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Choosing the Right Pet for You

Knowing just what you are taking on when it comes to choosing a pet is the key to harmony and happiness for both animal and owner.

Dogs that are too lively, rabbits that don’t clean out their own hutches and fish that aren’t friendly can make disastrous pets for the those looking for serenity, cleanliness or love.
If, however, those characteristics are exactly what you have been looking for in a companion, you and your pet may have a long and very happy life together.

At rescue centres around the country, the results of inappropriate pairings are all too apparent.
A local shelter once had someone bring in their cats to be rehomed because they had acquired new furniture and the cats’ colourings didn’t match. Another owner gave up their rabbit during a particularly rainy winter because she was fed up of getting wet every day when she went to feed it. And if rescue shelters had a donation for every animal that came in because it shed too much hair, they would never have to fundraise again.

Of course, humans never make a mistake and it is really the fault of the animals for being so cute and cuddly in the first place, especially when they are young. They encourage people to take them home without thinking and they worm their way into children’s’ hearts making it very difficult for their parents to say no.

To avoid this unfortunate seduction, and before you go anywhere near a place that is likely to have pets for sale or adoption, take yourself and your family in hand and do some thinking.

It may help to make some lists. Write down all the things you want from a pet and then all the things you can offer it.

Once you have done this, compare your lists against the qualities of the pet you are considering. Get books from the library and find out what they need to thrive and be happy. If your expectations and the pet’s requirements match exactly, there is a good chance of success. If you don’t match on critical issues, look for something else.

If you want love and companionship, go for species that are more sociable by nature.
Dogs, gerbils, rats and guinea pigs are on this list. Reptiles, hamsters, most birds and fish are not.

If you want beauty, just about any animal counts, but don’t forget to meet all their needs too.

Each animal will have a range of species specific requirements and it is important to ensure that you are not only able, but willing to meet them.

Anything that has to be done for your pet,
which you do not enjoy doing, soon becomes a chore...
and chores rapidly begin to outweigh
the benefit of keeping the pet in the first place.

One final ingredient for success is knowledge. You may already have some insights on how to care for your new pet from those kept in the past, but it won’t hurt to brush up on the facts from books, enthusiasts or the veterinary profession.

Acquiring this knowledge in advance of getting the pet will not only make for a smooth introduction, but will also help you see through any romantic images you have of you and your pet together so that you can focus on reality.

Once you have decided whether you will go for a gerbil, cat or pot-bellied pig, the next thing to do is find one.

Rather than reaching for the local paper, why not try your local rescue centre first?
These will be listed in phone directories or you may find adverts at your local vet or pet shop. Rescue centres with well-trained staff will help you with your choice and will confirm whether you are making a good decision or help you make a different choice.

Visiting the rescue centre will also give you a chance to interact with the type of animals you are interested in. This will allow you to discover if you really do like them, or if there are other problems, such as you or your children being allergic or frightened of them.

If you have your heart set on a pedigree dog or cat, contact The Kennel Club who have a directory of breed rescues & pedigree breeders, or the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy for lists of breeders. Dog Rescue Pages has a comprehensive list of UK Breed Rescues:

Veterinary surgeries, animal feed suppliers, pet shops and local papers will all have adverts for pets, but you need to be very sure before you go and see an animal.

Just going there can put so much pressure on you to take it home, especially if you take the children with you, that all caution can be thrown to the wind.

Be particularly wary of people whose only interest seems to be in making money from the sale, and be prepared to patiently withstand the inquisition of someone who genuinely wants to find the best homes for their animals.

Finally, before acquiring your new pet, consider what will happen to it when you go to work, away for the weekend or on holiday.
Thinking this through can save you feeling trapped by your pet and loosing your sense of freedom to do as you please.
Consider carefully before making the leap and both you and your pet can have the best chance of a long, happy life together.

A pet is for life, not just until the novelty wears off

What do you want from your pet?
Companionship, cuddles, unconditional love, exercise, protection, cleanliness, loyalty, beauty.

What you can offer a pet?
Love and companionship, space (how much?), access to the outdoors, good food and clean water, access to veterinary care, time (be honest), exercise (be very honest!).

Most common pets:
Guinea pigs
Rats, hamsters, gerbils

Unusual pets:
Pot-bellied pigs

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The Rescue Dog/ Adopt the Perfect Dog by Gwen Bailey
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Good Dog Behaviour/The Well Behaved Dog by Gwen Bailey
The Puppy Handbook/ The Ideal Puppy by Gwen Bailey