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How to prepare for getting a pet

31st August 2015

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.

Animals make the best of friends, and can be especially beneficial for older people when kept as pets, as they can help with loneliness and improve health. This has been proven in numerous studies, with the government also encouraging local authorities to recommend pet ownership to those who may be socially isolated.

For example, research carried out by Cats Protection showed that older people benefited from having a feline friend, with 80 per cent of owners aged over 55 believing themselves to be happier than non-cat owners. 50 per cent also said that their cat had helped them in a time of crisis while 46 per cent felt that their cat had helped them to cope better with bereavement.

So, if you have asked yourself whether you would benefit from getting a pet and have decided that the answer is yes, our article should be able to help you prepare for your new companion’s arrival.

Prepare yourself and your family

While the idea is very exciting, it’s important that you are 100 per cent sure that you are happy with your decision to get a pet. It is highly recommended that you meet the cat or dog you would like to give a home to in order to establish a bond, with a positive gut feeling usually a sign that this is the right thing to do. You should also let your family know your intentions, just in case they have any advice, but also so that they are aware that you will have a new ‘resident’ should they come and visit.

“For families with children, teach them how to interact correctly with the pet; not disturbing them when sleeping and eating, how to approach them and not to pull their tails or ears.  By interacting with your pets gently and sympathetically, and discussing their needs with your children, both pets and children alike should benefit from the experience.” - PDSA

Prepare your home

While your home may be adapted to your specific needs with stairlifts and riser recliner chairs, it’s essential to make sure that it caters for your pet too. They will need a place to sleep, access to the toilet (the garden), and an area to feed, which you will have to provide. You will also want to protect your furniture and remove any objects that could be a potential hazard to your four-legged friend as well.

For dogs

D for Dog is an online community which offers news, events and information for owners, as well as stocking a variety of handy products for pooches. Here, they list some essentials which can help older dog owners in particular.

Poop scooper

“Older people with mobility issues may find it useful to purchase a poop scooper on a handle so they don’t have to bend down to pick up poop.”

Food and water bowls

“Raised dog food and water bowls can also help, but make sure to get one raised to the height your dog needs and no higher. The Popware range is a big favourite at D for Dog. These raised dog bowls are lightweight, collapsible and easy to clean.”

Dog flap

“A dog flap in your back door allows your dog to go out and toilet as and when they need to, without you having to get up in the night or rush to the back door each time they need to go out.”

Easy-to-clean bedding

“Spend time researching dog beds that are easy to clean and care for. Dog beds with zippered covers are easier to keep clean, or take a look at some of the modern waterproof beds that can be simply hosed down or brushed clean.”

Blanket

“A large dog blanket or throw can also help protect your soft furnishings, meaning less cleaning and hoovering of your sofa or armchair.” – Jenny Prevel, D for Dog

There are also a few simple things new owners can do to make sure homes are suitable and safe for a new dog, such as these suggestions made by the Kennel Club, which is the largest organisation dedicated to promoting the health and welfare of dogs.

·         Make sure any items or substances that can be poisonous to dogs are stored well out of reach of your pet. Foodstuffs such as chocolate, onions and even blue cheese can be poisonous to dogs, as are most household cleaning products.  The Kennel Club has a dedicated poison guide to make owners aware of what can be harmful for dogs.

·         Ensure that any small objects that could be mistaken for food are cleared away and kept out of reach to avoid dogs choking

·         Secure the garden – a simple fence around your garden can prevent a dog from wandering away, getting lost or being exposed to traffic.

·         Installing dog gates in the house can be a good way to prevent your pet from going into rooms you’d rather he didn’t, or from going up and down the stairs freely – The Kennel Club

For cats

Cats Protection also recommend having the following in your home if you are adopting a furry feline.

·         an area for food and a separate area for water, both in a private, accessible location

·         at least one litter tray placed as far away as possible from their eating area

·         somewhere to hide

·         access to a high spot where they can view their surroundings

·         a suitable place to sleep or, ideally, a choice of them

·         a scratching post

·         a few cat toys and space for them to play – The Cat’s Protection

Prepare your finances

People often only consider the initial costs when adopting a pet, but there are also long-term expenses which you must be aware of. It is advised that you budget for your pet’s weekly food allowance, and as vets bills can come at any time, it is also handy to have some money put aside should your faithful friend fall ill or get injured.

“On average it can cost around £25 a week to own a dog, so it is important to ensure that you can afford this and any other costs that may arise. You’ll need to consider insurance, veterinary costs, food, toys and bedding, grooming, kennelling or other care for the dog when the owner is away, and legal requirements such as microchipping (which is set to become compulsory in England, Wales and Scotland in April 2016).” – The Kennel Club

Pet insurance can provide a welcomed safety net for covering much of the cost of potentially expensive treatments if your pet becomes ill or injured, you will need to pay for any excess which applies to your policy.” – PDSA

Looking after your pet

Once your pet is finally settled in to your new home, it will be time to take care of your loyal companion, for the many years you will now share together. Aside from feeding and providing love, you will also need to look after your pet in a number of different ways; keeping their coat clean, maintaining healthcare, and ensuring they get the correct exercise. Find tips from the experts below.

“If you find coat, ear and nail care difficult, check out local dog groomers. A good groomer will give your dog a bath but can also clean your dog’s ears, keep their nails trimmed and even empty anal glands, if necessary.” – Jenny, D for Dog

“Owning a pet means making sure they are kept healthy and protected from preventable illnesses. Make sure they are vaccinated, neutered, micro chipped, treated regularly for fleas and worms, and receive veterinary treatment when needed.” – PDSA

“To ensure your dog has access to good veterinary care should it be needed, it is important to identify a good local vet.  Spend some time researching vets in your area. Looking online and speaking to other dog owners are two good ways of doing this.” – The Kennel Club

If you're worried about what may happen to your pet should it outlive you, then there are a number of ways you can ensure that it still receives great care once you are gone. Cats Protection offers a Cat Guardians program, which helps owners make arrangements for their pets should they need to find a new loving home. Find out more here.

Decided owning a pet is not for you?

If you’ve read this article and it has made you rethink getting a pet, then there are still many ways that you can interact with animals. Pets as Therapy is a national charity founded in 1983 and enhances lives in the community by providing companionship and friendship, as well as helping to tackle loneliness. Find out more about the work they do here.

“We enhance health and wellbeing in the community through the visits of trusted volunteers with their behaviourally assessed animals. We provide a visiting service in hospitals, hospices, nursing and care homes, special needs schools and a variety of other venues all across the UK.” – Pets as Therapy

Your local animal re-homing centre may also have options for dog walking, with the opportunity to see the other unwanted pets such as cats, who will appreciate your love and affection even if you are unable to take them home. You could also talk to friends who have animals, in case they would like help with taking care of their pets.

Image Credit: Angelia Sims (flickr.com), CP Library, D for Dog, Aaron Jacobs, Stephen Shellard, Mosman Council, Nacho (flickr.com)

This content was written by Emily Bray. Please feel free to visit my Google + profile to read more stories.