Thinking of getting a cat or dog? Don’t just rush to a breeder and snap up a pedigree – you could also look into giving a rescue pet the loving home that it needs.
In 2011, the RSPCA gave more than 60,000 animals a new home* and this year charities have seen a rise in the number of stray or abandoned cats and dogs due to the recession. Owners who are struggling to feed their pets or pay vets bills have led to a 50% increase in cats and dogs being abandoned or handed in to animal charities in the last year.**
But before you think about giving a pet a new home, it’s wise to make sure it’s exactly the right thing for you and your family. Being a responsible pet owner is a long-term commitment and one that will change your life, so here are some tips to make sure you make the right choice:
- Can you handle it?
Owning a pet means that you have to be on-call all the time. Cats are usually more independent than dogs, but you’ll need to think about who will look after them when you go away on holiday. Some breeds of dog are happy to be left alone while you go out to work, whereas others will crave attention and go on a chewing frenzy if you’re not there. There’s the job of regular walks to consider, and also the fact that you might lose your lie-in if they come to wake you up early for breakfast.
- Can you afford it?
Get a realistic estimate of how much it’ll cost to feed your new pet. Then take into consideration holiday plans, and how much you’d need to pay a cat-sitter, dog-sitter or kennels. Vet’s bills are another major expense, so look at taking out pet insurance to make sure they’re covered. John Lewis Pet Insurance offers cover for cats and dogs from eight weeks old, and there’s no upper age limit.
- Finding a pet
Animal charities often have special appeals to let the public know which pets are looking for a new home. Or you could visit an animal centre to meet the pets, but make sure you’ve done your research before you go there and fall in love!
- Looking online
These websites are a good place to start your search:
- Dogs Trust
- Battersea Dogs and Cats Home
- Cats Protection
You can also get information on your nearest re-homing centre, which is handy if you’re planning to visit in person.
- Visting an animal centre
Meeting the abandoned pets can be very moving, and you might feel an overwhelming urge to take them all home! Staff will show you round and ask about which kind of animal you’d like to adopt and what you can offer them. Some centres will show you photos and descriptions of pets on offer, which helps you make a rational choice and causes less anxiety for the animals.
- Questions to ask
If you think you’ve found a potential pet, don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions to make sure you’re the right match for each other:
- What’s their background?
- What sort of owner and home would suit them best?
- What’s their temperament like – any behavioural problems?
- Do they need constant companionship or are they OK to be left alone in the house?
- Are they house trained?
- How much exercise do they need?
- Any special dietary requirements?
- Have they had any previous medical problems?
- Are they OK with children?
- Getting to know your new pet
Choosing a pet is a two-way process, and you’ll often be asked a number of questions about your suitability as a pet owner. Meet your pet a few times so you really get to know each other. A volunteer from the re-homing centre or charity will probably want to visit your home to make sure it’s suitable – and if you already have pets they can help you decide whether your new addition will fit in.
- Will I have to pay?
Some animal charities may charge a small fee for your new pet and you could be asked to pay a contribution to help cover the costs of vaccination, neutering and microchipping. You could also make a donation to the charity.
- Settling in
A re-homed pet has already been through a big upheaval, so don’t be surprised if it takes them a couple of weeks to settle in to their new home. Even if your cat or dog is house trained, there may be a few accidents at first. It’s a good idea to take some time off work so you can give them your full attention and help them get used to family life.
- Any problems?
Keep in touch with the re-homing centre or charity that your pet came from. If your pet still hasn’t settled in after a month or so, don’t be afraid to ask for advice. It’s not unusual for a cat or dog that’s been through a difficult period to react to a new home, so don’t blame yourself. Re-homing centres and charities can give you tips about dealing with behavioural problems and may also recommend training.
How John Lewis Pet Insurance can help
John Lewis Pet Insurance covers your cat or dog for vet’s bills of up to £12,000 each year as long as your policy is renewed and your premiums are paid. We can even pay the vet directly if they are set up to receive our payments. Find out more and get a quote.
Terms, conditions, limitations, exclusions and eligibility criteria apply.
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