A pet is lifelong commitment. It is important that you pick the pet that best suits your needs and lifestyle. Before buying a pet, consider the following:
Many people choose to rescue their puppy/kitten or adult dog or cat, either directly from pounds or from various rescue organisations. Woollahra Council's pound, the Sydney Dogs and Cats Home, has joined the 'Getting to Zero' initiative, working towards a goal of not euthanasing any healthy or treatable pets. They provide excellent care to the animals at the Home, and boast impressive live release rates. Visit their website to browse through the dogs and cats that are currently looking for a home. All pets are health and behaviour assessed, fully vetworked prior to adoption, and have a trial period to ensure they're the right fit for you.
Rescue groups are groups of volunteers who rescue pets directly from the pound once their holding period is up and they are at risk of euthanasia. Through a network of volunteers and foster carers, they ensure they are up to date with all their vetwork and look after these animals until their forever home can be found. Browse through PetRescue to see all the cats and dogs currently in care with rescue around the country waiting for the perfect family to come along. Don't necessarily only limit your search to NSW - lots of rescues do interstate adoptions too!
If you are after a specific breed of dog, especially if it is not easily available through rescue, you may choose to buy a puppy or mature dog from a reputable registered breeder. Most breeds have recommended health tests that should be performed on parents to minimise the risk of genetic diseases, and it is a good idea to contact the local breed club for information on what you should look for in a breeder of your chosen breed, as well as any red flags that may mean you should avoid a breeder. You can also visit Dogs NSW or the NSW Cat Fanciers Association for more information.
Have a look at the Pets4Life website for more information on adding a new pet to the family.
Dogs come with many different temperaments, exercise requirements, grooming requirements, and personality quirks - and this is not necessarily breed specific! Studies have shown that there is a huge amount of variation of behaviour within dogs of the same breed, and much less behaviour variance in dogs of different breeds than might be expected. Mixed breeds are a genetic lottery, and you may get any or none of the typical behaviours associated with each breed. For these reasons, it can be more important to focus on an individual dog's personality than its breed or mix when choosing to adopt or purchase a pet.
Most dogs need regular exercise and socialisation with the outside world, as well as training and interaction with its owner. Grooming levels depend on coat type - with some dogs shedding huge amounts and others not shedding at all. Dogs that do not shed need regular brushing and clipping (which can be costly if done professionally), so make sure you factor this in to your decision.
If you work longer hours this does not necessarily preclude you from owning a dog - but you may need to be prepared to pay for regular dog walking or daycare if your dog needs more interaction than you can give. Adopting an older dog with a known independent temperament is likely to be a better option in this situation than a puppy.
Cats make fantastic companions because they are usually lower maintenance than dogs, have tonnes of personality, and have a tremendous capacity for love. They usually lead a more independent lifestyle than dogs, are self cleaning and do not need to be taken for regular walks. For this reason they often suit people with busier lifestyles and families. Cats can have very different personalities - from very aloof to extremely affectionate, and it can be a good idea to consider a teenage or adult cat if you are looking for a specific temperament - that way you know what you are getting!
Consider keeping your cat completely indoors or looking in to cat containment systems, like enclosures or fence attachments to prevent your cat escaping your yard. Contained cats generally have much higher lifespans and a lot less vet bills compared to those who wander, as they are not coming across other cats and dogs (which carries the risk of injury or disease) or being hit by cars.
We recommend at the minimum keeping your cat inside overnight, as this is when they pose the most risk to themselves and our native wildlife.
For more information on choosing the purr-fect pet for you, have a look at the information provided by the Australian Companion Animal Council.