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New Pet Guide

Pete Wedderburn
12th March 2020 - 8 min read

Choosing a Pet

Choosing a pet is a big decision. When you buy a pet, you buy a living being that cannot look after itself without your help.

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You must accept the responsibility of ensuring that your pet is fed, housed and cared for properly every day for the rest of its life. If you do not look after the pet properly, it may suffer discomfort, hunger, and disease.

It is very important to be certain at the beginning that you are willing and able to ensure that your pet remains happy and healthy.

Once you have made that commitment, the main questions to be answered are:

  • What type of animal would be best for me?
  • Where is the best place to obtain an animal?
  • How do I choose an individual animal from a group?

Best Suited Animal

What type of animal would be best for me?

There are many different types of animals that can be kept as pets. They vary in several ways:      

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Pets vary in size from a mouse to a Great Dane

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Pets differ in temperament from a harmless little goldfish to a snappy, domineering dog

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Pets range in cost from  a free kitten to a cage bird which can cost €1000.

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Pets have different housing needs, from a simple tank of water for a goldfish to a large enclosed garden for some dogs.  

Do Your Research

You may already think you know what pet you’d like. But first, you should learn as much as you can about that type of pet. Then you won’t discover that you made the wrong choice when it’s too late.

If you are not sure about the type of pet that is right for you, Petfix will give you some very good ideas, then you can choose an animal that will become an important part of your family.

Seeing a real pet in a real-life situation is important. You could talk to someone who already has the type of pet you would like. Visit their home, and ask about the good and bad aspects of looking after the animal. For starters go to the Petfix Community and look for discussions involving the type of pet that you are thinking about.

Next, you should think about things like this when choosing a pet:

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How much space do we have for our pet?

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How much time do we have for our pet?

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How much money can we spend on our pet – both buying the pet, and paying for its feeding and health care?

Different pets for Different Families

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Different kinds of pets are better in different families. Think about situations like these before you buy a pet.

a) A family of  two adults, three children, living in the middle of a city, in a house with no garden. Both parents work, and the children travel to school and are out from 8.00am to 6.00pm.

  • There is neither enough time nor space for larger pets. This sort of situation is fine for fish, or small caged mammals. It would not be advisable to keep dogs in this sort of environment. Cats can be kept in cities, and do not need to go outside at all – they will use a litter tray all the time. If everybody in the house is out all day, you should consider getting two kittens so that they will keep each other company.
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b) A family of two adults, three children, living in a three bedroomed house with a very small garden in a housing estate. Only one parent works, and the other looks after the home. The children go to a local school and so are always home by 3.30pm.

  • As well as cage birds, fish and small mammals, it would be acceptable to keep cats or small dogs. It would not be sensible to get a very energetic large dog such as a Siberian Husky, since they might become frustrated with the lack of living space.
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c) A family of one adult, two children, living in a big house with a large garden in the country. The adult works from home, and the children go to a local school.

  • Any sort of pet could be kept in this situation. The combination of adult at home all day, and children available from late afternoon, means that there should be time to give any animal the attention it needs. The large house and the big garden should provide enough space for even the biggest of dog breeds. However, it would be important to consider the high cost of feeding and looking after a big breed of dog before making such a decision.
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Best Place to Buy

Where is the best place to obtain an animal?

There are a number of different sources of pet animals.

Pet Shops

A good pet shop may be the best place to obtain fish, birds, reptiles and caged mammals. You can also buy much of the necessary equipment for the pet at the same time (such as cages, tanks, food and toys.)

Good pet shops often have a wide range of healthy animals, and you can choose  your favourite one from the group. Before buying a pet, you should check to make sure that all of the animals in the shop look bright and healthy. They should have fresh food and water available in their cages. The water in an aquarium should look clean. The staff should be able to easily answer your questions about feeding and looking after the animal. These are all signs that the pet shop is well organised and properly run, and that they care about the health and happiness of their animals.

Although some pet shops mmay sell dogs and cats, it is far better to obtain these directly from their place of birth, either from a professional or an amateur breeder. 

Professional Breeders

Breeding animals is a serious hobby for some people, who may be called ‘professional breeders’. Different people breed all types of animals, from snakes and lizards to cats and dogs to budgies and rabbits. Professional breeders may keep one or more breeding pairs, and they produce young animals for sale on a regular basis. They may sell their young animals through pet shops, but it is generally better to buy from them directly.  Many professional breeders advertise their young animals through online adverts, and they may also be contacted through various clubs and societies (e.g. Pet Bond or the Irish Kennel Club).

It is probably best to find a good breeder by word of mouth – ask somebody you know where they obtained their pet. In any case, you should always visit the home of the breeder, to ensure that the animals are kept in good conditions. Once again, you should ask the person selling the animal about basic good animal care. A good breeder will often be an expert on his own type of animal.

Amateur Breeders

Some pet owners choose to allow their pets to have one or two litters of young (or this may happen by accident). Such people are known as ‘amateur breeders’. They may advertise their young animals through friends, through signs in local shops or on the internet via social media or specific buy and sell websites. Amateur breeders often produce very healthy young animals. They are unlikely to have the experience of professional breeders, so they may not be able to give you the same advice about pet care. Once again, it is important to visit the young animal at home to ensure that its background is happy and healthy.

Animal Rescue Organisations

People often feel that they would like to give a new life to an abandoned or unwanted animal, and there are many animals needing homes these days. Usually only dogs and cats are rehomed in this way but other types of pets may also be available. It is important that people do give homes to these animals – otherwise the only alternative may be euthanasia.

This is the best way for most people to find a dog or a cat: the staff at the animal rescue centre are experienced and knowledgeable, and they can do a good job of matching you to the right animal. It’s also often good value: you pay an adoption fee (perhaps €150 or so) but your new pet will often be vaccinated, wormed, microchipped and spay/neutered, so you don’t need to pay these costs yourself.

Once again, it is important to visit the organisation, to ensure that the all of the animals under their care are healthy and well cared for.

Choosing Pets from a Group

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How do I choose an individual animal from a group?

Wherever you go to pick up your new pet, you will often be allowed to choose your favourite animal from a group. There are certain guidelines you should follow when doing this.

a) Always ask if you can meet the parents (or at least the mother) of the animals. Many characteristics (e.g. temperament) are at least partly inherited. If a bitch is frightened of strangers and snappy, her offspring may also have this tendency. If the parents are good natured healthy animals, then their offspring are more likely to be this way too.

b) Choose an animal which is bright, cheerful, healthy and active. Do not choose a weak, sickly looking creature because you feel sorry for it. However, this does not mean that you must choose the biggest, bounciest member of the group. You may find that this one might be too difficult to discipline and train.

c) Look for an animal that you like, and that seems to like you too. Often it seems as if there is a natural pairing of some kind, and it’s hard to explain how this happens. To some extent, you need to follow your intuition when choosing the pet that seems to suit you best.

Important Tips

As soon as you have obtained your new pet, you may immediately have questions and worries. Suddenly, another creature’s life is completely dependent on you.

It’s often useful for you to call into your local vet with the animal as soon as it’s convenient. The vet will be able to check the new animal over to ensure that it is healthy. He/she will also be able to answer any questions you may have about looking after the pet. It’s also useful to be registered with your local vet, so that in case of any urgent situation, they already have your details.

If you suspect that your pet is ill in any way, visit the Petfix Advice Section. If you are seriously worried about your pet for any reason, remember that your local vet is always there to give you hands-on help. All vets provide a 24 hour service, so if your pet falls seriously ill at any time of day or night, you will be able to find help.