During the month of April, Animaltalk magazine is putting the spotlight on responsible pet ownership and issues regarding the welfare of pets. Please support National Pet Month by using our click-to-feed campaign!
Before you make the decision to become a pet owner, it is important that you first make the decision to be a responsible one. This means that you must first consider the needs of the animal and check if these fit in with your lifestyle and family situation. Not all pets are suitable for everyone.
Choosing the right pet for you
“Choosing a new pet is not like going out and choosing a CD or getting a garment that can be handed to the local charity bargain shop when it is a few years old and doesn’t suit your lifestyle anymore,” cautions Christine Kuch of the National Council of SPCAs. “Our motto is to ask people to do their homework before making decisions. This includes a commitment to the needs of the animal in every respect, not only being able to pay for veterinary costs, but the level of sustained interest in the animal including grooming, general exercise and daily interaction.”
If you are considering a pet for a child, make sure the animal is appropriate for the age of the child. What you teach your children now about responsible pet ownership will remain with them throughout their lives.
Principles of responsible pet ownership
When you purchase a new pet, you make these commitments to your new friend:
1. I pledge to take care of my pet throughout his life.
This is a firm commitment to provide financially for your pet from his youth right through to the senior years. Costs not only include food bills, but also health and medical emergencies.
2. I will purchase my pet from a reputable source
The only pet adoption routes recommended are through registered and reputable animal welfare organisations that sterilise every adopted pet or through a registered and reputable breeder. Always vet the breeder before signing a contract. Smaller pets like birds, hamsters and rabbits should also be purchased from reputable people.
3. I will spend time with my pet every day to ensure that he gets the correct mental and physical stimulation according his individual needs.
Different pets require different types and periods of stimulation. Before you choose a pet, make sure that the animal suits your lifestyle and that you have time to spend with him. For example, if you choose a dog, consider the breed. A Border Collie needs far more exercise and mental stimulation than a Chihuahua. Another good example is the chinchilla – chins sleep most of the day and are active from dusk into the early hours of the morning.
4. I will check on my pet daily to ensure he remains healthy and I will provide him with the correct nutrition based on his species and requirements.
It is important to know exactly what food your pet requires before you collect him at the breeder or welfare organisation. Cats are obligate carnivores and need a quality protein-based diet with taurine. Dogs do best on a balanced diet with nutrients from the different food groups. Some pets may be prone to allergies or have an illness that must be treated with a specific diet.
Smaller pets like hamsters, guinea pigs, birds and reptiles have different nutritional requirements. All pets require fresh water daily.
5. I will take my pet to a veterinarian when he needs treatment and for his annual check-up (even if he is healthy). I will sterilise my companion animals.
Sterilising companion animals is the responsible choice. All pets need an annual physical and dental check-up, along with their annual vaccinations. Many veterinary hospitals only offer medical care to dogs or cats. Not all are able to assist with birds and other small animals. It is important to do some research in your area before you choose an exotic pet. Visit the South African Veterinary Association website to find a vet who can assist with exotics.
6. I will keep my pet’s vaccinations up to date and maintain a preventative programme to protect my pet against parasites like ticks, fleas and worms.
Puppies require vaccinations at six, nine and 12 weeks of age while kittens get their first vaccination at eight to nine weeks of age and then a booster at 12 weeks. As required by law, both kittens and puppies must have a rabies vaccination at 12 weeks and then a follow-up shot between one and 12 months later. Thereafter, a booster shot every three years is required.
Rabbits, guinea pigs, rats and hamsters do not need to be vaccinated, but always practise good hygiene when handling pets. Follow a good tick and flea control programme to keep your pet parasite free. Deworm pets three or four times per year as your vet advises.
Text: Gina Hartoog
The full article appears in the April issue of AnimalTalk.