Read this before you buy a pet

A pet is for life: It’s important to remember that pet ownership is a huge responsibility.
A pet is for life: It’s important to remember that pet ownership is a huge responsibility.

Thinking about getting a pet? You’re not alone! Australia is a nation of pet lovers, with around 62 per cent of Australian households having a pet, according to the Australian Veterinary Association.

For many of us our pet is an important part of the family and having a furry, feathered or even scaled companion is extremely rewarding.

It’s also important to remember that pet ownership is a huge responsibility, so we have put together some things to consider to help ensure the partnership between you and your new companion is off to a good start.

Whether you’re thinking of adopting a dog, cat, bird, pocket pet or something else entirely, getting a pet should never be an impulsive decision. Take your time and research the animal and even the breed you are thinking of getting, so you can be confident your choice of pet will be appropriate for your lifestyle and you are well prepared for their arrival and continued care. There are lots of great books, magazines and websites where you can easily access all this information.

First you should consider whether you are prepared to care for the animal for the rest of its life, bearing in mind that dogs can live for 12 to 18 years and cats can live up to 20 years. Working hours, a busy social life and regular trips away are all factors you need to consider before getting a pet.

Remember that all animals, no matter which one you choose, will require exercise, feeding and company, and many others will also need training, grooming, socialisation and play time.

If you live in an apartment, a smaller pet such as a rat, reptile or certain breeds of dogs might be a good choice, and if you have a big backyard you could think about getting a larger dog or some chickens, as they need daily access to the outdoors and more space to exercise.

Unless elderly or ill, all dogs should be walked at least once a day. Cats can be quite happy in apartments, too. Just make sure you check the rules with your body corporate or landlord first if you are renting.

Making sure you are aware of costs involved with pet ownership is also important. Food, worming, training, boarding, toys, vaccinations, microchipping, desexing, pet insurance, and veterinary care can add up.

If you are interested in adding a puppy or kitten to your family, why not check out the interactive RSPCA Smart Puppy and Dog Buyer’s Guide (www.rspcapuppyguide.com.au) or access the RSPCA Smart Kitten and Cat Buyer’s Guide (http://www.rspcakittenguide.com.au/) for more information.

Getting a new pet is an exciting time, so just remember to be well prepared for all aspects of pet ownership and it’s likely that both you and your pet’s lives will be better for it.