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Your Right Pet

Pets give companionship and enjoyment to millions of people. In return, they rely on their owners to give them everything they need to be healthy and happy. Before you get a pet, it’s vital to find out if you can give it everything they need throughout their lifetime.

Which Pet?

What do I need to think about before getting a pet?

There are two things to think about:

  1. Do you have the right LIFESTYLE?
  2. Can you give it the right WELFARE?

LIFESTYLE


PLACE: How suitable is your place for a pet?


Do you have a garden or live near a local park? It’s important as almost all pets need space to run around and play.

  • A large garden is suitable for a cat – or a small, medium or large dog.
  • A small garden is suitable for a guinea pig, rabbit, cat or small dog.
  • If you don’t have a garden, a smaller pet may be more suitable. Think about getting a “small furry” such as a hamster, rat, mouse, gerbil; or you may prefer fish or birds.

EXERCISE: How much exercise could you give your pet?

You may be looking forward to long walks with your new pet, in which case a dog might be suitable. If you’re not very active, a smaller pet may be a better choice.

  • Enjoy long walks, whatever the weather? Then a dog (small, medium or large) would be the ideal choice of pet for you.
  • Prefer shorter walks and enjoy playing with a pet? Then consider a small dog or a cat.
  • Not very active? Then think about a smaller pet – a “small furry” such as a guinea pig, rabbit, chinchilla, ferret, hamster, rat, mouse, gerbil, fish or a bird could be ideal
  • PDSA Top Tip: Give them lots of toys to keep them active and entertained. Pets of all sizes and species always need toys to play with.

TIME: How much time could you spend with your pet?


Pets take up more time than you may first have thought: daily exercise, training, play time, visits to the vet, grooming, cleaning their home and companionship. Think about how much time you can devote to your pet...

  • If you have lots of time, a small, medium or large dog would be perfect: they are very social animals that love company.
  • If you can give quite a lot of time – and the pet wouldn’t be left alone for more than four hours, then a cat or dog would be an ideal companion.
  • If you can’t devote much time to your pet, a smaller pet may be more suitable. Think about getting a “small furry” e.g. a guinea pig, rabbit, chinchilla, ferret, hamster, rat, mouse, gerbil, fish or a bird.
  • PDSA Top Tip: Many animals are sociable and need company from their own species. Visit our Pet Health pages to see which animals need a companion.

SPEND: Can you afford the lifetime costs of your preferred pet?


Owning a pet is a significant financial commitment – it can be up to about £31,000. Food, bedding, vaccinations – and flea and worm treatments all need budgeting for. Owners also need to consider taking out pet insurance. The lifetime costs of a pet can vary, but a cat can cost about £12,000, a medium sized dog can cost around £20,000 – and up to £31,000 for a large dog.

  • Looking to spend around £125-£170 per month (£2000 per year)? Then a cat or small, medium or large dog would be a suitable pet.
  • Looking to spend around £80- £124 per month (£1,500 per year)? Then a cat, small dog, or a smaller pet, e.g. a rabbit, guinea pig, chinchilla or ferret would be a suitable pet.
  • Looking to spend around £20-£79 per month (£1,000 per year)? Then a “small furry”, e.g. a hamster, rat, mouse, gerbil, fish or a bird would be a suitable pet.

WELFARE

You need to know the welfare needs of the pet you are thinking of getting. The Animal Welfare Act 2006 introduced a ‘duty of care’ for all pet owners: this lists Five Welfare Needs that are essential for every pet’s health and happiness, which you must provide for your pets by law:
What next? When you have an idea of which pet suits your lifestyle, visit our Pet Health pages for more information on the Five Welfare Needs and how to provide for these for your chosen pet. 

Dogs

Where should I get my pet from?

Find out below where PDSA recommends you should get a pet from. And where you should avoid.


Dogs

Consider first whether you want a dog which is a crossbreed or pedigree...

Crossbreed dogs
These are a good choice as they’re usually free from breed-related health problems. If you get a crossbreed dog from a leading animal welfare charity rehoming centre you will be giving a home to a dog that needs one.

Pedigree dogs
These may be a bad choice, as many pedigree dog breeds suffer from health problems. Several conditions are distressing and painful to dogs and the vet treatment they need costs owners and vet charities money. So PDSA vets warn owners to think carefully before getting a pedigree dog. To learn about a particular breed's health problems, visit our Dog Health page.


Where can I get a crossbreed dog from?

Choose carefully. Where you get a dog from can have big effect on how healthy and happy it is for the rest of its life. The wrong choice can mean your dog can become scared of people or requires lots of veterinary treatment, which can be expensive. Here’s what we recommend at PDSA...


