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Am I ready for a pet? 7 questions to ask yourself before getting one

Meld Magazine

Thu Jan 08 2015


DO you have what it takes to keep a pet? Gabriella Ariffin looks at what it takes to be a caring and responsible pet owner, and offers some tips for international students looking for an animal companion. 


A pet can help brighten your life, especially when you live far from home and family. However, keeping one is not an easy task. You have to be caring and responsible for their entire lives, so you need to consider if you’re truly ready for it. To help you make sure, here are seven questions you should ask yourself before keeping a pet.

1. Do I have the time?

The first question you need to ask is whether you’ll have the time to adequately care for your pet. Pets require love and attention, lots of time for play, and not to mention all the training, feeding, grooming and walks if you have a dog.

What other commitments do you have on top of college or uni? If you like hanging out with friends and tend to spend way more time out than at home, keeping a pet might significantly alter your lifestyle and habits. Otherwise, keep pets that may not require as much undivided attention, such as fishes or turtles.

RSPCA has more information on how to take care of your pets, and it’s worth checking out.

2. Where do I live?

Most international students live in shared accommodation or apartments. The first thing you should find out is whether your landlord allows pets inside the premise. Some landlords are open for negotiation if you can prove you are responsible enough and would be unlikely to damage the rental property or be a nuisance to others.

If space is a premium in where you live, you may wish to consider keeping smaller pets. Even if there is enough room for a bigger dog, choose breeds that are docile and don’t forget that you must still allow them to go outdoors and remain active.  Pets with short hairs would make your live easier too.

Pets in The City provides some useful guidance on raising your animal companions in the urban jungle.

3. Can I afford keeping a pet?

Even if you can afford to buy or adopt a pet, you still need to consider whether you can keep up with the ongoing costs of raising one. Apart from food and other pet supplies, there will be inevitable trips to the vet, costs for health insurance, registration, microchipping, desexing, training and grooming. The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals provides a fairly comprehensive breakdown, and even though figures may vary in different countries, the long list of expenses may surprise you.

4. Could we be best friends?

Most people keep pets for companionship, so what’s the point of getting one if you can’t get along and have fun together? Every animal has its own character and personality – it can be playful, lazy, clever, vocal or affectionate. Especially for dogs and cats, such personality can be predicted from their breeds. Preferably, you would like to find a pet that matches your personality and lifestyle. To find out more, check out these lists of dog and cat breeds along with its personality.

5. Am I fit enough?

Some breeds of dogs need to be walked daily for 30–60 minutes because they have a lot of energy to spend. This means you need to have the energy too to keep up.

6. Where am I going to get them?

There are a lot of registered pet shops around Melbourne. Each of them has legal obligations to fulfil around the sale of pets, such as having a vaccination certificate signed by a veterinarian as well as providing basic information to customers. Make sure you know all your rights before taking home a pet.

A better way to get a pet is to rescue one from animal shelters. This way, you would help saving a life in starting a new adventure with your new companion. Furthermore, animals in shelters are already vet-checked, vaccinated, microchipped and wormed. As a bonus, shelter animals are often more affordable than buying from a pet store. Some animal shelters around Melbourne you can visit are RSPCA Victoria, The Lost Dogs’ Home and Lort Smith Animal Hospital.

7. What will happen to my pet when I return home?

Having a pet is a long-term commitment; pets rely heavily physically and emotionally on their owners, so you will need to factor these into your future plans. What will happen to your pet when the time has come for you to return home after your time abroad is up?

The process of bringing your pets home can be long and expensive, with so many things to consider including the health of your pet, regulations in your home country and if their new environment will be suitable.

You will also need to complete several forms, get your pet to go through a health check from a vet and have proper documentation. Some people find this too complicated and turn to registered pet transporting services. It may seem like an easier option, but it will cost you more money. International Pet and Animal Transporting Association (IPATA) has compiled a list of proper pet movers that you could contact.

There are also some tips form Transitions Abroad on how to keep your pets safe and happy when moving overseas.

Just remember, abandoning your pet is never a responsible solution!