Read this before deciding to get a pet!

Often, lack of knowledge is the reason for the irresponsible behaviour of some pet owners. For instance, many people who buy pets on impulse do not consider the responsibilities that come with owning a pet. When reality sets in and issues such as family objections, time and financial constraints crop up, some owners inevitably choose the easy way out by abandoning their pets.

Keeping a pet comes with its responsibilities and is not unlike having a child. Potential pet owners need to consider certain factors prior to making that important purchase to avoid impulse buying. Buying pets to simply "guard the house" or "as a birthday present" are poor reasons and can result in the pet becoming a liability instead of being a cherished member of the family, ultimately resulting in pet abandonment.

Factors To Consider Before Getting A Pet

Is your family agreeable to owning a pet?

Pets can help the family to develop closer ties by providing a common ground for family activities and togetherness. It would be good to make sure that all your family members agree to owning a pet before you get one as it would be a shame to regularly have family quarrels over a pet which can affect harmony in the home. It would also be wrong to have a family pet with no one in the family having the time to commit to it. Ultimately, it is your pet that would suffer because of this.

What type of pet best suits your lifestyle?

Different types of pets have different characteristics and require different levels of care. Dogs, for example, require a lot of time and attention from the owner for exercise as well as training. Some pets will make a lot of noise if left alone for many hours in the day. Long haired or wire haired pets may need regular grooming such as trimming of its coat and herbivores such as rabbits and guinea pigs need their cage cleaned out everyday. Ensure that you have the time and financial capability to spend on the type of pet that you choose to have.

Do you know enough about the pet to care properly for it?

Different types of pets have different needs. Find out as much as you can about the pet, such as the type of housing, environment, food, exercise, grooming the pet needs before getting one. This would go a long way towards ensuring that your pet will be healthy and happy. As different pets have different characteristics and may bring various problems, it is also important for potential owners to learn more about the pet they are eyeing, for example their characteristics, in order to determine the right pet for him or herself.

Do you know how long your pet may live for?

It is important for you to know how long your pet might live for. Hamsters and gerbils live for about 3 years; dogs and cats for about 18 years; rabbits and guinea pigs for about 8 years; and terrapins for 20 years or more! Getting to know about the lifespan of your pet will prepare you for the commitment that will be expected. Be committed to caring for your pet for the whole of its life.

Lifespan of common pets:
Mice 2 yrs
Hamsters 2-3 yrs
Gerbils 2-3 yrs
Guinea pigs 8 yrs
Rabbits 8-10 yrs
Chinchillas 15 yrs
Dogs 18 yrs
Cats 18 yrs
Birds 5-30 yrs
Fish Variable
Terrapins >20 yrs

Do you have the resources (eg time, budget, space) to own a pet?

Pets can be demanding to care for properly. They make demands on the time we need to spend with them. They require money for us to buy cages, feed bowls, food, accessories and pay the vet's bills. They also require living space within our homes. A responsible pet owner will need to make sure that all these things are provided for the pet. In addition, owners also have to be considerate by obeying licensing laws, sterilising their pets, cleaning up after their pets in public places and ensuring that their pets do not disturb other people.

Checklist for Potential Pet Owners

Run through this checklist and if you answer 'No' to any of the items listed, it is best to reconsider that decision to get a pet. Does my family agree to owning a pet? Am I committed to looking after it for life? Can I afford to pay for my pet's veterinary bills, food and grooming accessories? Do I have enough time for my pets? Do I have enough space in my home for a pet? Do I know how to care for my pet properly?

Getting A Pet

Once you are sure that you are ready to be a responsible pet owner, it is important to choose the right type of pet that best fits your lifestyle. A pet is a life-long commitment, so ensure that you find out more about their characteristics and how to care for them before making a choice. One such consideration is the origin of the pet. If the pet (eg Chinchilla, Siberian Husky or Alaskan Malamute) comes from a cold country, Singapore's hot climate might not be suitable for it unless you are able to provide a cool environment for the pet at all times. You may have to have the air conditioner or fan on for your pet and make sure that you do not bring it out when it is too hot or sunny.

For dogs with thick coats such as the Siberian Husky or Alaskan Malamute, you will have to bring it for regular grooming to strip down the coat to maker it cooler for the coat and to ensure that the coat does not get entangled. If you are unable to provide such pets with a suitable environment, think twice about getting it!

Courtesy of Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore. For more information, visit