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Owning a pet in Abu Dhabi

March 5, 2013    TIMEOUT ABUDHABI

The Abu Dhabi Pet Show takes place later this month and many parents will go home with their children asking for a pet of their own. Local vet Dr Katrin Jahn reveals what you need to know when buying your first furry friend.

It’s a date with destiny every parent has to face: the day when your kid asks if they can have a pet. But working out what kind of companion to get your overly keen little one isn’t as easy as you think. There are lots of things to consider, from where you live, to how much bills from the vets could cost.

The Abu Dhabi Pet Show 2013 takes place at the Du Forum on Friday, March 15 and will give kids a chance to learn more about cats, dogs and more. It’s an educational fair designed to raise awareness of animal welfare and to educate about products, food, health and training.

Entrance to the show is free and families can even bring along their own pets and enter them into competitions such as best dressed. Plenty of entertainment is also lined up, such as a petting zoo and pony rides and there’ll also be experts on hand to give advice to parents and children alike.

Owning a pet in Abu Dhabi is a big challenge that can sometimes overwhelm a family. And if you’re planning on a new furry friend, you’ll need to seriously consider your lifestyle before making the decision. Otherwise your new pet could end up with the city’s other stray cats and dogs.

‘Parents need to judge their children and make sure they’re ready for the responsibility,’ says Dr Katrin Jahn of the German Veterinary Clinic in Khalifa City A. ‘We’ve seen cases where the child basically treats a pet like it’s a toy.’

Making sure a pet isn’t going to have your nipper sneezing all day is also key. ‘We encounter problems where people haven’t checked out if their child is allergic to animals. We often get pets returned because their child is having coughing fits or has come out in a rash.’

The type of pet you choose is also key. ‘If you’re thinking of getting a dog, consider the country you’re living in and also, is it the right kind of dog for your child?’ says Katrin. ‘If you’ve got a small child you don’t want a boisterous young Labrador that’s going to knock into them all the time. Similarly, if you’ve got teenagers and you want to give them more responsibilty, make sure it’s a dog they can do activities with. Get them teaching and training the dog. Choose the right breed. Don’t get a great big German Shepherd if you’ve not got the right environment to keep it in.’

The high-rise apartments many of us call home in Abu Dhabi should also be considered. ‘If you live 20 floors up, you’ll need to train your pets so you’re not going downstairs every time they need the toilet,’ adds Katrin. You also need to make sure your contract says you can keep an animal. ‘That’s a big thing,’ she says. ‘Clear that up with the landlord before you move in as some places have a lot of restrictions about animals. And if you’re keeping a pet mainly in your apartment, make sure it’s got lots of toys to keep it active and stimulated.’

The sweltering summer heat in the UAE is also a factor. ‘Make sure you have air-conditioned shelter for your pets in the summer,’ she adds. ‘We have a lot of people who aren’t comfortable leaving pets in all the time and so they’re outdoors a lot in the summer which is really dangerous.’

That summer burn also sees lots of families leave the city for months every year, which again causes problems for your cat or dog. ‘If you’re going away, you need to make sure someone can take care of your pets,’ she adds. ‘Lots of animals get abandoned in this country. And if you need to leave the country quickly, you’ll have to consider what you’ll need to do to take your pet with you. Taking a pet back home with you can be expensive and complicated. For example, some countries will want blood tests from your cat or dog before they’re allowed in. Make sure you do some research on the costs of taking animals back home with you.’
Re-homing your pet in Abu Dhabi isn’t a good option either, says Katrin. ‘There are so many animals needing re-homing here there’s no guarantee you’ll find a home for your one.’

Katrin also recommends getting a pet that needs a new home as opposed to going to a pet shop. ‘A lot of the cats and dogs imported are too young, even though there are regulations in place,’ she says. ‘We sometimes find the animals’ passports have been faked and they’re selling pets that have been weened from their parents far to early.’

Pets at foster homes and charities are better options, she says. ‘You might not get the exact breed you want but it’ll have been health checked, vaccinated, neutered and you’ll get an idea of how good natured the animal is.’

Pets also don’t come cheap. ‘People have to be really aware of the price of things like food and at the beginning there are quite a few initial costs in terms of vaccinations, neutering, de-worming, micro chipping,’ adds Katrin. ‘It gets easier after six months, when it’s mainly vaccinations and keeping up with the worming control. But the real problems arise when there are unexpected medical invoices. You could be faced with a Dhs5,000 bill. We always recommend you have a savings fund you can dip into in cases like this.’

Making sure your kids stay interested in their pet is also key to having a happy cat or dog. ‘There are so many activities you can do with a dog. You can train them or teach them to do flyball, so they can become almost a sports partner. Children need to be made aware of the responsibility of owning a pet. They can be an educational tool and pets become great mates for kids.’
Abu Dhabi Pet Show, Du Forum, 2pm-8pm, March 15. Entry is free. German Veterinary Clinic, Khalifa City A, (02 556 2024).

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