There are numerous benefits of having a pet, be it a dog, cat, rabbit, tortoise or any other exotics. While pets are great companions who bring joy to every pet parent, it is also their responsibility to offer right nutrition, enrichment and environment for pets to thrive.
In this article, UAE-based pet parents, rescuer and veterinarians have shared what all goes into caring for cats and other exotic pets.
What to know when adopting a cat
Cats are generally perceived to be independent and sometimes even aloof. Being expert hunters, they can be self-reliant for food, shelter and grooming. However, for those considering adopting a cat there are a few things to bear in mind. Cats may not need as much attention as dogs but depending on their nature, age and breed there are some things to plan for. For starters those looking to adopt cats must factor in cost of adoption that often includes basic health check.
The cost of adoption ranges between Dh600 and Dh1,000 inclusive of complete physical check-up, full vaccination (PCH x 2 and Rabies) and sometimes also anitbody or immunity tests like ‘FIV/FeLV’, deworming and microchipping, shared a Dubai-based independent rescuer, who currently works with a recuse group in the UK but wishes to remain anonymous.
Dubai-based pet parent Vijita Moray who has been rescuing and currently has three cats at home along with a dog, two tortoises and fish agreed.
“Every time we rescue a cat from the street before introducing them to the pets in the house, we get some basic tests done such as Giardia, Parvo, FIV etc along with vaccination and microchipping where required. Once clear the cats also go for basic grooming.”
After the initial spend there are regular expenses to factor in as well.
“Having a pet is in general an expensive affair especially in the UAE. On an average we spend approximately Dh1,500 monthly on food, treats and other basic needs for our cats Chloe, Tigi and Tai Lung,” Moray shared.
Highlighting the importance of planning for cat relocation, the Dubai-based independent rescuer said, “If you adopt a pet do plan for their relocation should the need arise as it can be expensive based on the destination and the cat’s weight.”
Medical expenses vary but tend to be high
Besides annual vaccination and municipality registration cats need to make vet visits from time-to-time for regular baseline tests and specialised treatments based on breed, age and health condition.
Asked if there are certain non-negotiable vet visits for cats, veterinarian Dr Raimundo Tamagnini who has set up specialised cat-only clinic in the UAE The Cat Vet shared said, “I would not refer to these visits as non-negotiable. However, the International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM) recommendation consist of the following.”
According to him some common medical conditions affecting cats in this region include kidney disease, fight wounds, vomiting, ear infections, oral and dental problems and diarrhoea. “In addition, breed is a factor when it comes to medical conditions such as kidney diseases in Persian cats.”
When Moray’s cat Max was diagnosed with kidney stones, polycystic kidney disease and renal failure she learned that the issue is indeed breed related and genetic for long haired cats.
“From our heart-breaking experience we also realised that the type of food and hydration play an important role to avoid kidney issues in cats. Proper balanced age-appropriate food is very important. We also learnt that post six years it is essential to get a cat’s blood works done once a year. This can help in controlling slight changes in the kidney with renal diet to help the cat live a long and healthy life.”
From our heart-breaking experience we also realised that the type of food and hydration play an important role to avoid kidney issues in cats
Besides the emotional turmoil pet health related emergencies can also cause a financial drain which if not planned well can be difficult to manage. For example, Moray spent almost Dh14,000 on Max’s treatment in a span of 45 days that included couple of hospital stays for five-six days each time, medication and multiple tests.
“Until Max’s health issues cropped up, we weren’t prepared for such big pet health related expenses,” Moray admitted. “Annual trip to the vet and one-off incidents would cost approximately cost Dh1,000-2,500 per pet annually. But now we consciously set aside a budget for our pets’ healthcare especially since two of them are aging and we want to be prepared for age-related health issues.”
The Dubai-based independent rescuer agreed that while there are several factors at play any emergencies can cost anywhere between Dh1,000 and Dh30,000 depending on the ailment, what stage and which clinic the cat is being treated.
Want to adopt a rabbit? First bunny-proof your home.
