As our team is preparing for the Adoption Day Event tomorrow, we get massive amount of questions about the animals we have for adoption. Things like “Do you have rabbits?”; “Is the dog going to be OK in the apartment?” and “Are cats really good pets or just as unaffectionate and aloof” – are just the few questions we have been receiving during this time. And so, in an effort to clarify some of these concerns, I thought I will write about how to choose the right pet for your lifestyle, schedule, living conditions and also considering other members in your household – both humans and animals.
Let’s discuss the most common ones: dogs, cats, bunnies, guinea pigs, exotic rats and birds as you embark on finding the best and most suitable furry family member to ensure that it will bring you happiness for many years to come.
Dogs have been known as man’s best friend and one of the most loyal human companions. From ancient times, dogs have been part of human households. They were used in hunts, guarding houses and care of livestock. Of course, due to their intelligence and devotion, dogs became part of every family and as civilisation advanced, the dogs entered a new level of human-animal companionship: they became members of prestigious royal families and served as companions and “lap dogs” to the rich and famous. Today, over 36 percent of households in the US have dogs and I assume the number is much larger in Cambodia, given a much looser term of “pet dog” that exists here.
If you are looking to add a pet into your family, dogs are a fantastic choice because they are loyal, always positive and ready to brighten your day with a cuddle or a fetching game; they make you get up and be active; you have to take them for regular walks – although sometimes it feels like they are taking you for a walk instead. Because of their natural intelligence, they are easily trainable and even working dogs do things to please their human handlers and perform any task with positive attitude, taking it as a game.
There are many breeds, sizes and temperaments to consider – and you should make your choice carefully and thoughtfully, considering the time you can offer to your dog, their needs for exercise (some breeds need a lot and some not as much); you must consider their age too – some of you will want a puppy, but puppies are like newborns – requiring constant supervision, training and patience. And of course, in the first year expect a lot of mess, too. This is why many people look for dogs that are one year or older and some even prefer quiet-natured senior dogs who need little time for walks and prefer to spend their years in peace and quiet.
Whatever breed, age and temperament of the dog, you must understand that a dog needs constant companionship, firm routine, training, cannot stay alone for long periods of time, must go for walks and often for playdates with other dogs, too. So, while the dogs make an amazing companion for life and if you are thinking of a dog as your next pet –please keep in mind that your lifestyle will also have to change significantly to accommodate the happiness of both you and your dog.
Cats, on the other hand are easier pets to have, requiring much less maintenance and attention. That is not to say they do not get bored, lonely or do not need human company. Any pet needs company. However, cats are a more independent creatures of habit. They sleep or nap on an average of 18 hours a day, their diet (in general) is easier to handle and feeding times do not need to be timed: cats nibble their food all day and if left alone, can entertain themselves with a feather toy or just snooze in the window’s sunshine. Personally, I always recommend that the cat has an animal companion – another cat for instance – to have mutual grooming sessions and play times, while you are away.
Cats are curious animals and do play with things that might be harmful to them. Their curiosity causes them trouble, too – cats are prone to fall off and break their hips; they tend to swallow foreign objects and some research suggests that cat fur can cause more allergies than that of a dog. Also, you should consider that your cat will need a litter box that you will have to clean regularly – so if you aren’t fan of poop clean up job – weigh your options carefully.
I adore cats for their independence, affection and playfulness. And given that they are lower maintenance and easier to keep if you are a busy professional – I recommend choosing a cat as your pet of choice.
Bunnies are always thought of as a kids’ pet. But having bunnies in my household, I can say that they are not as easy maintenance as they are assumed to be. While they can be toilet-trained and handled with ease, bunnies have a relatively sensitive digestive system and must be consistently kept on an appropriate diet to be healthy. They are also very strong animals with very sharp claws and strong back legs; so they can scratch and kick you or your child. And they can and do bite.
Another issue is indiscriminate chewing: if allowed to run free they might chew the table legs, sofa covers, pillows, carpets. Most dangerous of those chewing prospects that bunnies choose to chew are electrical wires. And it is too often that bunnies may get electrocuted while doing it.
Some folks think keeping a bunny is a tiny cage is good enough. But it is not. Bunnies like to jump, play and need to ample space to exercise. They must have adequate area to do so and they do need a relatively safe and quiet environment to live in. So, while bunnies can make perfect pets, they are considered somewhat of exotic pets – because of the set of special needs they have to be happy and live long prosperous lives.
Personally I am not fan of birds as pets. And I hate seeing birds in cages. I hate the concept of seeing a beautiful, vibrant creature designed to fly and have freedom, stuck in little cages with little to no way of using the wings nature provided them and designed them to use. Some people cut the feathers – I have four rescued birds myself and when I first got them I also tried to trim the wings to teach them to walk instead – but watching the birds fall while trying to fly completely broke my heart.
So, if you still insist on having a bird as a pet, please ensure that it is not caged or has plenty of space to fly around, exercise and use their wings. I think the optimal way is having a cage with open doors and allowing the bird to fly at their will, using the cage as their safe space, not a prison.
I also like the idea of large aviaries, where the rescued birds have an enriched environment and are being humanised. They can also enjoy human company. Please keep in mind that most birds are very social creatures and need the company of their own to be happy. Of course, I am generalising – there are a lot of species of birds and all needs are different – but in general, I ask that you let the birds do what birds do best: fly free!
Guinea Pigs & Exotic Rats:
I don’t mean to bunch these two in one category, but I will be honest I love domesticated exotic rats. They are amazingly intelligent, easy to keep, very clean and they do develop a great attachment with humans. I think, exotic rats are a perfect pet for someone who has small apartment and loves a cuddly furry animal with a very long tail.
The drawback with having a rat as a pet is they do not have a very long lifespan. As such, it may be very difficult when it’s their time to go because rats and humans form very strong bonds.
It is also good to remember that rats are very social animals and absolutely need the company of another rat or constant human company.
Guinea pigs on the other hand are much less needy and can be an absolutely perfect first pet for your child or you. With the right living environment, toys, enrichment and large cage with tunnels – you will have a rather independent but also very cuddly and loving pet, needing relatively little attention. Again, being highly social, a guinea pig would flourish with another guinea pig as a friend.
I suppose, each domesticated species has something different to offer as a pet. And within species, there are many variations of characters, needs, sizes, etc. One thing I urge though is not to rush into getting a pet without understanding their needs clearly and also understanding how those needs would fit into your lifestyle as well.
You may be a huge dog lover and want to have a dog – but it simply is not right for you in the present circumstances of your life. Consider your job, living environment, time commitments, social life, family environment and only then, choose a pet that will be happy and fit perfectly in your life. The worst thing to do is to bring an animal into your home and only then then realize that you cannot handle it; the heartache of either letting the beloved pet down or letting them go is not worth a fleeting spur of the moment decision.
And never ever consider taking wildlife as a pet. It is illegal and it will bring grief, pain and suffering for both you and the wildlife you are trying to domesticate.
If you would like to explore if getting a pet is right for you and see many different animals looking for new forever families, get advice from the adoption specialists, please come by the Adoption & Community Market Day at YK Art House on Saturday, August 18, from 12 noon to 7pm.
Animal Mama® Animal Clinic & Welfare Centre provides a wide range of services for animals & pets: vet care, boarding, daycare, pet food & supplies, hydrotherapy, grooming and doggy play dates.
Please visit us at:
Villa #15, Street 500
Toul Tom Pong, Phnom Penh 12311