Choosing a new pet: rabbits, guinea pigs, dogs, cats. Pete the Vet on Ireland AM

Watch the video here. This week, my own dog Kiko gave a hilarious demonstration of her terrier-style rabbit-chasing energy: I couldn’t see her from where I was, but you can see her in the video hopping up and down in excitement while we discussed the importance of choosing carefully when deciding to get a pet – or pets.

Cats and dogs are still the most popular pets, but smaller pets like guinea pigs and rabbits are often kept by families who may not have the space, time or funds to keep larger pets. Choosing the right pet for your family and home is very important. You need to reflect carefully before bringing an animal into your home. You can’t just send the pet away if things don’ t
work out. It is very important to think before you buy.


  • If you live in a city house with a small garden , you will not be able to keep a big dog like a St Bernard
  • If you have a small garden you should choose a smaller pet instead.
  • If you are buying rabbits or guinea pigs, where are you going to put the hutch and run?
  • If you are getting a fish tank, where will you set it up?
  • Be aware that apart from dogs, cats and Syrian hamsters, almost all pets should be housed in pairs or small groups, as most are social creatures.
  • Think about these things before you do anything else.


If everybody in your home is out at work or school all day, it is not fair to get a dog. Dogs need to have company and they do not like to be left alone all day. If you choose a smaller pet, you still need to have some time free every day to look after it. Even guinea pigs need ten minutes of your time every day.


  • Pedigree dogs and cats can cost hundreds of euro to buy.
  • Even if you are given a pet for free, it can be, expensive to keep an animal.
  • If you add up the cost of keeping a pet, you might have to spend thousands of euro over the lifetime of the animal.
  • You will need to spend money , on pet food, vaccinations, vets’ fees, boarding kennels, when your family goes on holidays: this adds up to hundreds or even thousands of euro every year for dogs and cats.
  • Other pets, like gerbils or goldfish, may be cheaper, but you still need to buy the right equipment at the start, and you need to buy food regularly for the whole of the animal’s life.

What else to do before getting a pet?

So once you decide on the broad type of pet that suits you, learn as much as you can about the pet you want before you get it.

  • Talk to anyone you know who has the same animal.
  • Visit them and see what their pet is like.
  • Ask about the good and bad things about having a pet like that.
  • Will it need exercise or not?
  • Will it be happy staying inside most of the day? Will it need a cage?
  • Will it need special equipment?
  • How much will it cost to keep the pet?
  • Will it need company or will it prefer to be left alone?

Places to get a pet

1) Rescue centres

A wide range of animals can be acquired for free, or for a donation, from rescue centres. This is often the best option. See this website to search for rescue pets in your area

2) Pet Shop

A good pet shop is the place to buy fish, birds, snakes, lizards, hamsters and guinea pigs. You should also be able to buy all their equipment like
cages, tanks, food and toys.

Signs of a good pet shop

  • The animals are bright and healthy.
  • The animals have fresh food and water and clean bedding.
  • The water in the fish tank (aquarium) is clean.
  • The people in the shop can answer all your questions about looking after the pets.

3) Professional Pet Breeders

  • If you want a pedigree dog or cat, this can be the best place to go, but choose carefully. Serious breeders know about, and care about, the health and welfare of the animals they produce. They will carry out appropriate health tests on breeding males and females to ensure that the pups are as healthy as possible. And they should be able to give you evidence of this.
  • It’s best if you can see both the father and mother of your puppy. The pup or kitten that you get will be very like his or her parents in the way it behaves and looks.
  • If a pet breeder can’t answer all your questions about a pet don’t buy your pet from him.
  • Professional breeders can breed any type of animal – dogs, cats, but also snakes, lizards, budgies and rabbits.

4) Puppy farms

  • Illegal “puppy farms” produce so many puppies they can’t look after them, and they live in poor conditions, with bad welfare. They give pedigree dogs a bad name, because due attention is not paid to the health and disease-free status of the breeding animals. The pups are not well socialised at all in the early years. The result is poor quality pups that go on to have lifelong health and behaviour issues.
  • Illegal puppy farms do not have the correct local authority licence – each local authority keeps a register online that lists these.
  • Even a legal, registered dog breeding establishment can have issues, so care needs to be taken before buying a pup from this type of source
  • Sometimes puppy farmers sell the pups from vans.
  • Visit for a guide to buying a puppy safely

5) Online adverts

Be aware that puppy farmers often choose to advertise using online adverts, so choose very carefully, and have your wits about you
Again, see the guide to buying a puppy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please note that I am unable to answer veterinary questions in comments. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health it is always better to contact your vet.

Privacy | Terms and Conditions