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What you need to know before getting your first pet

by FAMILY talk

Bringing a pet into your family for the first time is a life changing moment, but there are some aspects of pet ownership that many people don’t take into consideration when making their decision. With this in mind, we’ve asked Kathryn Eccles, Ecommerce Manager at pet supplies retailer Millbry Hill, to explain what you need to think about before getting your first pet.


It’s a great joy to bring the love of a pet into your home but, before you do, are you sure you’ve thought it through? While there are many upsides to owning a pet, there are also many downsides. And, if you don’t think things through, you might bite off more than you can chew. A pet is a long-term commitment, and it will require your time, attention, money, and love. This is not a decision that should be taken lightly so, with that in mind, I’m going to share four important questions you should ask yourself before getting your first pet.

Can you afford it?

The first thing to consider is how much your pet is likely to cost you over the course of its life. Pets are a big financial commitment, and you’ll be responsible for a lifetime’s worth of food, accessories, insurance, and vet fees, not to mention the items in your home that could potentially be damaged by an excited dog or a naughty cat.

You may think that it won’t cost much on a day-to-day basis, but the expenditure can soon stack up. Over the course of a lifetime, owning a cat or dog costs between £16,000 and £33,000, according to The Money Advice Service, so you’ll need to weigh up whether this is realistic for you. If money is an issue, then smaller pets such as rabbits, hamsters, and fish, could be a wiser option. It’s a good idea to create a monthly budget to make sure you can put enough aside for your chosen pet. You’ll also need money to cover the initial costs, such as beds, hutches, food bowls, toys, and other items.

Will the pet fit your living arrangements?

What kind of pet you ultimately go for should depend on the kind of home you live in. If you live in a small home, it’s not a great idea to get a St Bernard. Likewise, if you live in a top floor apartment, getting an outdoor cat isn’t the smartest idea. Aside from practical concerns, you’ll also need to think about how often you’ll be in your home. While you can leave an adult cat alone at home for up to 48 hours, dogs shouldn’t be left alone for more than six hours.

Another important consideration is how clean you like your home to be. Some breeds of dogs and cats shed a lot, and you might find yourself sweeping up hair every day. Energetic and excitable dogs are prone to knocking things over with their tails, so you’ll have to be mindful of ornaments and décor. In the same vein, a cat might scratch its claws on your expensive furniture, which you might need to protect or replace.

Do you have enough free time?

Pets need varying levels of attention, and you’ll have to take this into consideration before making your choice. Think about your current life balance: work commitments, hobbies, children, do you have enough free time? Dogs are undoubtedly the most time-consuming pets as they’ll need regular walks and can’t be left alone for too long. If you can’t give a dog enough time, then it isn’t fair to bring one into your home.

Cats could be a smarter choice if you will be out of the house a lot. You’ll still get the love and affection of a pet, but more flexibility in your day-to-day life. If you regularly go on holiday or go away for the weekend, then this is another consideration. Can you go on a staycation and take your pet with you? If not, do you have nearby friends and relatives that can help you out? These are things to think about before getting your first pet.

Can you commit to a lifetime?

Depending on the breed, dogs live for an average of 10–13 years, while cats live for an average of 14–16 years. You will have to look after your pet for its whole life, so make sure it is right for you and your family before you commit. Questions to consider are: what will you be doing in 5 years’ time? And, are your circumstances likely to change?

If you have children, it is a good idea to take them to spend some time around a similar animal first, to see how they will react. Try visiting a local cat or dog café or spend some time with friends’ or families’ pets. The added benefit of this is that you will be alerted to any potential allergy issues, which could save a lot of time and effort down the line.

If you’ve answered all of the above questions and still want to get a pet, then you are probably ready. If in doubt, seek further advice from friends, family, and your local vet.

Also read: K-9 Angels Charity urge the UK to always “Opt to Adopt”

Additional information:

Based in the market town of Stokesley, North Yorkshire, Millbry Hill is part of the Armstrong Richardson group – believed to be one of the oldest independent family-run Agricultural and Equestrian businesses in the country.

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About The Author

Smalltalk Magazine

Since 2005 Smalltalk Magazine is a printed A4 information magazine aimed at parents, distributed throughout the Yorkshire region. Printed 6 times a year it is distributed free to over 300 parent-friendly locations in the area. Full of useful and informative articles about family life.