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Choosing the Purrfect Pet

blog header new pets

If you’re planning on getting a new pet then there’s a whole host of things to think about first – what animal? An adult or a young one? Where from?

Choosing a new pet is about finding the perfect pet who can fit in with your lifestyle, without having to compromise on their happiness and health.

Think carefully about your environment and your daily timetable.

If there’s nobody at home during the day then do think very hard about getting a dog. Cats will probably be more willing to tolerate being left alone, but again they will miss you and shouldn’t be left for hours on end. If you have your heart set on a dog then try to think about alternative things for during the day – could a neighbour pop round to let them out and give them some attention? Or could you hire a dog walker?

If you really want a dog, but aren’t really one for long bracing walks, then think about a Greyhound or a similar breed. There’s plenty of Greyhounds at specialist rehoming centres and they only require short walks before they’ve had enough and want to return to the comfort of home! Some are even happy to live with cats.

Grooming is also a major time drain – do you have the time (or the inclination) to devote to grooming a long haired animal?

If you have young children then think about whether a large dog would be suitable – a boisterous play session could easily end up with your child getting hurt accidentally.

A young animal may be more easily accepted by existing pets, and you may find that a pet of the opposite gender is also more readily tolerated (as long as one of them is neutered, of course!).

Introducing a new pet to an existing one can be a matter akin to international diplomacy so be patient, make sure they have their own space and resources and make sure you have a structured plan in place for introductions.

Pedigree or Crossbreed?

If you’re getting a cat or a dog this is probably your first decision to make. Initially, this may come down to a question of cost, with some pedigree puppies setting you back over £1000.

If you’re interested in a particular breed then look into them – Do they have any typical breed health issues? Are they likely to be loud? Do they need hours of grooming or lots of stimulation? Are they known for being good with children?

Typically, pedigree breeds will be known – and bred- for certain personality traits as well as physical ones. But breed profiles will only tell you so much about how an individual animal turns out. Your Birman cat may prefer to be out exploring and hunting rather than being the docile indoor cat your cat guide suggested it would be! Your Labradoodle may seem to be very little Labrador or Poodle in their exuberant personality!

Remember that you will shape your pet’s behaviour and personality, especially if you get your pet when they are a puppy or kitten. This is why it’s so important to set out consistent rules and establish appropriate behaviour early-on.

A crossbreed animal may be a more reasonable price and will be more widely available. Typically, ‘moggies’ and ‘mongrels’ will be less prone to the health issues common in certain breeds. You’ll find this reflected in their cheaper insurance costs.

Getting a crossbreed can be more of a jump into the unknown personality wise as you can never be sure quite sure how they’ll turn out (although obviously good care and comprehensive socialisation should help make sure they become a happy balanced pet). However, if you have a cross-breed you’ll have a completely unique pet!

Breeder or rescue centre?

A breeder may be your first port of call if you’re looking for a pedigree animal, especially a rare breed. Find a good breeder. Visit the websites of the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) cat breed clubs, the Kennel Club Assured Breeders page or the British rabbit council’s breeders’ directory page to find reputable breeders.

Plenty of people also breed crossbreeds of every size, shape and colour under the sun. The key thing to remember is that good breeders care primarily about producing healthy animals and make the welfare of the pet their priority. Bad breeders make their wallet their priority. If you go to see a puppy or kitten and the situation feels ‘wrong’ or the animals look unhealthy then do not purchase an animal. No matter how you may feel you’re saving a pet in need, you’re probably just setting yourself up for a huge vet bill and heartbreak. Try to avoid buying a pet from an online seller unless you are sure they are a reputable source and particularly avoid sites where they might offer to swap pets for other animals or items!

The main alternative to purchasing from a breeder is to look for your new pet at a rescue centre. Our rescue centres are bursting at the seams with pets looking for a new, loving home.  Typically, rescue centres will ask for a monetary contribution when you take your pet home.

