When’s the right time to get a pet?

As a family we’ve got a long history of taking in strays.

Around the time my parents took me in for foster care, my Mum was followed home from work by a cat called Brandy, who had lost her tail.

I was the last child the family ever took in for foster care (Ha! They never got rid of me!) but Brandy wasn’t the last stray pet. There were gerbils and rabbits (someone emigrated), then a Siamese cat (someone realised they’d inadvertently bought Satan in feline form), and a beautiful rescue dog called Susie, who you could only stroke from behind because she quaked uncontrollably if anyone raised a hand in her eye line.

Within a year of leaving home, I acquired my first stray – a kitten called Basil who was being given away because his owner was pregnant. Basil was followed by a flea-ridden bundle of nerves called Parsley, who the lady from the Cats’ Protection League just “happened” to have in her car when we met.

When I was pregnant, we bought a chocolate Lab, who we called Happy. She suited her name perfectly because everything that happened to that dog was literally the greatest, most exciting thing EVER to have happened. Seriously.

Happy’s life was one long round of ‘Ohmygosh, someone looked at me, that is fantastic, wait, that person spoke to me! This is brilliant. Oh my God, there’s food?? Seriously?? This is, like, the best thing EVER, ooh, what’s that? OHMYGOD SOMEONE IS AT THE DOOR!!!' 

Those of you who have owned Labradors may be familiar with this trait.

Happy When I got divorced, the ex took the cats and the dog turned out to be impossible to manage on my own, along with a toddler and a falling-down house. So Happy now lives on a farm (no, really, she does), and undoubtedly every day is still the best day of her life EVER.  

I’ve had 18 months pet free and while there’s a lot less cleaning to be done and I can now leave the house knowing the dining table will probably still have four legs when I get home, the house does seem to lack something. And I think pets are good for kids – Flea is relatively hardy for a small girl largely because she spent the first two years of her life being sent flying by a Labrador puppy.

Flea is desperate for another dog. For the past three months, she’s pointed out every single dog she sees on the street, and her favourite book is a dog training manual, which she reads in bed every night. She says for Christmas Father Christmas can bring her a basket and a food bowl, and then I wouldn’t have to spend money on them myself.

I worry though that we’re still not in a place to care for a dog. I often work away from home all day – if I’m in London I might leave home at 6am and not get home until 8pm and that’s just not acceptable when you have a dog. So the point of this rambling post is… we’re going to get a pair of kittens.

Having made this huge life decision, I realise I have no idea where to acquire aforementioned kittens, or what I need to buy to care for them. Pet insurance, probably. Anything else?


Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

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  1. 26th October 2010 / 11:53 am

    Great minds and all that… hubby and I were discussing pets at the weekend. Our toddler is 2 and a bit and we’re expecting number 2 child to turn up over the next 6 weeks or so, so there’s no immediate plan and there’s a question about whether or not we really want the hassle of a pet. But I agree with you, I think they’re good for children to help them learn to take responsibility for someone/thing else. We agreed we’d think about it in a few years when the kids start asking for a pet. Make sure you post pics of the pretty kittens when you find them.

  2. 26th October 2010 / 12:00 pm

    We are in exactly the same place now . . . I blame ‘Marley and Me’!
    Toy get hold of a kitten try . . . http://www.battersea.org.uk/
    For everything else pop into your local vet and ask their advice. They will be able to recommend the best food, insurance etc, always better to get all the facts from them as they will be the ones giving the kittens all future check-up’s, jabs etc.

  3. Emma T
    26th October 2010 / 2:55 pm

    Hi Sally, sorry to be a downer here but in my experience kittens probably aren’t the best for you either if you are out at work all day. Small kittens can get sick very quickly and you really need to be able to attend to them at least once in the middle of the day to check they are ok.
    Have you thought about adopting an older cat (one that is used to children and with plenty of patience)? They often get left behind at rescue centres but they are perfect for busy people. They can look after themselves all day, don’t get sick so easily, and can leave the litter tray behind once they’re happy in their new home.
    The only other cost you need to think of is flea (ha ha) and worm medicine, which adds up as you need to do flea meds once a month and worm every three, but it is important to keep up with.
    but I do agree – every home needs to have a pet, so good luck with it!

  4. 26th October 2010 / 3:34 pm

    We’ve currently got a rabbit, a cat and a rat. Zack adores them all but the only animal Max has ever shown interest in is a dog. Any dog. All dogs. He LOVES them. I’m not so sure I can handle a dog on top of everything else, so I’m thinking of getting a kitten instead. Mad? Most definitely!

