CREATE NEW FAMILY BONDS WITH THE HELP OF FURRY FRIENDS
Pets can give a family so much at any stage of life, but after separation and divorce ( as long as you’re in the position to take on the commitment), they can be stalwart companions that will reduce stress, provide unconditional love, extra security and a
I MAY NOT HAVE CHOSEN THE MENAGERIE I HAVE IF I KNEW I WAS GOING TO BE A SINGLE PARENT TO THREE SMALL CHILDREN, BUT BEING A SINGLE
PARENT SHOULDN’T DETER YOU FROM PET OWNERSHIP. AS A VET, THE THING I STRESS MOST IS TO MAKE SURE IT SUITS YOUR TIME CONSTRAINTS
AND BUDGET... AND REMEMBER THAT WHEN YOUR CHILDREN DO SPEND TIME WITH THEIR CO-PARENT, YOU’LL BE THE ONE PICKING UP THE SLA CK.
HERE ARE A FEW PET SELECTION BASICS TO HELP YOU GET STARTED...
What you need to know: Birds can become quite tame if they’re handled from a young age, which is great for kids, but bird vets are often specialists, and there aren’t usually that many around. Your regular vet might know the basics and should be able to teach you to trim their wings but if your bird gets sick, you may need specialist care which can become expensive. Lucky, this shouldn’t happen too often.
Set-up costs: The purchase cost of a bird can vary, from $15 for a budgie, to $75-$100 for a cockatiel or peachface or more for some of the fancier breeds.
A decent size cage for these smaller birds might cost from $150-$200, but then you are pretty much set.
Food costs: Ongoing costs include feeding which might cost as little as $10 per month for a box of seed.
Vet costs: Worming should be done around every three months with an additive you can mix into their water which is usually very affordable.
What you need to know: Most cats are pretty happy doing their own thing, and are content spending long amounts of time on their own. They’ll also generally let you know when they want a pat and food, so in short, they’re pretty self sufficient.
Longer hair breeds will need more maintenance, or end up being an extra cost if they need professional grooming and clipping. In terms of their health, a few things to be aware of when choosing a breed are that pushed in faces often need more dental care and white noses, ears and eyes are more susceptible to sun cancers.
Set-up costs: You can set yourself up with a bed, bowls and a litter tray for as little as $20. Other things you might consider are toys, a scratching post and collar. You can even buy a harness and lead and teach your cat to walk on a lead if you so desire. Depending on where you live, your local council rules and risk of cat fight or road injuries may mean you need to consider an outdoor enclosure to prevent wandering which can add to the set up costs significantly.
Food costs: Spending a little extra now on good quality premium food will make sure your kitty has a long healthy life and you’ll ultimately spend a lot less on medical care down the track. You can get quality cat food for around 50cents/day using dry food or $2.50/day for wet food. Dry food does give them all they need for a complete balanced diet, but wet will add a little variety and some extra water intake.
Vet bills: While there may be great variations in veterinary fees, as a rough idea an annual check up and vaccination might cost approximately $100, annual expenses for flea treatments and worming around $250, or more if living in a tick area as tick prevention can be quite costly.
What you need to know: Dogs tend to be needy and although some can cope fine with very little attention, they generally like to be included as part of the family. They also need regular physical activity, which is a great excuse to get the family out of the house and bond over a brisk walk to the park.
Best breeds: There are literally so many beautiful breeds out there it is difficult to recommend just one. However keeping low cost and children in mind I’d have to suggest a small mixed breed terrier or Jack Russell. They are generally pretty hardy, have little medical and maintenance issues, are smaller so medications and food cost less and they are usually great with kids.
Remember though that this doesn’t apply to all small breeds as some can be snappy, however with a small dog the risk of potential damage is far less than for a large ‘snappy’ dog.
I would also keep in mind the same things as for cats – pushed in faces often need more dental care and white noses, ears and eyes are more susceptible to sun cancers. White tummies are also more susceptible to skin cancer in dogs too, this generally applies to larger breeds that like to sun bake.
Set-up costs: Again this can cost as little as $20 for some bowls and an old blanket. Other things you may want to purchase are a collar and lead, a kennel, bed, toys, dog coat, car harness, etc. Also you will need to ensure your yard is dog proofed, as wandering can lead to more expenses with road accidents or impoundment.
Food costs: To feed a good quality pet food for a dog weighing from 5-7kg would cost around 65c/day for dry food, or $1.50/day for wet, averaging around $1or so to feed a combination. Obviously the larger the dog, the higher the food bill, with 15kg dogs costing around $2/day, 25kg dogs around $3.25/day and so on. So basically if you love that 70kg big bear, be prepared to double your grocery bill!
Vet bills: While prices do vary, an annual vaccination might be around $100 for a routine health check and vaccination. Heartworm prevention varies from as little as $60-$80 per year for smaller dogs to hundreds for larger dogs. Annual expenses for worming and flea treatments can range from $200 for smaller dogs up to $400, or more if living in a tick area.
Other expenses: Other things to consider may be grooming, council registration, training or obedience and kennel accommodation or care while you are away.
While many pets can live a long happy life on the cheapest food, I cannot emphasise enough how much healthier animals are when they’re fed premium food. While it is more expensive to buy per bag, the benefits are numerous:
• Your pet eats less of it as they get so much more nutrition out of it.
• Less of it goes straight through them resulting in half the clean up in your yard or litter tray.
• It reduces the amount of skin and ear problems, tummy upsets, dental disease and urinary complaints, resulting in fewer trips to the vet and subsequently saving money in the long run.
• Avoids sickness from food scraps (if unsure, checking with your vet might save you unnecessary expenses if they become sick from something they shouldn’t be eating).
• Less chance of them becoming overweight which reduces the risk of heart disease, respiratory issues, diabetes, arthritis and joint disease.
There are many to choose from and some can simply be added onto your current home or contents insurance. Just be sure to look into what is covered as they can differ. Some cover preventative health such as vaccinations, worming and flea control, others cover accident and illness only.
I strongly urge that any dog or cat that is not intended to be bred should be desexed. This not only reduces the number of unwanted pets from accidental pregnancies, it greatly reduces a lot of health expenses for your pet from conditions they are susceptible to otherwise. This applies for both male and female pets.
A WORD ON ‘FREE’ GIVEAWAYS’
This is a good time to mention rescue organisations such as the RSPCA and the fact that a ‘free give away’ dog or cat may actually cost between $200 and $500... Remember though that this is extremely reasonable considering it usually comes with a bag of food, health check, desexing, microchipping, vaccination and flea and worm treatments.
If you’re still unsure, The RSPCA is a good place to discuss what sort of pet may suit your lifestyle. Other pets to consider are fish, hermit crabs, mice, guinea pigs, rats, rabbits (but check council laws), penny turtles, blue tongue lizards and if you’d believe it, even miniature pigs. With a little research, you’ll find just the right option to welcome a new family member into your hearts and your home.