr Lucy is also the FEI national head veterinarian for Bermuda