A Guide to Finding the Perfect Family Pet

Paws for thought…

Whether it has fur, feathers or fins, an animal can be an enriching addition to your family. For kids, it’s an opportunity to learn all about responsibility, compassion and patience, as well as having a companion to snuggle on the couch. Some studies even show a link between dog ownership and increased immunity in children.

While the majority of pets in Australia are cats and dogs, there are plenty of other options. To work out which is right for you, begin by asking yourself these questions.

How much time will your pet spend alone?
If the answer is “a lot”, a puppy probably isn’t for you. Adorable as they are, puppies need lots of time invested in training and socialising – not to mention the fact that a bored dog might wreak havoc on your house and yard.

Cats generally need less social interaction and might be a better choice if your family is at work/school all day, but you’ll still need to provide something to entertain them indoors (a scratching post is a good start). Alternatively, you could consider a pair of rabbits or guinea pigs – just make sure they’re the same sex or you’ll end up with more than two!

If your heart is really set on a dog, think about adopting an older pooch whose furniture-destroying days are well behind them, or pay a dog walker to take your four-legged friend out on weekday adventures.

How much space do you have?

Dogs need room to explore, but not all breeds are the same and the size of the dog doesn’t necessarily equate to the amount of space and exercise it needs. Greyhounds, for example, are often couch potatoes while Jack Russells are little balls of energy.

All dogs need to be walked, too, but it pays to do your homework and determine the right breed for your activity levels. If you’re keen to rehome a rescue, the RSPCA uses a colour-coded “Find a Friend” system to help you decide which dog will be a natural fit for your family.
Cats are generally suited to apartment living but you need to clean kitty litter daily and, again, it pays to research the breed to make sure its activity levels and grooming requirements suit your space. If you have a large garden or acreage, consider a chicken coop. Hens can be very affectionate and the kids will love collecting the eggs.

For kids, it’s an opportunity to learn all about responsibility, compassion and patience.

How will your family change over the coming years?
Think about the long-term implications of pet ownership. A dog is a huge commitment, with an average lifespan of 10 to 13 years; for indoor cats, it’s 13 to 17 years; and a parrot, which can live for at least 40 years, will be around long after your kids leave home. At the other end of the spectrum, goldfish don’t tend to last more than a few years in captivity. In the 2016-17 financial year, the RSPCA took in more than 130,000 animals, so it’s important to make sure you’re in it for the long-haul.

How much can you afford to spend?
ASIC’s MoneySmart estimates the average yearly cost of owning a dog is $1475 (factoring in food, vet care, health products, grooming and boarding); cats came in slightly less at $1029, birds at $115 and goldfish at just $50. Of course, this can vary greatly and doesn’t factor in paying for expensive surgeries such as desexing.

Once you’ve answered these questions and decided what type of pet is right for you, all that’s left to do is set up a bed, designate a toileting area, stock up on toys and feeding supplies – and welcome your new family member home!


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