Adding a pet to your family can be a very rewarding experience, but what do you need to think about before you take the plunge? Preparation is key to ensure a smooth transition and set you up for many years of happiness and health with your new pet.
Always carry out as much research as you can before getting a pet. This covers a huge amount of information that you'll need to know to become a responsible pet owner! The breed is a good starting point for most pets, as this can tell you a lot about an animal's needs including the amount of exercise they'll need, how much they'll eat, if they need regular grooming, how big their accommodation will need to be, what sort of behavioural traits to expect etc. It's very important to make sure you find the right breed for you! Animals are complex creatures, and they all have different needs that they will be relying on you to fulfil.
There is so much information available for new pet owners so make the most of it! The RSPCA website has fact sheets about various pets that tell you what you need to consider, and our blogs also contain information about general pet care. Books, leaflets and website all contain useful hints and tips.
If you're adopting an animal from a rescue centre, make sure you speak to the animal care staff about the individual so you can prepare for them. Staff will be able to tell you more about their diet and behavioural traits so you can make sure you are ready to take this pet on. Please also consider that staff will be able to tell you about behavioural observations about animals as they behave in the rescue centre, but this won't always be the same as in a home. They also have a good knowledge of breeds and spend a lot of time with the animals they are rehoming so they will be able to explain to you about age restrictions or other limitations - they will be for the welfare of the animal and the safety of adopters.
If you are buying a pet from a breeder, make sure you research the breeder and always look at the parents of the animal you are taking.
Before taking on a pet, consider the following...
Time: do you have enough time to care for a pet? Different pets will require various amounts of time from you but you'll be caring for the animal every day for the rest of it's life. Do you have the time to spare to walk a dog at least twice a day? Or groom a long haired cat in the evening?
Cost: pets are expensive! As well as the initial cost of an animal (an adoption fee or cost from a breeder), you'll need to think about ongoing costs that you'll be paying for the next few years. Your pet will need food and water every day, flea and worm treatments/flystrike treatment every month and vaccinations every year. Have you also considered the cost of boarding a pet if you go on holiday? And how much it will cost to provide your pet with all the accessories and accommodation they'll need? What about insurance, neutering, microchipping and unexpected vet bills?
Energy: make sure you also have enough energy for the type of pet you want. A high energy young dog will need plenty of walks and play time to keep them happy, and you'll need to make sure they get this. A bigger rabbit will weigh far more than a smaller one - would you be okay lifting them into their run and out again? A breed with more genetic health issues is going to need plenty of trips to the vet for check ups.
Responsibility: a pet is for life. This means that you need to ensure you are in a stable position to take on an animal. Many animals arrive at rescue centres as their owners are moving house or having a new baby - part of responsible pet ownership is planning ahead to ensure you can always care for your pet.
Finding a pet
If you are ready to find a pet and want to know where to look, why not consider adopting? Take a look at our adoption pages or the RSPCA Find a Pet feature and you might just find your new best friend!