Whether you're looking for a new kitten, puppy, cat or dog, making sure that you and your pet are the perfect match means a happy start to your lives together. As our future patients, we
want to help make sure that your new pet is as healthy as possible from their very first moment with you. That is why we have produced this information page to help you make the best decision for you
and your new pet. We strongly encourage all potential owners to do some research on any pet before they get one and are happy to advise you about choosing a suitable pet.
Before scrolling rescue centres, breeders lists or adverts for a new pet, there are some important questions you should ask yourself:
- Why do I want a new pet?
- I've never had one before and I'd like one (Make sure you get a pet that is well suited to your lifestyle).
- I've recently lost a pet and would like another one.
- I think my other pet is lonely and needs a friend (Be aware that new pets can cause conflict with current ones).
- My other pet is not as playful as it used to be (Be aware that new pets can cause conflict with current ones).
- My children want one (You are legally responsible for the pet's care until your children are 18. What will you do if your children get bored of the new pet?)
- I want to teach my children about responsibility and care (But be aware that you are legally responsible for the pet's care until your children are 18).
- I want to breed my pet (Rescue centres are inundated with unwanted litters of puppies and kittens so it is not wise to breed your pet without having homes guaranteed for the
- I want a cute looking dog like a Pug. Not a good idea. You are encouraging the breding of deformed dogs that have numerous health
- I want a guard dog (This is perfectly acceptable and certain breeds of dogs are very suited to this task, such as German Shepherds. Make sure they are well trained as you can be prosecuted
under the current Dangerous Dogs Act (1991) if they escape and cause injury to a member of the public). Learn more
about owning dogs and the law at DogLawTV.
- I think this breed of dog makes me look cool (This is really not an acceptable reason for dog ownership. Once you are the owner of a dog, you are legally responsible for its health and
welfare under the Animal Welfare Act (2006). The UK government is currently consulting the public on changes to the
Dangerous Dogs Act (1991) meaning that in the near future you could get 10+ years in prison if your dog injures another person in
If when answering this question you feel that you do not have a good enough reason for getting a new pet, it's a good idea to wait a little while until you are absolutely sure that it is the right
decision. Pet's take up a lot of time and money and since the introduction of the Animal Welfare Act (2006) you have a legal duty to
provide for all the needs of your pet including it's housing and behavioural needs.
- Which pet is right for me?
- The PDSA Pet Health Advice site has a quiz to help you decide. Consider the following:
- Am I able to keep a pet?
- If you live in rented or council accommodation, you need to be sure that you are allowed to have pets in your house first. Certain types of pet may be excluded from your contract and there may be
specific requirements for keeping them e.g. they must have up to date vaccinations.
- How much time do you have for your pet?
- Cats can happily be left alone for several hours, but dogs need regular exercise depending on their breed - for example, a Dalmatian needs more exercise than a Yorkshire Terrier. Dogs can also
experience anxiety when separated from their owner for long periods.
- Puppies and kittens will need more time for housetraining and training classes than most adult dogs.
- Some dogs may need repeat training to better socialise them with people or other dogs, especially if they are rescues, have an unknown background or were obtained from their previous owners.
- How much money can I set aside for my pet?
- Generally speaking, larger breeds will have larger feed costs. They may cost more to groom and to house in kennels as they require more space. Due to their larger size, they will also need higher
doses of medication and therefore will incur larger vet bills.
- No matter what their size, we strongly advise you obtain pet insurance as treatment for unexpected injury or illness can be very expensive and it prevents the added stress from money worries.
See our Pet Insurance page for more information.
- How much space do I have?
- Larger dogs require more space, a small house and garden are better suited to smaller breeds.
- Cats can happily live indoor-only, but dogs will need to be walked at least twice a day regardless of house size.
- Flats are generally not suitable for dogs.
- If you live near a major road, it may not be wise to let your cat have access to the outdoors as they do not have natural road-sense!
- What will I do when I go on holiday?
- It is common to take dogs on UK holidays, but for cats and holidays where dogs are not permitted you need to book your pet into kennel or arrange for a friend or family member to care for
- If you go abroad to EU countries, consider a pet passport (for dogs, cats or ferrets) under the PETS Travel Scheme.
- Do I have children or other pets?
- Some breeds, especially dogs, are not suitable for households with children due to their size or generally boisterous temperament. In all cases, children must be supervised with pets, regardless
- Certain breeds or species of animal are not suited to live together. For example, mice and rats instinctively fear cats unless they were socialised together at a young age and keeping them
together can cause distress. Certain breeds of dog were bred to hunt and can mistake other pets for prey.
- Bringing a new pet into a house with established pets can cause some conflict and you will have to manage this should the need arise. You need to make sure you cater for the health and welfare of
all your pets and this may involve making difficult decisions as to what best for them.
- Do I want a long-haired or short-haired breed?
