Keeping pets

Many British families have a pet – especially where there are children. Common pets in Britain are cats and dogs, but also rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, birds (such as budgies) and goldfish. There are fewer exotic pets, as these are often expensive.

People often get a young animal as a pet (such as a kitten or puppy rather than a fully-grown cat or dog). Some people buy their pet from a petshop, but it’s also common to get an animal from a rescue shelter, such as a dog’s home.

If you have a pet, you’re responsible for its training and welfare. You’ll need to house-train a puppy so that it doesn’t use the floor as its toilet. (Cats are much quicker to learn. Just place a cat box with cat litter in it near the cat, and it will almost immediately understand that this will be its toilet.)

There are dog-training schools (where your dog can learn how to obey commands like “Sit!”, “Heel!” or “Fetch!”) as well as behave well with other dogs. Good welfare means feeding your pet properly, and taking it for annual check-ups and vaccinations at a vet’s (animal doctor) or making sure it has regular exercise and stimulation. You’ll need to walk your dog at least once a day (even if you have a garden for your dog to run around in), and if you have an indoors cat, it will need toys and scratching posts to prevent it from ruining your furniture. Don’t forget: if you take your dog out for a walk in the UK, it will need to wear a collar and be on a lead (so it stays under your control and doesn’t run off.) Some dogs also need to wear a muzzle (across their nose and mouth) to prevent them from biting.

Unfortunately, pets are often victims of accidents (such as being run over by cars). Your pet might also get lost or run away, which is why animal organisations advise pet owners to microchip their animals or make sure they wear an identification tag on their collars.

The right nutrition and care can prevent some illnesses, but pets can easily get ill. veterinary care is improving all the time, but if your pet is suffering and doesn’t have a good quality of life, the best decision is often to put it down (euthanase it) at the vet’s.