Kate Lloyd | Contributing Writer | Sunday, 26 April 2015

Things You Need To Know Before You Get A House Pet

Things You Need To Know Before You Get A House Pet

The Debrief: Thinking about getting a fluffy friend? Read this first, otherwise you might have the RSPCA all up in your crib

For two years, Bernie the bunny was the man of the house in my five-girl flat. While he did have a tendency to shred important IKEA instruction manuals, he made it up to us with unconditional love during hangovers, break-ups and just-bad-days. A prime cuddler with glossy speckled fur, he was a BFF 4 lyf and the star of many Instagram photo shoots.

But with great rabbit comes great responsibility. Bernie’s litter tray needed cleaning every day, and there was always a kilo of rabbit food in our corridor. Pet owners have a legal duty to make sure their pets are in good condition. This means keeping an eye on injury and illness as well as diet and mental health. 

RSCPA pet welfare office Alice Potter says: ‘Sadly, we see lots of pets who have been abandoned and neglected because their owners haven’t considered the time, money and effort that goes into owning a pet.’ :(

If you’re thinking about getting a house pet, here are some things you need to know first:

They’re frickin’ expensive

Food, insurance, worming and beds all add up to $$$. Stats published by PDSA Pet Animal Wellbeing revealed rabbits cost their owners a total of £9,000 over the course of their lifetime, while cats cost around £17,000 and dogs cost anywhere between £16,000 and £31,0000, depending on their size. 

If you don’t have at least £100 worth of disposable income each month, then you might want to rethink the pet situation. Cats and dogs can live for 14 years, so even if you club together with your housemates at first, one of you will have to take responsibility for the little guy for years after you all move out.

Is your flat an OK home?

If your flat is, let’s say, ‘petite’, then you're probably better off with a hamster than a bouncy golden retriever. You’re legally required to ensure there’s enough room for your pet to have their own chillout space. (No beanbags and zen music necessary though.) Bernie liked to hide behind an old exercise bike, and cats like to live it up on shelves. 

You’ll also need to make sure that, if you’ve not got a garden, there’s somewhere outside for your pet to roam free, especially if you’re thinking of getting a dog.

Alice from the RSPCA says: ‘Think about whether you’ve got a green space near you where you can take your dog so they can have a run off-lead, play with other dogs, have a sniff around and generally enjoy doing normal dog things.’ 

You’re going to have to clean more

Your No.1 fluffy buddy is gonna scratch things, knock things over and moult everywhere without even trying. Everyone in your house has got to be prepared to clean up after them. Sam, 27, shares her two-bed flat with both a cat and a bunny. She says: ‘Buy an industrial strength Hoover and lint brush to avoid being covered in hair.’ 

You also need to work out where the litter tray’s going to go – they can be real stinkers once used. A garage or utility room is the best bet, but let’s be honest, you’re not a suburban family of four so it’s going to be the hall or the kitchen.

Parties might get trickier

It’s really tempting to dress up your beloved animal in a sparkly outfit and bring them out to play at parties. (I can’t pretend that Bernie never had a few wild nights.) But, really, you need to find a safe and quiet place for them to hang out.

Alice from the RSPCA says: ‘Parties are busy and noisy with lots of unfamiliar people entering the home. All these could cause an animal stress and disrupt their daily routine.’

Plus, the front door is going to end up left open at some points, and you don’t want your pet running onto the street. Please note: anyone who tries to give your pet booze should instantly be classified as a dickhead. 

They’re early risers

You might demand your pet’s love and affection during Netflix marathons, but they’ll want your attention at the crack of dawn when they need a wee. Sam says: ‘Be prepared to be woken up every morning by either yowling or being patted on the face/head/back repeatedly with mucky little paws.’ 

Check all your housemates are on board

You can’t go away for the weekend and just leave a tenner so Hammy the hamster can buy himself a pizza. And, you’re going to have to make sure your post-work-drinks don’t turn into an accidental-6am-session if you can’t guarantee someone’s looking after Peter the pooch.

You need to make sure that everyone in your house is actually into the whole pet thing. And, that they know how to care for your four-legged friend properly. 

You need a landlord strategy

If you’re renting, you’ll either need to ask your landlord if you can get a pet or risk getting kicked out. Hayley, 26, lived with a dachshund in a no-pets flat. She says her landlord almost caught her with the pup while she was working from home: ‘She called 10 minutes before she was coming over to “drop something off” as she was suspicious. I had to run out of the house half way through a shift with my laptop and the puppy and odd socks and loafers on looking crazy.’

It’s SO worth it, though

Bernie moved out of our house last summer, when my flatmate shacked up with her boyfriend. I have missed his soft, soft fur every day since. 

Love you always, Berns. 

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Follow Kate on Twitter: @katelloud

Picture: Maggy Van Eijk 

Tags: Housemates Head To Head, Animals