Pet ownership is incredibly fulfilling and sharing your life with a loyal furry friend can give you one of the best feelings in the world. But much like marriage, pet ownership comes not only with benefits but also a multitude of responsibilities. Before you get a pet, make sure you have:
Time. Pets require not only time for training, exercising, cleaning and grooming, but also need dedicated time for playing and socialising with you, and possibly other animals. Bonding time with your pet is critical for their mental well-being and making sure that they feel they are part of your family and will protect you if necessary. Playing with your pet will stop it from feeling bored and getting frustrated, which might lead to a multitude of behavioural problems.
A vision of the future. Dogs and cats can live on average 10-15 years and are not simply furniture or toys that can be replaced or thrown away. If you know you can only keep a pet for a short time, do not take in a permanent young pet but consider instead doing short-term fostering for animal shelters or taking in a very elderly pet to give him a few good last years. Or consider a hamster. If you know you will be moving in the future but still want to have a pet to take with you, make sure you microchip your pet and keep his vaccinations in order so that he is ready to travel when you are.
Money or financial aid. Owning a dog or cat can be expensive. Simple brushing and grooming routines are important for a healthy pet and a minimum of brush, nail clippers, flea & tick treatment and cleaning materials are a must. If you live in the coastal areas, you must also consider protection against heartworm. Routine veterinary check-ups yearly are necessary to ensure your pet is healthy, vaccinated, and dewormed. This is not only to ensure a healthy pet, but also to make sure you, your family, and your surroundings are not at risk for potentially deadly diseases such as rabies and some tapeworms and bacteria that your pet might be carrying. Additional unplanned veterinary visits, dental care and long-term medication must also be anticipated. If this all sounds like too much, consider a houseplant.
Done research. Personally, I prefer mixed breeds as they are generally healthier and do not normally have breed-specific diseases. Additionally, I am a huge champion of animal shelters and adoption and I strongly recommend adopting animals from reputable animal shelters like the KSPCA. But I do understand that people might want to have a specific breed that suits their circumstances and use a specific breeder with a known history. If this is the case, do your research! Different breeds have different characteristics and positives and negatives. But just because a breed normally presents in a certain manner, each animal is always an individual. Once you have decided on a breed (or mix), carefully consider your purchasing options. Yes, you can probably get an animal cheaply by the side of the road, but please be aware that buying from these illegal vendors means that you are contributing to puppy mills where animals are kept in appalling conditions, bred constantly in small cages, and normally are in poor health, unvaccinated and inbred – or possibly even stolen. Even if you decide to buy from a reputable breeder, ask questions and inspect the facilities before you make your decision as you do not want to support breeders who do not have the best welfare of the animals in mind. Take the time to visit the breeding area to confirm that the animals are well kept and looked after, have been vaccinated and treated by a registered vet and have only had a maximum of 4 litters. The East African Kennel Club keeps a list of breeders that have fulfilled the requirements and follow good breeding practices.
Space. Whilst it is acceptable to raise dogs in apartment buildings, you must have access to space (and time), to allow them to walk, run and play daily. Confining animals in small cages apart for a very brief time is never acceptable. If you live in a confined indoor space, regular daily walks are a must, and it is good to start leash training from an early age so that your dog is safe and under control during your walks. If you don’t have the space, consider a goldfish instead.
Supplies. Nutritious food, a few treats for bonding sessions and training, a safe and comfortable sleeping area, litter tray for a cat and food & water bowls are all supplies that should be purchased and arranged beforehand. When picking up your new pet, you should have a leash or carrying crate with you. Once your pet is settled, consider purchasing toys and other fun items. In addition to food and shelter, you must always consider positive mental stimulation and entertainment for your pet.
Respect for animal welfare. Dogs and cats are very social animals and dependent on their owners. All animals should be kept with the 5 animal freedoms in mind:
Freedom from hunger and thirst
Freedom from discomfort
Freedom from pain, injury or disease
Freedom to express normal behaviour
Freedom from fear and distress
If you feel confident that you have all the above, please do visit us at the KSPCA to find your next furry family member!
Article by: Dr. Laura Wessman