These are more often adult pets, which means that you get the opportunity to see them with a fully-formed personality and can decide whether they’re right for you. The flipside of this is that adult pets will have a history, some of which may be unknown. This can mean that your pet may have had traumatic experiences in their past which you won’t know about.

Rescue centre staff will be trained and experienced at helping match you with your perfect pet so feel free to ask them for help and guidance. Be aware that they will be reluctant to rehome a pet to a house where the animal will be alone during the day.

Rescue centres also see a surprising number of pedigree animals come through their doors. People may purchase a Dalmatian or a Jack Russell without realising how much work they’re taking on and not keep them. There are a large number of Staffordshire Bull Terriers available for rehoming. Ignore the bad press these dogs get. Dogs aren’t born bad – a responsible, caring owner will produce a good pet. There’s a very good reason why Staffies were previously known as ‘nanny’ dogs! They make terrific family pets if trained and handled correctly to harness their exuberant nature!

Exotic pets:

Remember that a number of exotic pets can live a long time – you might want that chinchilla now but they may not seem quite so much your perfect pet 20 years down the line!

If you do want an exotic pet then think carefully about what you’ll get out of having them as a pet. An animal like a snake may tolerate handling, but they won’t ever form an attachment to you like a mammal will.  You’ll have to invest plenty of time and money into making sure they have precisely the right environment and diet. The practicalities of an exotic pet are also not for the squeamish – can you handle ordering trays of dead frozen mice or live crickets through the post?

If you’re an exotic novice then consider a Leopard gecko. These little creatures are docile and are straightforward to look after in reptile terms. A corn snake is also a very good ‘entry point’ animal if you’re a beginner. Resist the urge to buy a Python, Monitor Lizard or Iguana as these have various needs or temperaments which mean they are not suitable for beginners. If you’re interested in something with 8 legs then there are various Tarantula species to consider.

Whatever exotic pet you end up getting, make you sure you research their needs thoroughly and speak to an expert regarding what would suit you and the care it needs. Also make sure you can find a local Vet who has the knowledge to deal with your specific animal. Visit a site such The Reptilian for more in-depth information on different species.

Although there are efforts to crack down on the illegal pet trade, it does still happen. If you’re suspicious about the seller of an exotic animal then contact the police. 


Pets for children:

If your child is begging you for a pet of their own and you have a small furry in mind, think carefully about what would be suitable (and whether you’re prepared to look after them if your child gets bored!).

Hamsters and chinchillas are nocturnal so make poor pets for kids. Likewise, hamsters and gerbils are small and quick so can be difficult for children to hold without squeezing them. Understandably, squeezing may result in the animal biting. Anybody who has ever been bitten by one of these little animals will be able to report back on just how indescribably painful it is!

They may not be the first thing to spring to mind as a pet, but rats can make fantastic pets. They’re smart, sociable and can form a great bond with their owner.

Also consider a guinea pig rather than a rabbit as they tend to be a little ‘sturdier’ and more able to cope with being handled. A nervous rabbit can offer up a hefty kick! 

Top tips for choosing a new pet:

  • Never get a pet on impulse.
  • Don’t have preconceived ideas – just because a dog is small, it doesn’t mean they don’t need lots of exercise for example!
  • Choose your pet to match you and your family – don’t try and force an unsuitable animal into your lifestyle.
  • Think about the financial commitment – Can you afford that vivarium set-up for your snake? What about all the food that German Shepherd might chow down on over the course of a lifetime?
  • Always use a reputable breeder if purchasing a puppy or kitten. Make sure you see them with the mother and siblings.
  • Make use of professional advice to help you.
  • Take your new pet for a check-up at the vet as soon as you get them to make they’re healthy. Here at Medivet we offer all newly registered patients a free initial health check so make sure you bring your new pet to see us! You can use our online practice finder to locate your local Medivet practice.


Posted January 3, 2014 in Pet Care Advice

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