  5. Nic's Notebook
    26th October 2010 / 5:05 pm

    Awww a pair of kittens – fab!! I have 3 cats and a Springer Spaniel puppy – my house is madness! From day one all you will need for your kittens is a litter tray, food & water bowls, some food, some toys. Take them to the vet a couple of days after you get them to get checked out and they will advise you on what u need.(Oh you will need some sort of cat carriers for this) Good luck, keep us all posted with cute kitty pics 🙂

  6. 26th October 2010 / 6:10 pm

    I had to leave my animals with my parents when I had to go into a refuge. Luckily I still get to see them loads but living without a cat for me is hell. Dyll loves them to bits too always has, and they all get on so well. Even the miserable old scroat of a cat, a typical old man he is, but he’s fine with Dyll giving him the occasional stroke. Candy our yellow Lab is batshit insane, but adorable. She is very protective of him although she is getting better when we all go out for walks together.
    I want them all here, now 🙁 x

  7. 26th October 2010 / 6:21 pm

    Its’s so funny! My childhood dog was also named Happy 🙂 He was a great dog and we had him for 16 yrs. I agree with the comment about older cats. Shelters usually have v. sweet ones that do great w/ children…but people tend to go for the kittens. Kittens are a surprisingly lot of work, especially a pair of them. They can actually do just as much damage to your house, left to their own devices.
    Whatever you choose to get, do keep us updated and post cute pics! Wish you all the luck!

  8. 26th October 2010 / 8:10 pm

    18 months ago I relented on the pet issue and we got two guinea pigs from a rescue centre. A couple of months later, after seeing how much my girls enjoyed them as pets, we got a dog. No regrets at all, she’s fab.
    My only suggestion is that you try and get the kittens from a rescue centre, there are so many unwanted animals looking for new homes.
    Btw, love the Cat in the Hat reference. We love that film.

  9. Kerry
    26th October 2010 / 8:54 pm

    Me and my OH have a cat and we love her to bits. We got her from a breeder when she was almost 7 weeks old. A bit young, but she was fine. She has never ever had an accident on the floor, never damaged our furniture, and she knows she is not allowed to bite. If you want two, and you can’t get them from the RSPCA, get them from a breeder. The only thing that stops me from buying pets from shelters is the problems they tend to have. I would much rather give them money than buy their animals.
    You will need a scratching post or board so they have something to claw. If you find that they start to claw furniture anyway, theres a product called ‘soft paws’ its little covers that you glue to their claws – harmless. Plenty of toys (balls and feathers seem to be a favorite with kittens), food and water bowls, food, litter tray & freshener (optional but only £1 or so for a large tub), poop scoop, litter and thats about it. I wouldn’t advise the use of litter tray liners as they get their claws stuck on them when they cover their business up and end up pulling them off. LOL.
    Depending on whether you are going to allow them to go outside, you could buy flea collars instead of marinating them in flea solution. We don’t let our cat out as we don’t think its safe enough. Most vets advise keeping your cats indoors. If you let them out I would strongly advise against letting them out overnight. You will also need a grooming brush/mit and maybe some claw clippers. Oh, and don’t forget a nice comfortable bed. They will likely prefer the hooded/enclosed type beds.
    If you are getting two kittens, I wouldn’t worry about being away for a long period some days as they will very happily play together and keep each other company. Don’t forget to post a picture when you get them! 🙂 Hope they bring you lots of laughter! 🙂

  10. 26th October 2010 / 10:19 pm

    Get yourself some really thick tights so the kittens won’t ladder them, and some tape to put on your carpet edges so they don’t scratch them up. Then you’re good to go! Best of luck,
    Tina x

  11. 26th October 2010 / 11:38 pm

    I agree that animals are fab for kids – all our cat needs to do is walk into the room and my 9-month old immediately brightens.

  12. 27th October 2010 / 9:18 am

    I’m a cat girl, my sister is a dog girl… I say don’t forget to get carpet cleaner for the little “accidents” cos otherwise it stains and smells 😉

  13. Livi
    27th October 2010 / 5:13 pm

    aww yay! kittens! 🙂
    Pets are the best, I couldn’t have a life without them!

  14. 27th October 2010 / 11:47 pm

    Sorry, can’t help with the kittens as we’ve never had cats.
    Just wanted to say though that your Lab sounds *exactly* like my boxer!

  15. Christian
    29th October 2010 / 9:35 am

    Yep, I think Emma T has a point – getting a cat over 1 is probably a better option than kittens who need a lot of care and attention. Getting two will keep them occupied, but you might be better off getting a cat which is a bit more settled (and stands less chance of shredding your house when you’re out)
    Battersea dogs / cats home seems quite fanatical in its vetting of homes, so if that doesn’t work out, you could look at a local pet protection place?

  16. 1st November 2010 / 7:15 pm

    Labs are just the cutest as puppies. Im a cat person myself – no need to worry about missing table legs…although our puss has managed to work out how to open the fridge!!!

  17. Vegemitevix
    2nd November 2010 / 10:12 pm

    Er I love my animals so much (the furry kind not the womb kind!) that I paid over $5k to get them shipped over with us from NZ to UK. They are a beautiful Lab (called Bailey) and a Tonkinese cat called Stella. I’d reccommend a Tonkinese – cross between Burmese and Siamese for dog lovers who can’t have a dog, as tney are full of personality.