One of our nurses is considering buying a new car and has been asking us all about the pros and cons of the cars we drive. She needs one that can accommodate her growing family and her dog, be reliable and doesn’t cost too much for her to insure, tax or repair. Now that she’s narrowed her list down, she can trawl through the internet to check prices and spend her days off wandering around car dealerships. What she’s not going to do is buy one based on its colour or the number of cup holders it has (always top of my list). The whole process is going to take several months as it is a significant financial investment.
So why is it, when a pet that can be with us for 10 or more years, over its lifetime can cost many thousands of pounds and in which we invest so much emotion, is often bought with no forethought? In this time of "we see, we want, we get", ownership of a pet is influenced by a fashionable celebrity, a film, or worse, a toilet paper advert.
The initial outlay for buying a pet is often small compared with the ongoing expenses needed to keep it healthy and happy and if we consider the overall care needed for an animal hopefully, we will be better prepared for any hiccups mother nature throws our way.
The first step is to check which type of animal is right for you and your family circumstances. Have you got the right amount of space to house and exercise your pet? A garden, a local exercise area and time to walk and play with a dog are vital. A cat is probably more suitable if you can’t provide these things. Many parents get rabbits or guinea pigs to engage their children in animal care, but if their children are young and become bored of this, their pet gets no companionship at all, so consider your needs, not just those of your children.
What about the breed of animal? For many of us, Heinz 57 dogs and cats are wonderful pets and their personalities are just as varied, but if you are after a certain breed you must do your research before buying - not after. The first consideration must be does the breed suit your lifestyle? If you are energetic and want a dog to come running with you, a Pekinese will not cut the mustard. Many breeds have inherited conditions such as hip dysplasia, or the breathing problems we are so aware of in the flat faced breeds of dog such as French Bulldogs and Pugs. These can cost thousands of pounds to treat and responsible breeders are trying to eliminate these from the breed lines. Cats can be infected with viral diseases some of which can be lethal and others that stay in the body lifelong. Again, the best breeders will have tested their cats ensuring their animals are as healthy as they can be.
Always find a responsible breeder, visit the litter before they go to new homes and ask lots of questions about their care and health. Insist on seeing the litter’s parents to judge their health and temperament and walk away if you’re not completely sure.
So, take your time, research, research, research, and spend your money wisely. Caveat emptor!