Want to get a pet?
Awww…that cute little puppy in the pet shop will be perfect in your new home, right? You can snuggle up together and get them their own little collar and bowl and a soft cosy bed…
Whoa! Don’t EVER buy a pet on impulse. Lots of animals get dumped back on parents or at the pound, where they can get lethal injections, sometimes in less a week. Is that fair?
A pet is really hard work, plus messy and not-to-mention super-expensive. Pets need full-time care and are a nightmare for renters. Do you really want to take that on? My advice? Avoid pet shops, avoid the pound and avoid animal classifieds until you’re stable, loaded with cash and sure you’re good and ready to forgo travel, nights out and extra time spent on looking after a pet (plus any damage they cause).
From my first stray kitten at school – [Phone call: “Mum, I’ve found the cutest little kitten…” “You are not to bring that cat home!” “Ok.” Hang up. “Yep, she says it’s fine to take him.”] – to my current 4 rescue dogs and cat, I’ve always found pets needing homes.
Each individual animal takes hard work AND is expensive, especially if unexpected things happen – like when Scruffy got mauled by a big dog (cost $800) and Mrrrow got run over ($1500…yep, $1500 – try paying that off with a student loan).
Rules, rules and more rules…
In Australia, for example, dogs and cats need to be micro-chipped and registered with your local council, and you’ll need to update your details anytime you move or change your phone number; dogs also have to be safely contained or secured on the back of vehicles (with a collar and chain or rope, or a restraint – be careful, if it’s too long it can choke your dog if it slips) and a bunch of other rules apply, which can differ from council to council.
The best thing to do is ask your vet or local council pound what other rules apply to you, like if you need to put an identifying collar on your pet or other rules that might apply, for example to restraining or enclosing them.
Vaccinations and check-ups are expensive but essential. Plus, you’ll DEFINITELY run into unexpected costs more than once.
Vet visits can cost several pay cheques. And the costs run up with accidents and illness. You could get pet insurance but that also costs money.
Basically, pets suck up cash – say goodbye to beers or that new pair of heels.
In Australia, for example, rabbits are illegal in Queensland but ok in NSW – ask your local council or vet for info on your area.
Lots of snakes and reptiles are protected or banned, so if you want an exotic pet, you’d better do your research or you could get a fine (or, worse, create a massive problem for the environment and native animals).
It’s also usually illegal to keep native birds without a licence (or a Wires qualification in Australia), so if you find a sick or injured bird it’s best to call your local wildlife rescue organisation or vet for advice.
Still considering a dog or cat?
- If you don’t want them to get sick and die, they need lots of de-worming – at 2,4,6,8, and 12 weeks of age, then monthly until they’re 6 months old, then every three months! Also, three vaccinations in their first year, then more shots and a check-up every year (that’s for life).
- De-sexing is done in the first few months before they are old enough to breed (and it’s a myth that de-sexing makes animals fat or changes their personality, it just stops them running away to breed, fighting, etc – isn’t there enough live trash at council pounds without you adding to it?).
- Dogs and cats need regular flea treatments or they can infest your house – yuck – plus flea allergy dermatitis is common and very painful and stressful for your pet, causing scratching, biting and pulling their fur out. This means bathing, oral meds or a spot-on or other topical treatment. Hard work and/or expensive.
- They’ll need toilet-training and/or clean litter (eeew to this job). Plus you’ll need to pick up and dispose of poo from your yard or while out walking, and will need to do this as long as you have your pet!
- Pets need a comfortable place to rest; fresh water each day; the right amount and type of food in a clean bowl and toys for playtime.
- Young animals need more protein and fat than older ones. You can buy specialised baby animal food and milk from the supermarket, vet or pet shop.
What about fish?
Fish are quite low-maintenance, but people manage to kill them. They need enough space (not a mini bowl), a non-toxic environment and the right amount of food. Aquatic plants help oxygenate the water plus fish can eat them and/or you can get a filter. Don’t over-feed them, keep their water cool and clean (unless you have tropical fish, eg. bettas, which need warmer water), plus use a water-aging product when adding water.
Birds need fresh water, fresh foods and some seeds (only part of their diet) – plus cuttlefish or shell grit for some. Their environment should be clean, not too hot or cold, with different-sized perches and toys or plants. They need a house or covered part, and some cage-free time if you don’t have a big aviary.
Snakes, lizards and turtles: if you’ve got a licence for one you’ll need to provide fresh water and a suitable enclosure, with regular temperature and pH checks, waste removed, and other things, like specific lighting. Reptiles have other specific needs too – snakes need humidity to shed skin, for example, and turtles need a good filter, heater, direct UV light plus somewhere to get out of the water (and they don’t like handling).
Rabbits, guinea pigs, rats and mice need a safe, clean enclosure, fresh water, dried and fresh food and things to chew (like cardboard, wood and toys). They’re easily heat-stressed and need shade and cold water on hot days (plus cover and insulation for cold).They eat mainly grass and grass hay (rabbits and guinea pigs), pellets, fresh vegies, fruit only as a treat (it makes them fat) plus table scraps for rats and mice.
- Pets often go crazy for leftovers, but cooked bones can splinter internally and cause a slow, painful death, even for big dogs. Not worth the risk.
- Chocolate, honey and grapes are toxic to dogs (and weirdly enough, they often love them), and so are onion and garlic in large amounts (so giving Fido leftover pizza isn’t a great idea).
- Cats also shouldn’t have chocolate or grapes.
- Iceberg lettuce can actually cause fatal diarrhoea in rabbits, guinea pigs and other rodents (who knew?); celery strings can choke them, and potatoes, rhubarb and avocados are toxic to them.