Who can disagree that rabbits are irresistibly cute creatures. But there’s more to them than just their cute appearance. Rabbits are social creatures who like to stay in groups and given the right environment and care can live up to at least 12 years and sometimes even longer.
“Many people assume that bunnies are an easy pet to have, but it’s quite the opposite. Bunnies are social animals and can get bored and feel neglected. That’s one of the reasons we adopted Nola so as to ensure Nunu doesn’t feel lonely,” stated Dubai resident Suad Almarzooqi Khalil who has two rescued rabbits Nola and Nunu, three rescued cats and two rescued dogs.
“Our bunnies are free roaming meaning they are allowed to roam in the house and the garden freely but under supervision because we are a multi-pet household. For their safety we’ve created a dedicated enclosure. They also need a lot of space to exercise.”
Our bunnies are free roaming meaning they are allowed to roam in the house and the garden freely but under supervision because we are a multi-pet household
It’s also important to remember that rabbits can jump high. So, anyone with a rabbit at home or planning to adopt one should consider high enough fencing.
“Bunnies like to chew on things too, so that’s something to keep in mind as well. Sometimes they do that out of boredom and sometimes it’s just in their nature. Bunny proofing your home is important,” Khalil advised.
She also pointed towards the importance of species-appropriate diet to keep rabbits healthy. “Hay is a must and should be available to your bunny 24/7. This is vital for their digestion. Offer leafy greens for additional vitamins and minerals. Nola and Nunu get served a plate of fresh leafy greens every morning. We limit anything that is high in sugar to once or twice a week.”
Interestingly, Nunu and Nola are both litter trained. “Believe it or not, bunnies can also be litter trained like cats. It takes a bit of effort, but it’s possible. You will need a litter box, wood chips and some hay.”
“These aside I make treats for them regularly. Overall, compared to our dogs and cats, rabbits are cheaper to maintain,” she added.
Having said that Khalil consciously budgets and sets aside money for unforeseen and regular pet health related expenses.
“It’s very important for every pet guardian to save money for pet care. We have seven at home, so we set aside anywhere between Dh500 and Dh2,000 every month that goes into the savings account for the four-legged.”
It’s very important for every pet guardian to save money for pet care. We have seven at home, so we set aside anywhere between Dh500 and Dh2,000 every month
Exotic pets need specialised care
Besides cats and rabbit there are several other pet species that can be found in UAE households including hamsters, tortoises, terrapins and African grey parrots, among others. So, it’s very important to remember that these exotics require specialised care and environment to thrive.
“The main challenge to keep these exotic animals in countries like the UAE is correct husbandry and management. Often the environment is not hot enough, and they suffer from excess humidity which could cause the growth of fungi and pathogenic bacteria. It’s also important for exotic pet owners to follow dietary suggestions by veterinarians,” stated Dr Walter Tarello, Medical Director, Pet Connection Veterinary Hospital.
Having two rescued tortoises Toto and Olive, Moray agreed that its crucial to give them the right habitat and diet.
“Having a designated enclosure with soil is very important for tortoises. A balanced diet of healthy greens, vegetables, weeds, plants and flowers is extremely important along with adequate amount of sunlight. If you don’t have access to an area with adequate sunlight a UV lamp is very essential in enclosures built for tortoises.”
Asked if these exotic pets also need annual vet visits, Dr Tarello said, “They need at least one vet visit to get checked for parasites, especially turtles and terrapins because almost 99 per cent of them are carrying one or more parasites that can be potentially fatal for their health. While vaccinations for Newcastle disease and Avian Pox for cage birds are strongly recommended. Rabies vaccine for all mammals is mandatory in the UAE.”
It’s undeniable that pets bring us tremendous joy. In turn pet parents must remember that pets need care, some species more than others. It’s a mistake to think that only a dog needs specialised care. In reality dogs and cats are more expressive and can show humans if they are feeling uncomfortable or unwell. It’s far more difficult to understand if a terrapin, bird or rabbit is feeling unwell. So, its always prudent to weigh one’s long and short term life situation, experience and financial ability required to care for pets and only then choose to bring one home.