Adopting Your First Pet in South Africa
South Africa

What To Know About Adopting Your First Pet

February 27, 2021

When I was a kid, I drove my mum crazy with all the stray animals I used to bring home. I seemed to have a knack for attracting every lost dog in the neighbourhood, and there was a constant influx of lost budgies, cockatiels and one time, a tiny ginger kitten who showed up at our back door without invitation. I suppose it was no surprise to my mum that I eventually became a vet.

My chosen career was borne out of the love for animals and the magical bond that grows between humans and their pets, and if you’re reading this, I will hazard a guess that you will soon discover the same.

Why You Should Adopt a Pet in South Africa

I see a wide variety of pets and owners in my consult room every day. Every one of these people has a unique reason for having a pet and each has a unique relationship to their pet. One of my clients got a border collie recently as an exercise companion, another got a small scruffy crossbreed to help her deal with her anxiety. My patients fill a diversity of roles, from security guards, fashion accessories, to simply being amazing snuggle buddies. Whatever the initial reason for getting a dog or a cat, this introduction of a puppy or kitten to the household is the first step in a beautiful and deeply fulfilling relationship with a new four-legged family member. Get ready to spend all of your free time posting dog selfies on Instagram!

Choosing the right pet for you

I am often confronted with the question, “what breed should I get?” There is a bewildering variety of dogs and cats, and each has its own distinct characteristics. You may have had your heart stolen recently by a friend’s cute bulldog puppy, but you might well discover too late that the expensive vet bills that bulldogs attract are not to your liking. Take a moment and familiarise yourself with all the options out there before you choose. There are a number of online resources available to help you in your quest for the perfect companion. A good place to start is the American Kennel Club breed selector (https://www.akc.org/dog-breed-selector/) or the Vetstreet.Com breed finder (http://www.vetstreet.com/breed-finder).

Once you’ve found something that suits your lifestyle and pocket, find a club or Facebook group dedicated to the breed of your choice. This is a good place to get in touch with breeders and rescue groups who are truly dedicated to your new best friend. I strongly encourage prospective owners to consider adoption from rescue organisations rather than buying. There are other benefits to adopting as well. Adult animals don’t require as much training as a puppy and are also a lot less likely to pee on your favourite shoes or chew up your new PS5 controllers. Contact your local SPCA (https://nspca.co.za/), you could save a life in the process of getting a new best friend!

Financing an Adopted Pet

One of the most important aspects of choosing a new pet is finances. You adopt an adorable crossbreed kitten for a few hundred rand at your local adoption agency, or spend R30,000 on a purebred french bulldog, but your new pet is going to need food, and a few other things too. It is vitally important to budget for preventative veterinary care like vaccinations. A vaccination might cost anything between R200 and R500, but it might save you from having to cough up R15,000 or more in vet bills when your pup catches the dreaded canine parvo virus. Unavoidable accidents do happen, so be prepared to finance an emergency in some way.

The most common emergencies like broken bones or bad tummy bugs can cost anything from R2,000 to R10,000, but you might also have to fork out a few hundred rand here and there for minor mishaps like bee stings or a cat bite wound from the local stray tomcat. Very few vet clinics have the financial capacity to allow clients to pay off vet bills these days, so it might well be worth your time to find another way to afford a surprise vet bill before it happens.

I always encourage my clients to consider pet health cover, so that when an emergency does come your way, you don’t have to worry about bills. It is much better to make decisions during an emergency based on what the best medical plan would be for your pet, rather than what you can afford. A decent medical insurance policy will cost you in the region of R150 – R300 per month. There is a wide variety of pet insurance offers available these days, but they are not all necessary suitable to your needs. When choosing pet insurance, you should be asking the following questions to your insurance provider:

  • What will my maximum cover be for the year?
  • How much is the excess payment I will have to make from my pocket in an emergency?
  • How long does it take to get the money back from a claim?
  • Does the policy cover maintenance costs like vaccinations, dental care and sterilisation fees?
  • What breed specific conditions are excluded from the cover?

You can find out most of these details on the insurer’s web page, but there are also easy to use comparison tools like Hippo.co.za (https://www.hippo.co.za/pet-medical-aid-quote/) to help you choose the best option for your furry friend.

Pet Health: How Much it Costs in SA?

In preparing for your new housemate, it is important to plan for the health and well being of your pet. The typical things you need to budget for are the following:

  • Vaccinations (R200 – R500 per year)
  • Tick, flea and worm control (R1000 to R2500 per year)
  • Dental care (R1000– R2000 per year)
  • Routine blood tests (R600 – R1200)

If you are getting a young puppy or kitten, you might not need dental care, but you are likely to spend a similar amount of money to sterilise your fur baby when they are about six months old. You are probably also going to need to see the vet for two or three sets of injections, instead of the single vaccine that adult animals get every year.

Live a Better Life with an Adopted Fluff Ball

If you start adding up all of the costs I’ve mentioned so far, you might wonder if it is worthwhile getting one at all? I can state with absolute certainty, that it absolutely is! There are few things in this world that compares to the joy and unconditional love you will get from your new pet. A recent article in the journal Science (https://science.sciencemag.org/content/348/6232/333.full) reported that dogs and their owners secrete oxytocin when they stare into one anothers’ eyes… yes, that is the same hormone you secrete when you fall in love with someone.

So get out there and find the floof or fluff ball that is right for you, and experience life in an infinitely more enjoyable way!

About the Author:

Willem a qualified veterinarian from Jozi and former owner of a vet practise in Centurion. He is now an enthusiastic small animal vet in the outskirts of Melbourne.

He lives under the tall mountain ash trees in the Dandenong ranges with his beautiful wife, son and a long-eared hound named MotorTreacle.

4 Comments

  • Reply
    Avileena Dutta
    March 6, 2021 at 7:36 am

    I really am liking your blog! It’s so beautiful! And by the way, both my parents are vets, so imagine the animals around me in my life! My mom has a clinic too!

  • Reply
    Avileena Dutta
    March 6, 2021 at 7:37 am

    And I am such a cat person, and I love my current cat, but I kinda like small dog breeds too lol 😂

  • Reply
    kapilsaxena55
    March 6, 2021 at 6:38 pm

    After a very long convincing finally my parents allowed me to have a pet and this blog really provided me all the necessary information for adopting a pet.

  • Reply
    aurynprose
    March 16, 2021 at 7:37 pm

    As someone who did a little training in the animal care field many years ago, courtesy of a drive to become a Veterinarian from a tender age, this information is as crucial as it gets. We have had many pets of our own since I was a little girl, from cats, to dogs, to rabbits, to birds and even mice and rats. Over the years, our animals had no ill-health to speak of, but the first began with my rabbit, Kiara, whom ended up suffering and passing after a very short bout of abdominal distress, which we were not educated on at all. We also lost our cat some years later due to a cancerous growth around her gums that we were not able to identify. With both of those pets, we were unable to afford an urgent appointment with the Veterinarian and unfortunately it was too late by the time we managed to gather the funds. This information is absolutely critical, especially when it comes to being sure you have the means to pay for your animals Vet bills and can spot any and all signs of distress or any unusual behaviour. Very informative article.

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