Is your family ready for a pet?

Choosing a family pet takes time, says RSPCA’s re-homing expert Abbi Moon, but Abbi’s 15-month-old daughter already seems to have an animal in mind…

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Planning for a family pet is crucial, RSPCA’s re-homing operations manager Abbi Moon has told us – and it seems her 15-month-old Summer Moon is well ahead of the game.

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“Her first word was cat – I was so proud,” Abbi reveals, who had to make the tough but sensible decision not to have a pet because her family doesn’t have time to look after one right now.

“Summer gets to see so many animals with me anyway,” Abbi explains. “Getting a pet is the most fantastic thing for a family, but you have to look at your lifestyle and consider what you can give to the species. You have to consider if you can meet the needs of the animal,” says Abbi.

The RSPCA works hard to find the right pet for families, offering matching services and the chance to keep coming back to bond with an animal. If you opt for a dog “we try to give you the most bomb-proof dog,” notes Abbi, with cooling off periods, home visits, cost considerations and introductions to other pets all part of the process to ensure the right animal goes to the right home.

Families really need to consider the age of their children, too. Those ‘traditional’ animals that parents often think of for kids, like hamsters and rabbits, aren’t always the right ones, Abbi warns. “Hamsters only come out at night – which isn’t great for kids. Rabbits aren’t good for youngsters either with their strong back legs making them difficult to handle,” says Abbi. A guinea pig, cat or dog can be a good choice, if the lifestyle fits and if children can be educated to give them the space they need. Children often like to grab and cuddle, but they’ll be happier pet owners if they learn a few boundaries is one of the key messages.

“An animal needs to be treated like any other member of the family. Too many people consider animals to be disposable commodities that you can give back if it doesn’t work. But they have personalities and like a family you have to work to overcome any hurdles. There’s going to be the same accidents as with kids – wet or vomit on the carpet – and you have to be ready for that,” advises Abbi.

The health benefits of owning a pet are well documented, says Abbi who hopes many families will experience the good feelings that come of providing care for an animal. It can teach kids compassion and children can learn a lot from looking after a pet.

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You can tune into RSPCA Live – a virtual event happening on the charity’s Facebook and Twitter profiles on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 of April. Find out what it’s like to be an RSPCA inspector, take part in the Animal Oscars poll and hear the best ever pet jokes as told by celebrity ambassadors – including Britain’s Got Talent judge Alesha Dixon. You’ll also be able to find out more about the RSPCA’s work, and join the Animal Nation by taking a pledge on Facebook.

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