If you are thinking getting a pet, consider a visit to a rescue centre rather than a trip to the pet shop. A rescue cat or dog is more likely to be mature and house trained; these are important considerations as you can often avoid costly inoculation treatments and the frustration of cleaning up after a young animal.
There are many misconceptions about rescue animals and many reasons why animals are offered for rehoming. Often it is as a result of changing personal circumstances, for example, an elderly owner who can no longer care for their pet.
Taking on a pet is a big responsibility and you must consider all implications, including cost, before agreeing to adopt.
Cost of rescuing
Caring for a pet is not a short term undertaking and you must be prepared to shoulder the burden of cost associated with looking after the health and wellbeing of your pet. Before you will be allowed to take in a rescue animal your personal circumstances and home environment will be checked for suitability. If you meet the criteria set down by the rescue organisation the rehoming process can get underway.
All prospective owners are vetted and you must not see this as an invasion of your privacy or your competence to care for a pet – different animals have different needs and not all home environments will offer them the best quality of life.
If you are able to adopt a rescue animal you will probably be asked to make a donation or contribution to help cover the costs of caring for the animal while it has been in shelter. These costs cover feeding, kennels and can even go as far as payment for ID/chipping, neutering and medical costs.
Owning a pet is a huge responsibility and a rescue organisation will be looking for commitment from you as part of the vetting process. After all, a pet is a long-term companion (for example, some small dogs can live for over 15 years). If you spend large parts of the day away from home you should consider whether a rescue pet is right for you. Rescue dogs, in particular, should not be left alone for long periods on a regular basis and will require daily exercise and mental stimulation. Engaging and bonding with your pet is a rewarding and fulfilling experience for both owner and animal.
Positive impact of caring for a pet
Caring for a pet can have a positive impact on your own wellbeing both physically through exercise and mentally through companionship. If you are living on your own, your pet is a constant companion – on hand 24 hours a day, comforting, loving and protecting their owners.
Your pet is a loyal friend and morale booster. Pets help reduce stress by providing emotional security, and they help provide a fixed routine. Pets have the ability to bring happiness and laughter and lift depression. Communication with other people is often easier when a pet is present for reassurance.
Pets help to fight against apathy and indifference. Studies have shown that caring for a pet especially among older people can help ward off apathy and indifference and provide a new focus in life.
Caring for a pet can be part of the grieving process to get over a bereavement.
Pets help you keep to a daily routine and via exercise and walking time they offer you the chance to socialise with others; preventing feelings of isolation or loneliness.
Psychologically enabling, pet owners can avoid has to take care of other things than only of himself and his own problems.
Psychological and physical inadequacy can be borne much easier if a pet shares one's life.
Pets encourage their owner to physical activity. Be it by playing with them, feeding them, cultivating hygiene or going on a walk with them.
Pets provide reassurance and safety. A dog, particularly for people who are living alone, is comforting and helps to keep unwelcome visitors away.
General pet care advice
The Blue Cross: www.bluecross.org.uk
Association of Dogs and Cats Homes: www.adch.org.uk
Information on inherited diseases
University Federation for Animal Welfare: www.ufaw.org.uk
Canine Inherited Disorder Database: www.upei.ca/cidd/intro.htm
Cambridge School of Veterinary Medicine Inherited Diseases in Dogs Database: www.vet.cam.ac.uk
Feline Advisory Bureau: www.fabcats.org
Further advice on dogs
There are many books and magazines with extensive advice on dog health and welfare: www.yourdog.co.uk; www.dogsmonthly.co.uk; www.dogworld.co.uk; www.ourdogs.co.uk
Further advice on cats
Governing Council of the Cat Fancy: www.gccfcats.org
Cats Protection: www.cats.org.uk
There are many books and magazines with extensive advice on cat health and welfare: www.catworld.co.uk, www.ourcats.co.uk
British Veterinary Association: www.bva.co.uk
Links courtesy of Age Concern England factsheets