| Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Pets in Dubai

Considering buying your child a cute creature this Christmas?

With their relatively short lifespan and minimal space requirements, cute, furry creatures in cages often seem the ideal kids’ pet. Small animals can be an excellent alternative to a dog or a cat, especially if space is at a premium. For one thing, they are relatively inexpensive to keep (once you’ve bought the super-duper rota-stack mansion cage), they’re cheap to feed, and a responsible child can be entrusted with the vast majority of the care – under adult supervision. Small animals can teach children responsibility and commitment, and they can satisfy a child’s nurturing side too, without parents incurring the costs of kenneling (friends can be called upon to look after Hammy during holidays) or the hassles of the daily walk and garden clean-up operation.

But keeping wee caged beasties (rabbits, hamsters, gerbils and the odd budgie) isn’t always as simple as it sounds. Just because an animal is small, doesn’t mean its needs are any different to a larger pet. It still requires feeding, watering and exercise on a daily basis, and the cage or hutch will have to be cleaned out thoroughly, at least once a week. Adding to the complication is Dubai’s climate. Usually, hutch-dwelling animals like rabbits and guinea pigs are quite happy living in the garden, but with our soaring summer barometers, that’s simply not an option. So, if you’re thinking about purchasing a pet, be prepared for it to be part of the household for the duration of its lifespan.

If you’re serious about taking the pet plunge, here are a few points to consider.

1 They make lousy bedroom companions Hamsters in particular are noisy at night, running on wheels, biting cage bars and generally scrabbling about. Keeping the cage in a well ventilated kitchen is a better option.

2 They’re fragile Small animals succumb to illness easily, and getting the right dose of antibiotics into a rodent or small bird isn’t always successful. Expect a high mortality rate.

3 Leaving them in their cage the entire time is cruel and detrimental to their health But exercise time is also when a lot of accidents occur, so adult supervision is required.

4 They are Houdinis Your average hamster may look podgy and unathletic – but it’s all an act. They climb with amazing skill and tenacity, and rodents, rabbits and the like move like wildfire and can squeeze themselves through impossibly small spaces. Vigilance is required.

5 They bite Especially when woken up suddenly by small, probing fingers. And it hurts. A lot.

6 Rodents breed, well, like rabbits Don’t trust the pet shop bloke when he claims you’re buying two males. Some of these guys can’t tell the difference between a chicken and an egg. Ask the vet to verify gender before you let them share a cage.

7 They need cleaning out properly at least once a week Kids often do the job badly – or not at all. Face it parents, this task will fall to you.

8 They’re messy Be it feathers, wood shavings, droppings or sunflower seed shells, debris will be deposited outside of the cage and the surrounding floor.

9 They need to be handled regularly – but always with care Kids can be cack-handed which can be devastating if a moment of butter fingers happens while they are carrying their pet.

10 Knowledge is power Buying your child a book on pet care before you take the plunge is an excellent commitment indicator. Test your child’s knowledge. If they get less than 90 per cent of your questions right, it’s likely their interest will wane – and you’ll be landed with the pet care.

Time Out Dubai,

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