There comes a time when many parents succumb to the persistent pleading of ‘Mummy, Daddy, can we pleeeease get a dog/cat/rabbit/hamster, etc, etc!’ A pet can be a wonderful addition to any family, but deciding which pet is right for your family, your home and your lifestyle requires a lot of forethought and research. Impulse buying an animal could be a huge mistake and it’s important to remember that the pets that children most want won’t necessarily be the right match for your family. Here are a few pet pros and cons to keep in mind when choosing a new family pet.
Dogs – The UK’s most popular pet, dogs are characteristically loyal, loving, intelligent and obedient. They are, however, a huge commitment and need a lot of your time – from walking, feeding, grooming, attention and affection. They often hate being left alone for long periods of time. There are a huge variety of dogs, from small, medium to larger breeds, which all have different attributes to consider. Labradors and Golden Retrievers, for example, are some of the most gentle breeds and are very popular with families, whereas some of the smallest dogs may be too fragile, especially around smaller children. Big dogs often take the most feeding and walking. It’s vital to consider how you will fit in time for walks (at least one a day but ideally more) and if you may need to budget for a dog walker to help if you will be out at work all day. Costs can also build when you consider food, toys and vet bills – it is very sensible to take out pet insurance for dogs. All dogs will benefit from access to a garden or outdoor space, but smaller to medium dogs may also be suited for city living in a flat, provided they get taken to the nearest park often. If your family is ready for the commitment, dogs can be very rewarding pets to have and kids will have lots of fun playing fetch and teaching tricks – they also help to keep you fit and get kids outdoors more.
Cats – Closely followed by dogs, Cats are our second most favorite pet in the UK. Cats are famously independent compared to dogs, but get a cat with the right temperament and they can be just as cuddly. Ideally, you want to live in an area that is safe enough to let a cat out on it’s own to roam about, so keep in mind traffic levels and how much immediate outdoor space they will have access to. For this reason, it is harder to have a cat in a city – just think of how many missing cat posters you see on lampposts and in your local shops. Although many people chose to have house cats, this isn’t an ideal situation and may impact upon their overall health. It is much easier to leave a cat in the house all day alone when at work, especially if they have a cat flap to let themselves out or at least a litter tray and access to food and water. Cats can still be playful and fun for kids, but typically they need much less stimulation than dogs and may be less willing to be petted and fussed over.
Rabbits & Guinea Pigs –Smaller animals may make a good first pet for kids, before the longer commitment of a cat or dog. Rabbits and guinea pigs can, however, be nervous animals that require gentle handling, so may not be suited to very small children. Cages and hutches need regular cleaning out too, something to make clear to kids from the outset. Although they look cute and fluffy, rabbits can give a nasty bite, whereas guinea pigs are gentler and can be handled more.
Hamsters, Gerbils, Mice & Rats – Smaller still, these pets can be kept in cages indoors and often in kids own bedrooms, giving them real ownership. The most important thing to keep in mind is that these animals are mostly nocturnal, so will be most active at night, not when children will want to handle, play with and feed them. They also require regular cleaning out and can become odorous if this isn’t maintained. They may be too delicate for younger children to handle and the short lifespan of 2-3 years may result in tears when these pets pass away. Though not everyone’s favourite, pet rats are very different to wild rats and are clean, intelligent, enjoy handling and human company.
Fish – Fish are very low maintenance pets, but are more difficult to build a relationship with other than at feeding time! Fish can be lovely and calming to look at, especially if you have a tropical fish tank, and can become a real statement and focal point in a room at home. Like hamsters, they tend to have short lifespans and can die without much warning! You can now buy feeder blocks and equipment to feed your fish gradually whilst you are away or on holiday, so no need to ask the neighbours.
Try to match your potential pet to your lifestyle, home and environment as best as possible. How much time and upkeep they will need, cost of food and vet visits and how pets will be looked after whilst you are at work or on holiday are all important to work out before you bring a pet home. Before paying out fortunes for a pedigree or visiting the pet shop, consider rescuing an animal from your local shelter as there are lots of animals in need of a loving home. Blue Cross for Pets or RSPCA have good information on this. Looking after a pet can be a real joy and learning experience for children, just ensure they are the best choice for you and they will become a new, precious family member in no time!
Clyde Property is an independent, leading and multiple award winning estate and letting agent in Scotland with 28 years’ experience in selling and letting property in Scotland. Just call your local Clyde Property branch today, for friendly, impartial advice on finding your next dream home.