Pets are One of Life's Most Rewarding Experiences, but you Shouldn't Begin This Journey at Christmas

It's that time of the year when people up and down the country put heart before head and buy a pet for a loved one without thinking through the realities of owning and caring for an animal long-term.

It's that time of the year when people up and down the country put heart before head and buy a pet for a loved one without thinking through the realities of owning and caring for an animal long-term.

In 2014 alone, the RSPCA rescued and collected almost 130,000 animals and it pains me that part of this shocking number is undoubtedly driven by people who don't consider the reality of pet ownership.

Being a pet owner is a 10-15 year commitment and should not be taken lightly, especially when taking into account the total cost over the pet's lifetime, which can be up to £31,000 for dogs and £17,000 for cats. It's a lot of money, and when you think beyond the initial purchase it's clear to see how it adds up - boarding fees, vet visits, insurance, food, preventative healthcare and, of course, all the practical things like leads, beds and so on.

But putting aside costs, Christmas simply isn't the right time for the wellbeing of the animal. Pets need time to settle into a new environment and Christmas is a terrible time for it. It is far too hectic, noisy and confusing for a new addition to the family. Much better to introduce a new pet outside the Christmas festive season when the proper time, patience and love can be given to ensure as smooth a transition as possible.

Below are some things to think about before deciding to take the plunge and get a pet this Christmas.

1. Lifetime costs

Owning a dog or cat over its lifetime can be up to £31,000 and £17,000 respectively for dogs and cats. One-third of this cost goes to feeding your pet with another third being veterinary fees. This is why you should always consider pet insurance.

2. Insurance

Taking pets to the vet for check-ups or surgery can be an expensive business, yet only 15 per cent of UK owners have insurance cover for their pets. Definitely consider it.

3. Vaccinations

Vaccinations are key to ensure your pet is protected against the most common transmittable diseases, many of them being lethal.

4. Parasites

Parasites can be extremely detrimental to your pet's wellbeing but are easy to prevent. There are many products on the market that can be either given by tablet or pipette on the skin at the back of the neck that will prevent your pet being infested with fleas/ticks or infected with worms. These are vital - so keep in mind if you do take the plunge.

5. Food

Whilst each pet has different nutritional needs, depending on their age, size and lifestyle, feeding them the right food is immensely important for their health and wellbeing. The owner of an average 10kg dog can expect to pay approximately £150 per year for a dry premium diet and double this if you include wet/tinned food.

6. Weight

It is not only humans who need to fight the battle of the bulge, animals also need to watch what they eat. Plump pets are at a risk of a whole host of illnesses including diabetes and heart problems, just like us. Make sure you know your pet's optimum weight and invest in a pair of scales.

7. Breeding

Whilst watching videos of cute kittens and loveable puppies is the perfect way to procrastinate from basically any chore, having new-borns could be rather more challenging. Ensure you speak to your vet early on about your neutering.

8. Microchip

A microchip is the size of a grain of rice and is easily implanted under the skin at the back of your pet's neck and can be done either by your vet. Do not forget that microchipping your dog will become compulsory in England from the 6th April, 2016.

9. Teeth

Without opposable thumbs your pet cannot really brush his teeth first thing in the morning or last thing at night. However, dental hygiene is still important and it is important you brush their teeth (finger brushes and pet toothpaste is available) or provide them with treats and toys designed to remove plaque and calculus.

10. Love

This is the whole point of having a pet and will return your love a million fold if you do carry out the nine points above! Shower your pet with love and they will provide your home with that unconditional love that only a pet can provide. Also do not forget that stroking your pet has been scientifically proven to reduce your blood pressure.

Now, it does not get better than that!