- Long haired pets require more trips to the groomers to keep their coat in top condition, may shed more and require more attention in hot weather.
- Some types of dog do not shed their coat, this is very useful for those with fur allergies. The most well known of these is the Labradoodle.
- How old would I like my pet to be?
- Many people like cute puppies and kittens, but they obviously do not stay this way forever and will require more effort to train. This can be a vey exciting thing to be part of if you wish to do
- Older animals may require less training as they have already had this done with them
- In general, older pets are calmer and quieter than young pets and may be easier to manage.
- Older pets are more prone to age-related diseases than younger ones and may have higher initial vet bills.
The Kennel Club and the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy provide information of which breeds may be best suited to you. If you are unsure whether a cat or dog is the right pet for you, but you still would
like a pet, consider a small mammal such as a hamster or rat. Take a look at our pet mammals section for more information on the general care of these
Although no process is entirely risk-free, there are several steps you can take to reduce the chances of problems with your new pet:
- Decide if you would like a specific breed, pedigree or mixed-breed.
- Decide whether you would like to purchase a new pet from a breeder or adopt one from a rescue centre. Be aware than many purebreed animals can be found in rescue centres, not just mixed
- If buying one from a breeder:
- Ask if you can see both parents at home, this is useful as it gives you an idea of how large your pet is likely to grow and what its temperament will be like. It also allows you to see the
environment in which your pet was raised.
- Visit your new pet several times before you bring it home so you can be sure that you get along.
- Ask about your pet's history:
- Are there any known health problems in its family line and have the pet's parents been screened?
- What is its worming history
- Has it been checked by a vet?
- Has it been socialised with people and other animals?
- Check what package is available from the breeder:
The British Veterinary Association and Animal Welfare Fund have produced a 'Puppy Information Pack' and 'Puppy Contract' which is
designed to protect new owners from unscrupulous breeders. These packs should be filled in and signed by the breeder to demonstrate that their litters are healthy and well-raised. Also look at the
RSPCA's Puppy Buying Guide checklist.
- Does it come with some short-term insurance cover (e.g. 4 weeks), this is important to cover your new pet for congenital diseases (i.e. diseases present from birth such as heart defects).
- Does the pet come fully vaccinated, partially vaccinated or not at all?
- Is your pet wormed and given flea treatment?
- What is the breeder's policy for returning the pet should it be found to be already ill at the time of purchase, or if things don't work out.
- If your pet is a pedigree, where are its papers? (A 'pedigree' pet is a purebreed certified with the Kennel Club (dogs) or GCCF (cats) and can compete in full classes at shows or field trials.
'Purebreeds' can also be non-pedigree and do not have these papers if for any reason they were not registered. See the Assured Breeder's Schemes for cats or dogs for more information.
- If adopting from a rescue:
- Rescue centre staff will ask you a series of questions regarding your housing, family and lifestyle and will match you with some of their most suitable animals.
- Make sure you ask about any known health problems with your potential new pet, some rescue charities will cover long-term veterinary costs associated with an ongoing condition.
- Ask about behavioural problems - will your pet need additional training classes, to be seen by a veterinary behavioural specialist or does it need general management such as muzzling and halter
lead in public?
- Ask about the returns policy for the centre if for any reason you decide to return the pet.
- Common rescue charities include:
Important general points to note:
- You can adopt pets from adverts in the local paper or on websites such as Preloved, but be cautious as often you know little about the animal's history. Follow our advice above and you should be
able to get the same information from the current carers or owners. You can check whether the website any pet is advertised on complies with minimum standards for animal health and welfare by
visiting the Pet Advertising Advisory Group.
- We generally do not advise purchasing dogs and cats from a pet shop as you will know nothing about its health or socialisation. It is possible that they come from Puppy Farms where they and their
parents experience poor health and welfare. Pets from a rescue centre or home should have been well socialised and are at lower risk of developing behavioural problems in later life.
Here is a short checklist (though not exhaustive) of things you should have ready for your new pet:
- Clean water and food bowls
- Fresh food
- Healthy treats for training
- Bed and clean bedding (in a quiet part of the house)
- Newspaper (for toilet training puppies) or cat litter trays
- Dog lead or cat harness
- Collars and dog coats in bad weather
- Safe, clean toys
- Training classes booked
- Pet Insurance
- Register your pet at our vets for a full check up, flea and worming treatment
Download the free BSAVA Petsavers booklets on caring for your new puppy or
Book an appointment to see our vets for a full check up, nutrition and training advice. Even if your pet has been fully vaccinated it will help them get used to the practice and we can get
to know them better.
- If you have a puppy or kitten, consider purchasing our Kitten and Puppy Starter Packs for a
complete healthcare plan at a greatly reduced cost.
- If you have an older dog or cat, why not join our VIP Scheme and get a longer-time healthplan
for the same great savings.