Pets can be our best and most loyal friends, and it’s not hard to see why so many people decide to bring them into their families.
Australia is a nation of animal lovers - more than 62% of Aussie households own a pet and 59% of people who do not currently have a pet admit that they would like to get one in the near future.
But before you commit to welcoming a new pet into your home, read our guide and give your new companion the best chance at a happy and healthy life.
Understanding your responsibilities
Being a pet owner is a huge responsibility; another life is literally depending on you. You need to spend some time thinking about whether the rewards outweigh the costs you’ll incur and responsibilities you’ll be accepting.
Although the RSPCA is holding a Clear The Shelters adoption drive this weekend, from Friday February 23 until Sunday February 25, you should consider the lifetime cost that adopting an animal will incur.
According to the RSPCA, the average dog owner spends $2,452 each year on their dog. Put together a budget of how much you can expect to spend per month – including food, toys, vaccinations, bedding and planned and emergency veterinary visits – and see if this is in-line with how much you can afford to spend.
Take note of how long you’ll likely need to commit to your pet for. Dogs can live for over 15 years, while some cats may live to be in their early 20s. Are you ready for two decades of commitment?
You should also consider how much time you’ll be able to spend with your pet. Animals need a lot of love and attention, so if you’re out all day and late into the evening with no one else at home, now is probably not the right time to get a pet.
There’s a lot to think about, but for most animal lovers, the rewards of pet ownership more than make up for the responsibilities.
Deciding on the right pet for you
The next step is to decide what pet you actually want. Have you got a big garden with lots of space? A big dog could be very happy there. Only have a small apartment? An indoor cat or rabbit might feel very at home in your cosy place. Consider your environment and decide what pet is most suitable.
Once you’ve decided which animal you want and can afford, choose the right breed for you. Do you want a children-friendly, energetic dog who can join you on long runs? Or are you looking for a calm pet to snuggle up with on the couch?
Bear in mind that some animal breeds are predisposed to inherited disorders and can suffer from serious health problems. You should research which breeds have such problems and avoid buying them, for the sake of your pet’s quality of life and your future veterinary bills.
The Village Vets have also put together this helpful list of things to consider when acquiring a new pet.
Finding your pet
The RSPCA rehomes tens of thousands of dogs and cats each year, and there are countless more animals in desperate need of a good home. Adopting is a great way to give an animal a new lease on life and the Adoptapet search tool makes it easy to find your new fur baby. All RSPCA animals have undergone health and behaviour assessments to make sure they are suitable for adoption as companion pets, and dogs and cats are also desexed, microchipped and vaccinated.
If you have your heart set on a particular breed and can’t find one to adopt, make sure you do some thorough research to find a humane and reputable breeder, so you know you’re taking home a healthy and well-adjusted pet.
Caring for your pet
You’ve found the furry (or scaly or feathered) love of your life and you can’t wait to get them home! First things first, stock your cupboards with all the food they’ll need and create a comfortable and quiet place for them to sleep.
You should also check out your local vet and make an appointment with them for a check-up and to get any vaccinations. Look into taking out pet insurance, which might save you a lot of money down the line.
If you have kids, have a plan of how best to introduce your kids to their new four-legged friend - this guide might help.
Most of all, showering your furbaby with your love, time and attention and listening to them when they're communicating with you is the very best way to give them the happy life they deserve.