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Dogs, Cats and Popular Pets

How do you choose a cat?

Cats are usually considered a better choice of pet than dogs for people living in relatively confined spaces (e.g. flats or townhouses), as they require less exercise than dogs, and generally tend to their own needs in that regard - being rather independent and aloof in character.

Different breeds of cats will have different personalities. Many will enjoy petting and human contact, however generally cats will show some degree aloofness and can spend long periods alone, either sleeping or lying in the sun. If you are planning on getting a cat you will need to determine your local regulations regarding registration, desexing, containment and vaccination.

It is important to note that many people are allergic to cats, in fact cat allergy is one of the most common pet allergies. Generally this is an allergy to the cats fur or spit. It can result in symptoms including hayfever, watering and itchy eyes, skin rashes and eczema, and, in asthmatic children, it can cause asthma attacks. Like all allergies, repeated exposure will make each reaction more severe. People who are allergic to cats will not just become tolerant of it with time, and it is a very serious consideration when you are purchasing a pet. If you have young children, asthmatics or people with allergies to other environmental agents (dust mites, pollens etc.) you should check to see if they are allergic to cats before you purchase one.

The age at which you buy a cat is not critical (as tends to be the case with a dog). Most people prefer kittens, but an older cat will adapt to a new situation relatively fast if it receives plenty of food and attention. Wherever you buy a cat from (e.g. pet shop or breeder), be sure that it comes from clean premises. Also, note the general appearance of the cat; you should make sure it looks healthy and clean. Kittens infected with fleas, for instance, are an indication of a lack of care on the part of the breeder.

One advantage of buying from a breeder, is that they can provide you with a history of your particular cat. Pedigree cats come with papers documenting the pedigree. You should determine whether the kittens mother has been vaccinated against infectious feline enteritis and cat flu, as well as whether she has been de-wormed. A breeder should not begin to wean kittens from their mother before four weeks of age. The age at which kittens are ready to leave their mother is six weeks at the earliest, though some breeders prefer to wait as much as twelve or thirteen weeks old before allowing new owners to take kittens from the mother.

How do you choose a dog?

Unlike cats which will integrate into a family irrespective of age, older dogs tend to be hard to break old habits with. Dogs are best introduced into a family as a puppy. There are disadvantages to puppies (e.g. they require toilet training, they tend to chew things when young and teething, and can be very energetic).  Puppies are, however, cute and lovable, and many people forgive these initial problems easily, as they enjoy the antics of their new pet. The ideal age to acquire a new weaned puppy is about 6 weeks.  At this age, the puppy will be totally dependent upon you for its feeding, companionship, and protection.  If you fulfil these requirements, a strong bond will develop between you and your dog.

Important things to consider when selecting a dog include:

  • Permission – important if you rent, or live in a housing estate or complex with body corporate.
  • Outdoor area/yard size – will the dog have enough room for exercise and play?  If not, is there an off-leash park nearby?
  • Indoors – if your dog will be in the house, consider short haired breeds that are affectionate and easily controlled/trained.
  • Fencing – some breeds (Kelpies, Dalmations, Collies) are exceptional jumpers and diggers.
  • Gardens – gardens and Terriers, or Alaskan Malamuts do not mix.  Other active breed will also enjoy excavating your garden beds if you are unable to keep them entertained with other things.
  • Experience – if you are new to dog ownership steer clear of dominant or aggressive breeds such as German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Dobermans and Cattle Dogs, as they really need expert training to avoiding biting and attacks.
  • Alone time – how often are you home?  If you are out most of the day consider getting two dogs as companions for each other.
  • You – how fit are you?  How strong?  How mobile?  A large breed will require you to be strong enough to handle it, an active dog is a poor choice if you have arthritis or limited mobility.
  • Lifespan – as a general rule of thumb, giant breeds die younger than small and miniature breeds.
  • Guard duty – if you are looking for some degree of security, it is generally accepted that a home with a dog is less likely to be burgled.  However while a Doberman or Rottweiler would make a formidable guard dog, a terrier or Chihuahua is a better option if you have small children.  Black dogs are generally more effective, compared to their pale counterparts.
  • Lifestyle – do you travel and would you take your dog?  If not, who will are for them, or will you put them in a kennel?
  • Time – are you prepared to spend time playing and exercising with your dog, grooming and training.
  • Money – can you afford the breed you want?  And, once you have your dog, can you afford to feed it and provide the proper veterinarian checks, vaccinations and treatments?  Consider pet insurance if it is available, as vet bills for accidents or disease treatments can be steep.
  • Legalities – check your local laws and by-laws.  Large dogs or ‘aggressive’ breeds may not be permitted in some residential areas, or may require formal permission which comes with requirements for training.  Check laws regarding off-leash areas, noise complaints and possibly any issues with yard size.

Owning and caring for a pet can be a most rewarding experience. They can provide great companionship, and in the case of younger and more active dogs can also encourage you to be more physically active.

ACS offer a great range of courses for those looking after or working with pets, helping you understand more about areas such as health, nutrition and behaviour, to breeding and grooming. Take a look at our courses today - if you have any questions about any of our Pet courses or want to know more, then get in touch with our specialist Pet Care tutors who will be happy to answer your questions.

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