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How to care for your pet correctly

Smokey, the cat with loudest recorded purrFrom horses to hamsters, cats to chipmunks, and pythons to poodles, every pet needs to be looked after properly.

Being an owner is a responsibility, and the law requires you to look after your animal correctly. Here are some of the basics required for looking after a pet.

Getting a pet

First, buy animals from a reputable business or re-home them from a recognised pet rescue centres. Do your research, particularly if you are buying a pedigree breed of dog, as puppy trafficking does exist. Ask to see where the puppy was born and check his or her parents have been screened and the correct vaccinations given. Charity the RSPCA has tips on buying pets.

Environment

Before you get a pet, ensure your home is suitable. You need to think about the practical stuff: if you live in a flat, is there a balcony that could be dangerous for a cat? If you don't have a garden, will you be able to let your dog outside regularly? If you want a house rabbit you will need to create a safe space for it; away from electric cables, for example.

Families

You also need to consider how your pet will get along with its new family. For example, some animal charities tend not to recommend dogs from rescue centres to be re-housed into families where there is a child under the age of five. Although lots of families successfully have pets from when their children are tiny, animals can behave oddly around babies and young children so you need to think about which pet will be right for your circumstances.

Diet

Your pet needs to eat the right diet and the right portions. Pet food is readily available, although (with your vet’s advice) you may want to make your own. Animals can't eat some of the foods that humans can (dogs are allergic to onions and chocolate for example), so exercise caution when letting dogs and cats finish leftovers from your own meals. If you think your pet isn't putting on enough weight, or is putting on too much or if their eating habits change, consult your vet. Animals also need constant access to clean drinking water.

Exercise

All pets will need to be exercised – this includes rabbits who need time to stretch their legs and bound around. Dogs need plenty of walks, runs and access to the outdoors; cats usually exercise without their owners as many are allowed to wander in and out of the home via the cat flap. It's important to give your pet lots of exercise, and it's likely he or she will help you get a bit more active too! Experts say even short walks if they're regular enough will be a good workout. There's no better motivation to get outdoors than a dog desperate to get to the park.

Company

Pets need company and shouldn't be left alone for long periods of time. This is also true for pets that are kept outdoors, such as rabbits. In fact, rabbits in particular, shouldn't ever be alone, as they need the company of other rabbits, as well as their owners. Other pets, who live indoors, particularly dogs, need to be let outside every few hours, and given plenty of love and attention. Before you get any animal, do lots of research on the type that will suit your lifestyle, and read up on the particularities of the breed. That way, you'll understand your pet’s needs and be better able to properly look after them.

Training

Pets, particularly dogs, need to be trained but avoid any harsh methods and train a pet properly using positive reward-based methods.

Insurance

Your pet's health is paramount, but vets' bills can be expensive. So it's a good idea to compare pet insurance and get a good deal, so that healthcare costs can be covered if needs be.

Find out more about pet insurance