Being a pet owner – whether of a dog, cat or small mammal – is a wonderful privilege. Pets bring joy and love into our lives. But at the same time, you are responsible for keeping your pet happy and healthy – and being a responsible pet owner is a life-long commitment.
Being your pet’s best friend brings a lot of responsibilities!
Pet ownership is a serious commitment that means taking proper care of your pet(s) and ensuring their well-being throughout their entire life. It involves considering several factors before acquiring a pet, such as the necessary time commitment, the type of pet that suits your lifestyle, and the resources you need to provide to take care of your pet.
We have listed below some of the most important considerations when becoming a pet owner.
Considering acquiring a pet
Before getting a pet, carefully evaluate your readiness and willingness to take on the responsibilities that come with pet ownership. Think about your lifestyle, work and living situation, time availability and financial resources.
The type of pet
It is important that you do lots of research to identify the pet that is best for you and your family and that will match your lifestyle. This also applies to choosing the right breed if you are considering acquiring a dog or cat. Each breed has different traits which may make it more or less suitable for your lifestyle.
Where to acquire your pet
If you decide to get a pet, consider adopting a pet from a local animal shelter or rescue organisation rather than buying a pet. There are many wonderful pets waiting for loving homes in shelters. Many of them are there for no other reason than being no longer wanted, often because they were bought on impulse. By adopting a pet from a shelter, you will give an animal in need a second chance in life.
When adopting a pet, you will need to go through an adoption process which usually involves filling out an application form, providing references, and potentially paying for an adoption fee (to help cover the shelter’s expenses). Animal shelters may also conduct interviews or home visits to ensure that you and your adopted pet will be a good match.
Buying a pet
If you have chosen to buy a pet, then ensure that you find a reputable breeder and beware of the risks of buying a pet online due to the illegal puppy and kitten trade.
Preparing your new pet's home
Before bringing your pet home, make sure you create a suitable environment for them. This includes providing a warm and comfy bed and a designated indoor area for your pet to sleep and rest, food and water bowls, toys and an area to exercise. As well as teaching your children how to treat your pet in an appropriate way ready for its arrival.
Keeping your pet safe in your home
Keep poisons and hazards safely out of your pet's reach. Ensure that if you are living in an apartment, windows and balconies are not accessible and safe if they are accessible. Puppies love to chew so make sure that electric plugs are out of reach and any items which may pose a risk if eaten, are removed.
Bringing your pet home
When bringing your pet home, take your time to introduce them to their new surroundings gradually. Provide a quiet area for them to adjust and slowly introduce them to other family members and pets in a safe manner. This can be an especially overwhelming time for a puppy or kitten who has just been separated from their mother.
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Building a strong bond with your pet
To create a strong bond with your pet, make sure to regularly spend quality time with them, provide them with mental stimulation by using enrichment that is appropriate for their species/breed (there is lots of information about different enrichment activities for pets on the internet), and show them respect, care and affection. Building this strong bond with your pet helps to create a trusting and positive relationship.
Your pet’s basic needs
It is important that you provide the following for your pet
- a healthy diet and constant access to fresh water
- a comfortable and warm bed and resting/sleeping area
- regular exercise – both physical and mental (e.g., clicker training, free space to run, socialisation)
- protection from stress, illness, and injury
- the opportunity to express its natural behaviour
You are responsible for ensuring that your pet stays healthy which includes receiving
- annual vaccinations (depending on the species)
- regular preventative parasitic treatment
- annual health checks at the vets
- nail clipping, dental checks, and grooming
- vet consultations when your pet is sick or injured
Training and socialisation
It is important that your pet is socialised and receives basic training to help them navigate the human world. You should ensure that your pet
- understands basic commands such as sit, stay, and come (depending on the species)
- is well socialised to cope with its lifestyle (e.g., around other animals, people, children, noise etc.)
- receives behavioural training if they have a behavioural issue, from a reputable, qualified behaviourist or vet
- receives reward and choice-based training and not negative, punishment-based training
- receives appropriate exercise and mental stimulation through training and enrichment
As a pet owner, you should be aware of your legal and social responsibilities. These may include the following
- ensuring that your pet is microchipped, and the details are kept up to date on the microchip registration database
- ensuring that your pet wears a collar with a tag and your contact details
- ensuring that your pet is kept on a leash, under control in public places and does not leave any dog waste
- ensuring that your pet does not bother other animals including other pets, wildlife and farm animals
- ensuring that your pet does not bother people (e.g., bikers, joggers, children etc.)
- ensuring that you have pet insurance and this is kept according to legislation
- ensuring that you do not mistreat, abandon, or fail to take care of your pet
Living a long and happy life together
Remember, responsible pet ownership is a long-term commitment. You will need to provide appropriate care for your pet throughout their entire life.
By fulfilling all the responsibilities of a responsible pet owner, you contribute to your pet's overall well-being and help them live a happy and healthy life.
Enjoy the companionship and make sure to cherish every moment together!