Maintenance levels for pets
But bringing an animal into your home is about much more than appearances. There are a number of factors that you need to consider before taking on the responsibility of a new pet, whether it has fins, feathers or fur.
First of all, potential pet owners should decide how much time and energy they have to devote to an animal.
Low maintenance pets (see sidebar), such as fish, turtles, rabbits, cats and small birds, are the perfect choice if your home is not animal-friendly or if you work in a busy job as they only need to be fed daily and have their cages, tanks or litter box cleaned once a week. Higher maintenance pets, such as dogs, require more attention in the form of daily exercise and regular grooming. Your choice will be influenced by the size of your home, your employment situation and whether you have children.
Teresa Strad, manager of Cayman Pet Paradise, says potential dog owners need to ask themselves a few questions before deciding on a breed and size.
“The worst mistake people can make is falling in love with an animal because it’s cute,” Teresa says.
“They love a dog for its breed. It can be cute, but it can also be a vicious little thing.
“If you’re looking at a pet, you need to look at your home environment. What sort of space do you have? Do you have a backyard? What sort of temperament does the dog have? How much is it likely to bark? Do you have neighbours who will mind?
“You also need to consider your job and family. Do you have a job where you can come home at lunch and take your dog for a walk? Do you have children? Are they comfortable with animals?”
According to Teresa, a bored dog is a destructive one and they have got to have exercise. Small lap dogs don’t need much exercise, but medium-sized dogs will require a backyard and regular walks.
“I believe a well-exercised dog is a happy, obedient dog.”
When it comes to deciding on a breed, Teresa believes in research. With the advent of the internet, she says there is no reason why potential owners can’t thoroughly investigate the breed and size that would suit their lifestyle.
“If you’re thinking of a pure bred dog, you have to look at their temperament and their body language. You really need to research it. All that information is available [online].”
If you already have a pet or if you have children, Teresa says choosing a new animal can be a complicated process. She believes any prospective dogs have to be road-tested with family members before a final decision can be made.
“If you already have a dog, take it and your new dog to a neutral place, like the beach, and take them for a walk, that way you can see how the two get on,” she suggests.
“It’s similar with kids. You need to see how the child interacts with the animal. Take them to the pet shop so they become familiar with dogs so all the barking doesn’t scare them.
“People assume their kids will just love dogs, but it doesn’t work like that. They need to gradually introduce them to the idea. Dogs always pick up nervousness so kids need to be comfortable with them.”
Cats require less maintenance than dogs and are the perfect pet for those who want love and companionship, yet don’t have the time or energy to chase after an excited pup. However, choosing to bring a cat into your home is a commitment and Teresa says you still need to consider whether your environment is suitable for a feline friend.
Among the basic questions you must ask yourself before what could be anything up to a 15 year commitment are:
- Is your home secure?
- Is it an inside or outside cat?
- Are there any wild dogs around?
- Do you have windows for cats to look out of?
- Do you have plenty of room for their toys and paraphernalia?’
Regardless of your choice of animal, Teresa says potential owners need to remember than having a pet comes with considerable responsibilities, which should not be taken lightly.
“The most important thing is commitment. If you haven’t got time to commit, it isn’t fair to the animal,” she says.
“A dog or cat is like your best mate, they look to you full stop. You wouldn’t let your best mate down, so why would you do it to an animal?”