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Choosing a Pet - How to decide on the right pet

Choosing a Dog, Cat, Small Animal, Bird or Exotic

How do you choose the most suitable pet animal for your household?

How to decide on the right pet - General: The most important factor is identifying and understanding the pet animal’s needs. How much care or grooming does it require? what sort of diet does it have? what are it’s housing and temperature requirements? You should also ask yourself ‘why do you want a pet animal’? Is it a companion you require or just another living creature to care for? You need to evaluate your living space. How much room do you have? Will your lifestyle be compatible with your choice of pet? Have you enough money in your budget to afford the ongoing and any veterinary or emergency costs?

Next, if you are part of a family, each member should decide, and agree realistically, how much responsibility and time they will have to spend with the pet. Another consideration is the medical history and fears (especially allergies) of everyone in your household or regular welcome visitors. If you live alone, this task is, of course, a lot easier.

Lastly, before you choose a pet, do your homework. Find out what the animal and breed you are considering is like. Investigate breed-specific behaviours. This is really important with pet animals that have been bred over the centuries for certain characteristics.

Dogs: If choosing a dog, remember that a young or active dog needs more space and more daily exercise than older dogs or those who do not move around very much. Do not choose a dog if you have physical limitations that make it difficult for you to exercise it. For their safety, dogs should not be permitted to roam uncontrolled but should be walked on a lead or exercised in an enclosed area. There are in excess of 150 different dog breeds to chose from, the smallest are toy breeds like Yorkshire terriers and Chihuahua etc and the largest, Newfoundlands, St Bernards and Irish Wolfhounds to name but a few. To find your ideal dog use the tool here.

Cats: Cat lovers claim that the cat is such a purr..fect creation, it works splendidly in any size, colour or habitat. Overall, the similarities throughout the feline family are astonishing. They all share that most puzzling and irresistible feline characteristic -- purring. If you are thinking of becoming a cat person, explore the various cat breeds. Be prepared to have your cat spayed if required. There are so many cats put to sleep because nobody wants them. To find your purr... fect cat use the tool here.

Fish: Fish are the third most popular pet in the UK , with cats being second and dogs first. Keeping fish as a pet is said to lower blood pressure and relieve stress. However, some people begin without learning anything about them. They do not take the time to learn what it takes to keep healthy fish and achieve a balanced environment for them until it is too late.

There are several types of fish you could choose from: cold-water fish like goldfish, tropical fish that live in fresh warm water or marine fish that live in salt water. Goldfish require minimal equipment whereas the tropical fish and marine fish need specialist tanks with filter and heating and lighting systems.

These could be ideal pets if you live in a small house or flat.

Birds: Birds count for more than 1.2 million pets across the country. If you are considering buying a bird, think about getting a baby between 1 and 3 months old that is still being hand-fed. At this age, the bird will learn to trust your hand and know that it is safe. Birds are creatures of habit; therefore, if you buy an older bird you may be subject to whatever behaviour the bird has already learned.

Larger birds like Parakeets and cockatiels are good family birds because they do not require too much care and maintenance. Parakeets live about 7-12 years. Cockatiels are not as small as a parakeet, but not as big as a parrot. Since its life expectancy is about 18 years, it will still be around when your children are grown up. It is easy to care for and not terribly expensive. The females sing, and the males talk a bit, so either sex is fun.

If you are up for paying more attention to your pet, consider something like a Macaw. Amazons, Macaws and African Greys require a bit more care and maintenance than parakeets and cockatiels. However, Amazons usually live for about 55 years; Macaws live between 45-85 years, and African Greys have a life span of 45-55 years. What’s more, they all talk! Remember, if you choose one of these you will need to consider what will happen to it should it outlive you.

If you like to see birds fly, you might want to consider a canary or a finch. These birds are generally more suited to an aviary, which means you cannot take them out of the cage like the birds mentioned above. You may not be able to put them on your finger, but you can enjoy their colours and activity. They also make nice chirping sounds and both of these breeds require little care and maintenance and may well be the easiest birds to own. Generally, the life expectancy of a canary is about 7-9 years and a finch 5-8 years.

What else should you consider before buying a pet bird? Other than canaries and finches, birds really do need a fair amount of attention, just like dogs and cats. A neglected bird will engage in self-destructive behaviour, like plucking its own feathers out or making lots of noise. While there aren't really any drawbacks to owning a bird (other than their dependence on you and cleaning the cage frequently), the major benefit is that once you do bond with your bird, it becomes your partner for life. Because it is so dependent on you, it will be very loyal.

When you're buying a bird, it's important to talk to an experienced bird shop owner who can help you decide on the right breed for you.

Exotics: Perhaps you prefer a more exotic pet animal than those listed above. Some people keep llamas, or chickens in their back gardens, or perhaps one of the following pets may be just the right thing for you:

Iguanas: These are difficult exotic pets to maintain. Be sure you want a six-foot lizard that may become aggressive in your house for 10-20 years before you buy one. Smaller reptiles, such as chameleons, geckoes, and some snakes may be preferable.

Ferrets: Ferrets are smart and not generally aggressive, but can be destructive and should be kept in a cage with a solid floor. They should not be left unsupervised with young children. They are also subject to a wide range of physical disorders.

Hedgehogs: You can keep hedgehogs if you have an enclosed garden. Try to provide them with as natural a habitat as possible. Your can supplement their natural diet with a little dog or cat food. Remember they hibernate in the winter.

Pocket Pets are small animals such as hamsters, gerbils, rats, mice, guinea pigs, etc. that can fit in your pocket. They are cute and usually inexpensive. This makes them very common pets. They are especially popular with children. It is important to note that most pocket pets are nocturnal. Make sure to place their cage or enclosure in an area where their night-time activities will not keep the family awake.

Should you rescue a pet?

Yes, why not! You’ll save the life of an animal and get a loving companion. Pet rescue organizations exist for most types of animals, from dogs and cats to horses and exotics. Usually pets end up in rescue through no fault of their own, not always, because they are problematic. They’re wonderful companions looking for homes. In some places, there may be a cost for neutering, shots, and an identification chips.

Are there disadvantages to owning a pet?

If you understand and accept the responsibilities of pet ownership (feeding, exercising, grooming, healthcare), there is not much of a downside. You may have to race home to feed or walk your pet or arrange for someone else to do it.

Pets usually have shorter lives than most humans do. Therefore, unless we are “old,” our pet may well die before we do. We must be prepared to adjust to the loss and to make arrangements for our pets if we move or pass away first. Unfortunately, many wonderful pets are put to sleep when their owners have not left instructions for their care.

The most frequent problem pet owners have is finding someone to care for their pet when they are out-of-town. Make sure you will always have someone to care for your pet if you go on holiday or way on business etc.

Remember! The joy and love you can get from a pet far outweighs the responsibility needed to care for it.

Animal Welfare Act 2006 - Information about the Act - How does the Act affect me?

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