If you are like most of us here at RSPCA, falling in love with an animal is easy. Adopting an animal, however, is a big decision. Dogs, cats and small animals are living beings with needs, wants and feelings, just like you and I. They require a considerable amount of time, money and commitment — over 15 years worth in many cases. Animal guardianship (ownership) can be a wonderful experience and very rewarding, but only if you think through your decision very carefully before you adopt. These questions about animal guardianship may help you with your decision.
Many animals like puppies and kittens are so cute that many people can’t resist taking them home, sometimes without carefully thinking through their decision. Then, after a few weeks, sometimes days, these people realise the great responsibilities involved in their animal’s care. One of these responsibilities is the time required to care for the animal.
The care of the most common companion animals such as dogs, cats and rabbits requires considerable time. This is especially the case for dogs, as they are not happy if left alone for long periods of time. Companion animals cannot be ignored just because you are too tired or too busy.
Companion animals require food, water, exercise, playtime, grooming and companionship every day of every year. If you can’t give enough time to play and interact with your companion animal each day, do not get one that requires a lot of time.
Consider a companion animal that doesn’t require as much time, such as fish. It's important to remember, that you still need time to clean and take care of the fish and their tank. Time should always be a part of your family’s research before deciding whether to adopt a companion animal (pet).
There are many costs involved with caring for companion animals. Up front costs for cats and dogs include vaccinations, microchipping and spayo or neutering. Animals adopted from RSPCA already have these things covered. However, you will need to be prepared to pay for ongoing costs associated with food, flea and worm treatments, annual health checks, vet bills, training, toys, bedding, and boarding kennels or catteries – if you go away. These ongoing costs continue for the entire life of the animal. If an emergency or accident occurs, you will also need to ensure you can pay for any emergency veterinary treatment required.
The costs of caring for a companion animal will vary depending on the type of animal your family chooses. Remember that companion animals are an expensive addition to any family, so whether or not your family can afford these costs is very important to think about before adopting an animal.
Do you know any animal guardians? If so, talk to them to find out about how much they spend at their animals' vet each year.
The average lifespan of dogs and cats is around 12 years, with some dogs and cats living until 15 or even 20 years of age, so it's a long-term commitment.
While puppies and kittens are very adorable, you will need to be prepared to provide for an adult animal too and, in the case of some dogs, a much larger animal with considerable exercise needs and often a large appetite!
It is your family’s responsibility, as an animal's guardian, to research all the needs of your chosen companion animal, through all stages of his/her life. Before adopting and bringing a companion animal home, your family needs to be well informed about that animal's needs. This way, you're ready to take the best possible care of him/her.
First carefully consider if your family can provide a suitable home for a companion animal, both now and well into the future.
Your home size and/or garden size are factors in determining your suitability as an animal guardian for certain types of animals.
If you're thinking about getting a dog, ask yourself: do you have a yard? Is it secure? If you don't have a yard, where will your dog be housed when you're not at home? Remember, even if you live on a large property, dogs need a secure area for their own safety and the safety of any other animals on the property.
If your animal is inside, where will they go to the toilet? Can an adult get home to let a dog outside every few hours?
If your family rents your property, has your landlord given you written permission to have a dog or other companion animal (pet)? What will happen if you have to move?
Your parents’ working hours, your time at school, club and sports team commitments are all factors that need to be carefully considered before adopting a companion animal.
Companion animals need human company and will always depend on you. You must be sure that your lifestyle can give them this company.
Before you adopt an animal, always consider their needs. Are you prepared to walk your dog everyday? Are you home often enough to keep your cat or dog company and give them attention? Do you have time to give your puppy or kitten the basic reward-based training they need? Who will care for your pet when you are away from home?
If so, do you have reliable friends, relatives or money to pay for a boarding kennel, cattery or pet sitter to care for your companion animal while you are away?
It’s very important that you seek advice about how to introduce new animals to each other. Animals need time and patience when meeting new friends – just like humans. You want to make sure all your animals get along together and feel safe and loved. Don’t forget to talk to your veterinarian about the best way to bring a new animal into your home.
Has your class checked out RSPCA’s Cost of Having a Companion Animal Unit? If not, ask your teacher to check it out on our Teachers' Portal. In this fun inquiry unit, your class will use maths, science and online tools to learn about the time, money and responsibilities involved in having a companion animal (pet). Armed with this knowledge, you will be able make the call whether or not your family is ready to make the commitment to caring for a companion animal, and if so – what type!