Where do we recommend?

✔ Leading animal welfare charity rehoming centres

✔ Several well-known animal welfare charities – e.g. Blue Cross, Dogs Trust, RSPCA – have rehoming centres for dogs.

✔ Reputable welfare organisations will health check their dogs and many do "temperament testing" so that the right dog is matched to your home and lifestyle.


Where do we recommend (with caution)


✔ Other animal rescue centres or sanctuaries

✔ Many rescue centres and sanctuaries are not run by leading animal welfare organisations. They are mostly run by committed, well-intentioned people. Check the health standards and living conditions before purchasing a dog from them.


Where do we NOT recommend?

✘ Pet shops:

  • Pet shops are completely inappropriate environments for puppies.
  • They may cause them to develop behavioural problems as adult dogs.
  • Puppies in pet shops may have come from puppy farms.

✘ Puppy farms:

  • In puppy farms, the puppies are bred for profit.
  • There is no consideration for the dogs’ welfare.
  • Living conditions are often cramped and dirty.
  • Often there can overcrowding as there can be dozens of dogs cramped into a small space.

✘ Newspaper and Internet

  • PDSA advises that, whenever possible, a puppy should be seen with its parents in its home environment. This lets you see what its parents are like – e.g. their health and temperament. You can see if the living environment is hygienic and has allowed the puppy get used to normal household life.
  • Buying a puppy from a newspaper advert or via the internet may not let you make these important checks.
  • Puppies sold in these places may have come from puppy farms.

Where can I get a pedigree dog from?

Choose carefully. Where you get a dog from can have big effect on how healthy and happy it is for the rest of its life. The wrong choice can mean your dog can become scared of people or requires lots of vet treatment, which can be expensive. Here’s what we recommend at PDSA...


Where do we recommend?

✔ Leading animal welfare charity rehoming centre:

  • Several well-known animal welfare charities – e.g. Blue Cross, Dogs Trust, RSPCA – have rehoming centres for dogs.
  • Many will have pedigree dogs looking for loving homes.
  • Reputable welfare organisations will health check their dogs and many do "temperament testing" so that the right dog is matched to your home and lifestyle.

✔ Kennel Club Accredited Breeders Scheme

  • Kennel Club Accredited Breeders adhere to good breeding practices, giving prospective owners the best possible chance of getting a healthy, well adjusted, puppy.
  • For further information visit: The Kennel Club

Where do we recommend (with caution)

✔ Other Kennel Club registered breeders

  • Unlike Kennel Club Accredited Breeders, Kennel Club registered breeders do not have to follow strict guidelines for the health and happiness of their dogs and puppies.

✔ Other animal rescue centres or sanctuaries (including rescue centres rehoming just one type of breed)

  • Many rescue centres and sanctuaries are not run by leading animal welfare organisations.
  • They are mostly run by committed, well-intentioned people. Check the health standards and living conditions before purchasing a dog from them.

Where do we NOT recommend?

✘ Pet shops:

  • Pet shops are completely inappropriate environments for puppies.
  • They may cause them to develop behavioural problems as adult dogs.
  • Puppies in pet shops may have come from puppy farms.

✘ Puppy farms:

  • In puppy farms, the puppies are bred for profit.
  • There is no consideration for the dogs’ welfare.
  • Living conditions are often cramped and dirty.
  • Often there can overcrowding as there can be dozens of dogs cramped into a small space.

✘ Newspaper and Internet:

  • PDSA advises that, whenever possible, a puppy should be seen with its parents in its home environment. This lets you see what its parents are like – e.g. their health and temperament. You can see if the living environment is hygienic and has allowed the puppy get used to normal household life.
  • Buying a puppy from a newspaper advert or via the internet may not let you make these important checks.
  • Puppies sold in these places may have come from puppy farms.
Cats

Where should I get my pet from?

Find out below where PDSA recommends you should get a pet from. And where you should avoid.


Cats

Consider first whether you want a cat which is a crossbreed or pedigree.

Crossbreed cats
These are a good choice because they are usually free from breed-related health problems. Most pet cats are crossbreeds – 'Moggies', 'Domestic Shorthairs' or 'Domestic Longhairs'. Getting a crossbreed cat from a leading animal welfare charity rehoming centre you will be giving a home to a cat that needs one.

Pedigree cats
These may be a bad choice, as many pedigree cat breeds suffer from health problems. Several conditions are distressing and painful to cats and the vet treatment they need costs owners and vet charities money. So PDSA vets warn owners to think carefully before getting a pedigree cat. To learn about a particular breed's health problems, visit our Cat Health page.


Where can I get a crossbreed cat from?

