Guide to owning an animal in Singapore: Is your family ready for a pet?

If the kids have been hounding you for a pet, you're going to need to do your homework before taking on a new family member...

No sooner have you passed the stage of bottles, nappies and soft food, than the request for pets comes along. Greeting puppies in the playground and visiting rabbits and goats at the farm is one thing, but owning a furry or aquatic creature is quite another. To help your kids understand the commitment involved in caring for a small pet, a big pet, or any other kinda pet in between, here are some questions to ask yourself and consider before you rush out and buy a litter of kittens…

1. Will your furry friend be a five-minute wonder?
One minute your kid wants the latest LEGO set, and the next it’s a kitten. Kids are fickle, so before you dash out and buy a furry family member, you need to accept the fact that it’s going to be YOU that ends up with the lion share of caring for the new addition. Chances are you’ll get all the promises in the world from your children about how they are going to care for their new kitten/puppy/fish, but we all know how kids and pet care tends to pan out…

2. Who is going to care for the pet on a daily basis?
Cleaning out cages, going for walks, checking on food supplies and providing fresh water are some of the most basic and mundane tasks all pet owners will perform. If you are keen on a dog, regular exercise is a must. Cats are more independent, but they will require interaction and playtime. Make sure that all family members are prepared for the daily tasks involved in caring for a pet. If your children can follow a regular routine and specific duties then they might be ready. However, make sure they also are equipped to show empathy to an animal (no bear hugging a pup, kids!) and to set rules firmly but respectfully for a pet.

3. Do you have room to expand the family?
Do you have enough space in your home for a pet? Rabbits and cats love having space to explore, while larger dog breeds usually need yard space. Make an honest assessment of the available space in your home to see if you have adequate room. If you’re big on love, but short on space, it’s worth considering something small like a fish, hamster or penny turtle.

4. Are the financial burdens of pet ownership feasible?
Providing quality care for your pet is essential to keeping it healthy and happy. Besides the outlay for vaccinations, there are medications, supplements, food, grooming, transportation, holiday housing, medical procedures and pet toy costs to consider. It’s useful to draw up a budget for expected costs associated with a pet and check how financially committed you can be when it comes to an extra family member to provide for.

5. What will happen to your pet if you move overseas?
Pets are a long-term commitment and as they aren’t as vocal (and rarely as messy) as the kids, it’s up to you to ensure you can care for them, no matter what. With the transient family life often seen in Singapore, you need to be realistic about the big impact an overseas (or even local) move can have on your pet. If you are likely to be relocating during the pet’s lifetime (up to around 18 years for a cat), this needs to be carefully considered before committing to an animal.

7. What kind of pet fits best for our family?
Choosing the right kind of pet is important: if you have a fur allergy in the family then a Persian cat is going to be a bad move! But if you want a pet that is fairly independent, but still comes looking for cuddles, a cat could be the purr-fect fit. A family who loves long walks along the East Coast Park could really benefit from a pup to join in on the adventures. And stick insects, hamsters, rabbits, guinea pigs, turtles and even rats are other great picks if you have younger kids or less time to spend caring for a pet.

Adopt, don’t shop if you can!

8. Where should I get my pet from?
This is a bit of a minefield here in Singapore, as pet shops often get a bad rep. Once you have chosen what kind of animal to welcome into your family, then you need to research everything you can about breeds, bonafide breeders (rare here but importing from overseas is possible) and restrictions that may apply to your home (HDB homes have dog ownership restrictions, for example). Our advice? There are plenty of amazing animal adoption routes to exhaust when it comes to finding all shapes, sizes and types of pet, so do try there first.

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