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Our Favourite Advice When Choosing a Family Pet

They may be cute and fluffy, but choosing a family pet is serious business. Pets are a long term commitment, and this advice will help you decide whether you're ready to make it


As the saying goes: A pet is for life, not just for Christmas! Sadly, this is not always the case. Choosing a pet means making a commitment not just to love and cuddle your new pet, but also to feed it, take care of it, and pay for its upkeep and vet bills.

Advice When Choosing a Family PetThe People's Dispensary for Sick Animals, (PDSA), who has been treating pets for 97 years, treats over 7,400 puppies and kittens every year.

"Getting a pet is not a decision to be taken lightly. Pets take time, commitment, energy, emotion and significant financial investment. Did you know that it costs between £16,000 and £31,000* to look after a dog over the course of its lifetime? That kind of financial commitment requires some careful consideration" says Elaine Pendlebury, Senior Vet for PDSA.

We asked Elaine for some advice for families who are thinking about getting a pet, and how to discover which type of pet is right for your family.

Consider your lifestyle before getting a family pet

Are you capable of taking on the responsibility of a pet? Try answering the questions on PDSA's website, which asks you about the four main factors in being suited to your pet.

Use 'P.E.T.S' to help you decide whether to get a pet or not:

  • Place - is the place where you live suitable for a pet?
  • Exercise - how much exercise could you give your pet?
  • Time - how much time could you spend with your pet?
  • Spend - could you afford the lifetime expense of your preferred pet?

Advice When Choosing a Family PetThink about the animal's welfare

  • Do you have a suitable place for them to live? 
  • Will they have a good diet? 
  • Can they express normal behaviour? 
  • Will they have the appropriate companionship? 
  • Are they going to be kept in good health? 

It's important to remember that it's a legal requirement for the pet owner to answer "yes" to all of these questions. 

Looking after a family pet

There are number of things you need to make sure that your pet has a happy and healthy existence as an addition to your family.

Keeping your pet safe

  • Make sure they are vaccinated, micro chipped and flea-treated, and receive veterinary treatment when needed

  • Your pet should also be safe in the home; it will take some time for your family to live in harmony with the pet, but the achievement will be rewarding
  • Puppies and kittens should be socialised with children during the animal's first few months of life, but remember even socialised pets should never be left unsupervised with children
  • Teach your children how to deal with the pet, for example: not disturbing them when sleeping and eating, not pulling their tails or ears, and how to approach them.
  • By interacting with your pets gently and sympathetically - and discussing their needs with your children - both pets and children alike should benefit from the experience.

Further information

Advice When Choosing a Family Pet

You can read more pet care tips from PDSA.

* Figures taken from PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) report 2012.

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