Getting a pet to join your family is a major event. It’s new, it’s exciting: it’s short-term magic and long-term love and enjoyment. Your chosen pet could be anything from a cat or dog to an exotic animal or a horse, but whatever you choose you must always have in mind the long term needs of your pet and keep in mind that your responsibilities towards that pet will last for the rest of its life.
Obviously the length of time that you will need to care for your pet will depend on how old it is when it joins your household and how long it lives for: in the case of a horse, this could be up to 30 years or even longer; in the case of a parrot or tortoise then it could even outlive you.
Christmas is a traditional time for giving and many people choose to give pets as presents to their children, loved one or even to themselves. There are ethical objections to this, since animals are living creatures and are not something that can be played with over Christmas and then put away in a cupboard or forgotten about by spring.
Pets are expensive because they normally require some additional equipment. For instance, an exotic pet like a lizard would need a suitably-sized tank with adequate heating and lighting; a dog or cat would need toys, bedding and food/water bowls. Even a pet mouse will require a large cage (they like a lot of floor space to run around), bedding and suitable toys. Long-term costs include vet bills and regular check-ups.
The pets themselves can cost a lot of money if you buy them from a breeder or pet shop. If you choose to adopt an animal that needs a new home then you will have a small adoption fee but your pet will have already been spayed or neutered, vaccinated and treated for parasites (if appropriate) by all reputable animal UK charities such as the RSPCA. Adopting an animal can therefore be a lot cheaper than buying, and it also gives a second chance at a happy life to an animal in a rescue centre.
Buying for Children
If you are intending to give a pet as a gift at Christmas, be sure that the recipient is ready to take on the responsibilities of caring for it, or accept that you will be taking on those responsibilities. For a very young child, for instance, it would be unfair and unreasonable to expect the child to remember to feed and water their pet each day or to clean it out frequently. Instead, assume those responsibilities yourself and either remind your child each day to feed and water their pet and clean it out, or have your child join you in doing so. Make sure they understand how long their pet will probably live if taken care of properly: it sometimes helps to tell them how old they will be by the time their pet is very old.
If you think you could adopt an animal, contact the RSPCA and enquire about animals currently available for rehoming.