Introducing a New Pet Into the Family
So, you think it might be time for a new family member, one that’s furry and cuddly and doesn’t talk back. There’s a lot to consider when bringing a new pet into the fold, especially if you already have children (human or animal).
You need to determine if you have the space, time, money and love to give for a new pet. The love part is easy, but be sure your home is suitable, you can afford all the costs associated with looking after an animal, and everyone in the family is on board.
Dog, cat or something else?
Remember that all pets need time, love and care, so think honestly about what kind of pet suits your lifestyle. Consider allergies, activity levels, how much you work and travel, your tolerance for certain kinds of mess and noise, your neighbours, and the size and security of your home.
If you already have a jungle of plant babies, be aware that some indoor plants are toxic to cats and dogs. Most birds need a lot of attention and entertainment, so if you’re after a low-maintenance pet, consider budgies, guinea pigs or betta fish. Rabbits prefer gentle, quiet environments and might not suit a busy family with larger pets.
Cats are better at being home alone than dogs but are still social animals who love attention and need plenty of entertainment. If you have a baby or toddler at home, consider adopting an older can rather than a kitten.
You’re set on a dog, but what breed?
Dogs come in all shapes, sizes and personalities. Once you’ve had a good think about your lifestyle and circumstances, you can pick a breed that’s right for you. Be aware that not all small dogs are less active and not all big beasts need heaps of exercise. While some dogs are content not to go on lots of walks, they still need oodles of attention (Great Danes, for example).
Apartment dwellers, if you’re willing to carry your pup up and down the stairs several times a day, you’ll be looking for a small, low-maintenance breed, such as a Dachshund, Boston Terrier, French Bulldog or Maltese. These pups are also great for people with young or elderly family members and those that want to take their fur child to the office.
Where to meet your new family member
Adopting from the RSPCA or other reputable animal welfare or rescue organisations will allow you to pick a pet whose temperament is documented — you can ask if a puppy is good with kids and see how they interact with other animals. You can get purebreds and puppies from shelters, and there are so many kittens needing forever homes. Rescues will also be microchipped, desexed and vet checked, saving you money and time spent looking after a pet recovering from surgery.
Already have a dog? Take them with you to the shelter to see how they get along with their potential new sibling. This has the added benefit of meeting on relatively neutral ground, encouraging cautious rather than aggressive behaviour.
If you decide to buy from a breeder, take the time to do your research. Visit the breeder and see where the animal was born, meet the mother and father (if possible) and see they are healthy and cared for. Ask what happens with retired breeding animals. This shows you whether the breeder genuinely cares for their animals, and retired breeding cats can make great pets.
Make sure you’re stocked up and ready
You’ve fallen in love and picked out a name, now stock up on everything you need to bring your new baby home. This includes food, bowls, bedding, toys, walking equipment, litter box and cleaning supplies. Find your local vet clinic and research desexing, microchipping, registration, vaccinations and preventative healthcare (worming, flea and tick prevention). If you can, take time off work or arrange to work from home so you can get them all settled in. Think about how any existing pets respond to other animals and make a plan for introducing them to a new sibling. The RSPCA has several resources on this very topic, including how to introduce a new puppy to the family cat and more.
Young kittens and puppies need lots of stimuli, and failing to socialise your pets to people, other animals and new environments during their first months can lead to timidity or aggression.