Read on if you’re interested in getting a dog or jump to information on cats.
If you’ve decided you would like to get a dog there are a number of things you ought to consider first:
Are you, as a family going to be able to provide the dog with everything it needs?
This doesn’t just mean food, water and shelter but also exercise, training, company and veterinary care, not to mention love and affection. Looking after a dog properly takes time and money. As the National Canine Defence League say ‘A Dog is for Life not just for Christmas’.
What will you do when you go on holiday or even out for the day?
Will you be able to take a dog with you or find someone to look after them, or will you be able to find a reputable boarding kennels.
Which breed do you fancy?
It’s not just a question of which breed you like, but also which breed will suit your family. You need to look into this very closely as not all breeds are suitable for all families. You need to consider what the breed was developed to do and make allowances for this e.g. guarding, herding, retrieving. A lot of behaviour problems are caused by dogs being denied their basic instincts and having to find other outlets for their behaviour. Have you got the room for a giant breed and the time to exercise a large breed? Some of the smaller breeds can be noisy and some breeds are not good with other animals such as cats and rabbits. Find out as much as you can about any breeds you are interested in before you choose by speaking to breeders, vets, other owners and trainers and meet as many as possible. Or would you rather have a cross breed or a pedigree bitser (a very old breed – bitsa this and bitsa that!!!)?
Once you have chosen your breed you need to decide whether you want a puppy or an older dog.
There are ‘fors’ and ‘againsts’ with both. A puppy can grow up with your family and learn the ground rules from the very beginning. With a puppy you have more or less got a ‘clean slate’ that you can work with. However an older dog may have some problems that you need to deal with before you can teach it anything else. But a puppy can be very time consuming with house training, socialising and the chewing stages to deal with and basic training. An older dog would most likely already have been house trained, know some basic commands and have all the necessary social skills to cope with meeting other dogs.
Next you need to decide where you will get your dog from.
If you decide to use a breeder make sure they are reputable and that you are able to see the mother with the pups and maybe the father too if they have him. Most reputable breeders will be very strict on who they allow their puppies to go to and will ask you lots of questions to check your suitability for their breed. You need to be asking about worming, hip and eye testing if applicable and any other inherited problems, insurance and feeding. You may be asked to sign a non-breeding declaration, this is done to safeguard the future of the breed. It is better to buy a puppy that has been ‘home reared’ rather than a ‘kennel reared’ one unless it has had a lot of socialisation and handling. Some breeders may have an older dog that is not suitable for breeding or showing which is available for a pet home.
Otherwise you may like to try a rehoming centre. Be a little cautious as very often dogs that are given up for rehoming are not handed over for the real reason as previous owners feel it may jeopardise their chances of getting another home. This is very misguided as a lot of the rehoming centres have very able staff who can deal with problem behaviour and provide post adoption assistance. It is better for the real problem to be known rather than the dog have a string of homes with his behaviour becoming worse each time. If you feel you are able to, adopting an older dog (7 years and older) can be very rewarding.
Another option is to look in the newspapers for any puppies or dogs who need a new home. If you are a novice owner it is advisable to get some help if you are obtaining your dog this way.
Finally, the biggest decision is what are you going to call your new dog?
Now that you’ve decided you would like to get a cat there are a number of points you should consider.
Are you going to be able to provide your cat with everything they will need?
Although a lot of people think a cat is very self sufficient but they still need a lot of time and attention from their owners. They need food, water, shelter, grooming, veterinary care and human company. This all takes time and money. Cats can often live until their late teens so it is a long commitment.
What will you do when you go on holiday?
A lot of people are happy to find someone to come in and feed their cat every day but this doesn’t give them the human company some of them love so much. You may feel happier knowing they are in a secure cattery.
What kind of cat are you going to get?
Do you want to get a pedigree or what we call a Domestic Short or Long hair otherwise known as a moggy! Some of the long hair cats need a lot of grooming to stop them getting very matted. If they do get matted they may need to come into the surgery and be clipped under general anaesthetic. Some of the pedigrees supposedly need to be contained and denied access to outdoors. There are a very few cats who are happy to stay indoors all the time but any others will need to be provided with extra stimulation and games to occupy them and provide them with the ability to practise their hunting and catching skills.
Are you going to get a kitten or an older cat?
Kittens are great fun but can get into all sorts of mischief. They will need teaching about litter training, what they can play with and what they can’t and how to relate to other cats, household pets and people. Older cats will probably already be litter trained, less destructive and will already know how they relate to others.
Are you going to be able to cope with all the ‘little friends’ your cat brings home to play?
These may be dead or alive, or even half eaten. If you are of a very squeamish nature this may not appeal to you.
Where are you going to get your cat from?
Unless you are getting a pedigree most kittens come from friends who have litters or adverts in local shops or papers. During spring and early summer there are usually plenty of litters about both locally and in rehoming centres. To avoid the number of unwanted animals about you need to be prepared to neuter your own cat. Breeders of pedigree cats will usually make sure you are aware of the needs and characteristics of their breed and are prepared to look after them correctly. You need to be asking about worming, vaccinations, feeding and grooming.
Will you let your cat have free access to outdoors?
Will you put in a cat flap, some of them have magnetic collars for the cat to stop others coming in. Another alternative is to open the door yourself for your cat or leave a window open which could be a problem for security.
Finally, the biggest decision is what are you going to call your cat?