These may be one of our editor's pooches. Ain't they the cutest?! Both adopted - the big one at age 5 (now 11), the little one at age 8 (summer 2020). / © Martin Jonsson
Caring for a pet is an amazing experience and it can make your life much richer, but it also comes with a lot of challenges, here are a few things you might want to consider before getting a pet.
Do talk to people who already have the pet you think about getting. It is always a good idea to hear what other people’s experiences were like. They might be able to guide you or help you choose the pet that is right for you.
Don’t think it will be easy. Getting a pet sounds great but it is also a lot of work. If you get a dog or cat you will need to train them. They might not be house trained when you first get them, which will lead to frequent walks and even more frequent cleaning up after them. But also any other pets like hamsters, lizards or fish need to be looked after.
Do make sure you have enough space. Just like you, animals need space to live, and while some animals can cope with only limited space others need more space to live happily. Depending on the animal you get you need a big enough cage or ideally a garden. While cats can for example live inside, it is always nice if they can go outside, even if it just on a balcony.
Don’t get a pet on a whim. The idea of getting a pet appeals to a lot of people and it can indeed be nice for children to grow up with animals and they can help with loneliness in people who are on their own, but the decision to get one should be well thought through. Getting a pet comes with a lot of work and it would be a shame if the animal was neglected or if you had to give it away again just because you acted to fast on what you thought you wanted.
Do think about the costs. Having a pet is expensive. The monthly costs depend of course on the animal you keep, but it is inevitable that you need to spend money on your pet, as they all need to eat for instance. Often they even need a special kind of food, which only adds to the cost. Moreover you will need to see the vet occasionally, buy accessories such as leads and cleaning products for the cage as well as for the pet. Depending on what pet you get you might want to get it groomed or trained and this obviously also costs money. Then there's insurance, which doesn't come free either.
Don’t get someone a pet as a present. Unless someone has explicitly stated that they want a particular pet in their life but can for example just not afford the upfront purchasing cost (but can afford the monthly costs), don’t get one for them just because you think it would be nice. You can never be sure if they are ready to care for a pet. If you get them one don’t wrap the animal like a present because that is just cruel.
Do see if you can look after someone else’s pet. Looking after another pet while their owner is away is a good test to see if you are truly ready for your own, and if you are compatible with the pet you want to get for yourself. If you realise that it is not for you can spare yourself and the animal the hassle and if you really like it you will only be more excited for getting your own.
Don’t get a pet if you’re always busy. If in your current circumstances you simply don’t have the time or energy to look after a pet, it is better to wait a bit before getting one. You would not be able to enjoy the time with your pet and looking after it might only add more stress to your already busy life. If you get a pet anyway, make sure someone will look after it while you are away.
Do think about adoption. Especially if you consider getting a dog or cat, the animal shelters here and abroad are full of rescued animals who would love to be adopted. You don’t always need to get a new born puppy in order to love your pet and enjoy spending time with it. Caring for an older animal can be just as rewarding and they will give you just as much love.
Don’t buy too many unnecessary accessories. It is very tempting to buy all the accessories they have in pet shops but if you think about it, your pet does not need another toy when it already doesn’t use the ones you have at home. My cat is happier with a cardboard box I left lying around than with a newly bought toy mouse. It is okay to spoil them from time to time but don’t overdo it.
Do read up on the pet you plan on getting. Before welcoming your pet at home gather as much information as you can so you know what you can expect. You can never be prepared for everything that is going to happen, but having a vague idea and knowing the basics always comes in handy.
Don’t be mad at them. Animals are not human beings and don’t have the same understanding of their surroundings as we do. If your animal can move freely through your house it is inevitable that they will break things occasionally but there is no point in getting mad at them or punishing them when they don’t really understand what you are doing anyway. In the worst case you might end up hurting them and that needs to be avoided at all costs.
Do get the pet that’s right for you. There are so many different animals you can keep at home and therefore it is important that you find the one that’s right for you. Among the things you want to consider are for example the amount of time you have to take care of your animal, your age or even your character. For example if you think about getting a dog and you are a very active person, you might want to opt for a breed that is also active. The same applies when you are a quiet person.