Choose carefully. Where you get a cat from can have big effect on how healthy and happy it is for the rest of its life. The wrong choice can mean your cat can become scared of people or requires lots of vet treatment, which can be expensive. Here’s what we recommend at PDSA...


Where do we recommend?

✔ Leading animal welfare charity rehoming centres

  • Several well-known animal welfare charities (e.g. Cats Protection, Blue Cross, RSPCA) have rehoming centres for cats.
  • Cats from reputable welfare organisations will usually have been fully health-checked.

Where do we recommend (with caution)

✔ Other animal rescue centres or sanctuaries

  • Many rescue centres and sanctuaries are not run by leading animal welfare organisations. They are mostly run by committed, well-intentioned people: check the health standards and living conditions before purchasing a cat from them.

✔ Kitten from friend or family member

  • Kittens can be obtained from people known to you. It is best to get a kitten from an unplanned litter as these are more in need of a home.
  • This lets you see the kitten with its mother in the place it was born, so you know they’ve both been well cared for.
  • The disadvantage of unplanned litters is that they add to the problem of unwanted cats when cat rescue centres are already full. PDSA vets strongly recommend neutering cats to prevent the problem of unwanted litters. Neutering also has significant health benefits for the cats. See our Kittens and Cats Health pages.

Where do we NOT recommend?

✘ Pet shops

  • Pet shops are completely inappropriate environments for kittens.
  • They may cause them to develop behavioural problems as adult cats.

✘ Newspaper and Internet

  • PDSA advises that, whenever possible, a kitten should be seen with its parents in its home environment. This lets you see what its parents are like – e.g. their health and temperament. You can see if the living environment is hygienic and has allowed the kitten to get used to normal household life.
  • Buying a kitten from a newspaper advert or via the internet may not let you make these important checks.

Where can I get a pedigree cat from?

Choose carefully. Where you get a cat from can have big effect on how healthy and happy it is for the rest of its life. The wrong choice can mean your cat can become scared of people or requires lots of vet treatment, which can be expensive. Here’s what we recommend at PDSA...


Where do we recommend?

✔ Leading animal welfare charity rehoming centre

  • Several well-known animal welfare charities (e.g. Blue Cross, Cats Protection, RSPCA) have rehoming centres for cats.
  • Many will have pedigree cats looking for loving homes.
  • Cats from reputable welfare organisations will usually have been fully health-checked.

Where do we recommend (with caution)

✔ Cat breed clubs

  • If you are thinking of getting a kitten from a breed club breeder, make sure you see the kitten with its mother in the place where it’s been reared. The place should be hygienic and the mother and kitten should appear healthy and well cared for.

✔ Other animal rescue centre or sanctuary

  • Many rescue centres and sanctuaries are not run by leading animal welfare organisations. They are mostly run by committed, well-intentioned people: check the health standards and living conditions before purchasing a cat from them.

✔ Kitten from friend or family member

  • You may know a friend or family member who breeds pedigree cats.
  • This lets you see the kitten with its mother in the place where it was born, so you know they have both been well cared for.
  • The disadvantage is that kittens bred like this are stopping people from giving a home to kittens in need from rescue centres.

Where do we NOT recommend?

✘ Pet shops

  • Pet shops are completely inappropriate environments for kittens.
  • They may cause them to develop behavioural problems as adult cats.

✘ Newspaper and Internet

  • PDSA advises that, whenever possible, a kitten should be seen with its parents in its home environment. This lets you see what its parents are like – e.g. their health and temperament. You can see if the living environment is hygienic and has allowed the kitten get used to normal household life.  Buying a kitten from a newspaper advert or via the internet may not let you make these important checks.

Small Furries

Small Furries – Rabbits, Guinea Pigs, Ferrets, Chinchillas, Hamsters, Rats, Mice, Gerbils


  • Choose your pet from a place where the living environment is clean and hygienic and contains suitable bedding, nest box, toys, dust baths etc.
  • The pet should be bright and alert when awake.
  • They should not have any discharges around their eyes, nose, ears or bottom.
  • They should have been gently handled from a young age to get them used to people.
Fish

Fish


  • Choose fish from somewhere where their living environment is clean and hygienic.
  • It should contain suitable gravel and places to hide.
  • It should have plenty of space to swim around in.
  • The fish should be bright and alert and not be swimming listlessly or gasping for air at the surface.
Birds

Birds


  • Choose birds from somewhere where their living environment is clean and hygienic.
  • It should contain suitable perches, nest boxes, water baths and toys. 
  • The birds should have had space to fly around in. 
  • The birds should be bright and alert.
  • They should not have any discharges around their eyes, nostrils, beak or vent (bottom).