Puppies and kittens are everywhere lately with young and old people opening their homes and hearts to a new pet.  The joy they bring has been shown to prolong the lives of their owners and improve their quality of life.  There are always challenges especially when they are young, but when their eyes light up and their faces smile when you come home, without fail, you feel loved.  I vaccinated a sweet fur-baby this week belonging to a lively 80+ year old lady and she made me hope that I am as keen in spirit and body when I am her age.  Her pet will need caring for everyday and she will have a constant companion and someone who is overjoyed to see her when she returns, even after only five minutes.  The care of this pet will bring her into contact with other people who will interact with them both and enrich their lives with a sense of belonging and usefulness – major factors in human well being.  She chose her pet well after much consideration.  No more big dogs for her.  Not too much hair that needs constant attention and one that has had plenty of human contact so knows the basics already, like “I must not mouth my owner with my needle teeth” and “I must not jump and scratch her fragile legs”!  When one considers what needs to be learned to be a welcome family member it is amazing that most pets figure it out rapidly and settle down into the routine of life around them.  Toilet training, walking on a lead, learning words like sit, NO, walk, food, come, leave it to name a few.  Many of these are taught at Puppy School which is an excellent early socialization and training introduction for young dogs before they are 4 months to set the ground rules for life and interaction with other people and dogs.  Unfortunately, not everyone does their research well and may end up with a pet that does not really suit their needs.  There are many web sites that help with the decision making.  With the gift-giving season upon us I urge you to take your time choosing a pet as a gift to ensure the happiness of all involved lasts more than Christmas Day.  

We have an aviary full of cockatiels that started with one. Peaches was purchased as a Christmas present for our daughter who was so taken with the lorikeets that pinched our breakfast cereal at Wilsons Prom a few years ago.  Peaches was evicted from the house after several months because she ate the mouse cord and back of the lounge suite and it took 10 minutes chasing her around the house to get her back in her cage if you wanted to leave.  But of course she needed company and now she has more than she ever hoped for!  And the kid who wanted the bird says “but I only wanted one!” when faced with the chores of looking after 12 and their babies.  These are all good life lessons that come with pet ownership.

Small pocket pets like rats, guinea pigs and rabbits also make excellent pets for busy families.  Rabbits can be toilet trained and live long lives if cared for well (mozzie repellents and vaccination essential in the summer).

Kittens are seen as easier pets that arrive knowing how to use the toilet and are happy by themselves for most of the time.  They make sure their human provides plenty of tasty food on tap and tolerate affection when it suits them.  But they still grow from a sweet bundle of fur into a 16 year commitment of care.  

Enjoy Christmas and I hope you are blessed with sharing it with a loving pet and family.

Fiona Cameron

Shepp vets