Integrating a Pet Into Your Home

Posted: Jun 3 2016Last Updated: Jun 3 2016
If you’re an animal lover, it’s no secret that pets can brighten up your life and those of your family members. When deciding whether to adopt a pet in Hong Kong, one should look beyond the surface and understand that animals, like children, will require attention, love and care. Compared to other countries, looking after pets in HK might be easier with domestic help, however, the smaller average home size and lack of immediate outdoor space can prove quite challenging – especially for dog owners. Ownership is a lifetime responsibility and is a decision that should not be taken lightly. This article aims to help you assess whether you are ready and able to add a new four legged, winged or gilled friend to your home.
Housing Policies
Some developments forbid the keeping of certain types of pets which will be documented in the property’s Deed of Mutual Covenant. This usually applies to larger animals such as dogs and cats, but may also apply to smaller critters. Townhouses in the New Territories, luxury houses on the Peak, and developments on the Southside, Mid-Levels and Discovery Bay are largely pet friendly, with larger properties translating into less disturbance for the surrounding community.
Building rules aside, if you are renting a property, it is also important to obtain landlord approval ahead of moving in with larger animals. To avoid disappointment, you should add this to your list of criteria when making arrangements to view properties with your real estate agent. If you have a dog, it is advisable to start training at an early age to minimize barking and thereby avoid future complaints from your neighbors.
Apartment Size
Is your flat spacious enough for the particular type of pet that you want? Dogs and cats need more room to run around, particularly large breeds of dogs which can become agitated if confined to a small flat for long periods of time. Space can be mitigated to some degree by your lifestyle. If you are the active, outdoorsy type and are able to walk your dog multiple times a day, you may still be able to provide Fido or Fifi with a great life, but remember to think long-term when considering adopting.  
If your circumstances do not allow you to properly cater to a particular pet’s needs, you may want to select smaller animals that can be caged or kept in a tank such as rabbits, hamsters, reptiles and fish. 
Dangers of Keeping Pets
Some species of animals are not recommended to be kept as family pets if young children, pregnant women or elderly members reside at home. These include small mammals like hamsters and guinea pigs due to their small size and speed. Reptiles like turtles, snakes and lizards may also cause salmonella infections so make sure you wash your hands properly after tending to your pet. Large and energetic pets may also be dangerous around children.
Precautionary measures for homes with young children:
Keep more aggressive breeds of dogs such as Pit Bulls, German Shepherds, Rottweilers and Doberman Pinschers away from children. Dogs may get jealous and curious around kids and it is hard to predict their reactions no matter how loyal and well-behaved they are. They may respond poorly to tail pulling or misinterpreted playful behavior so it is wise to avoid leaving your child alone with any kind of dog at home.
Never keep pets in the same room where a child sleeps
Make use of a cat net to keep cats away from baby cribs. They are often attracted to warm beds and if you are not careful, you may just find yourself in a scene from Red Riding Hood.
Try to keep pets and children away from each other by installing a gate. Make sure your children and the pets cannot squeeze through this.
Keep small size animals away from children who may unknowingly cause injury
Allergies to Pets
People with eczema, hay fever, asthma or other respiratory diseases should not keep a cat or dog at home. It is unwise to attempt to keep them in a restricted area in the hope of alleviating the situation. Not only is it inhumane, but hair and particles can also easily pass through the air. 
Keeping rabbits, guinea pigs, hamster, or birds would not be a better option than dogs or cats in this aspect. 
General advice to ease allergies and prevent any related diseases
Avoid carpeting areas where pets are kept. If carpets are present, clean them with a high temperature steam cleaner on a regular basis
Use a high-filtration (HEPA) vacuum cleaner when cleaning floors
Clean all walls and windows
Make use of air filters to clean allergic substances lingering in the air
Routinely wash the cages, bedding and toys of pets
Consider spraying 'Allergy Control Solutions' on soft furniture or when washing fabrics
Bathe and groom dogs and cats regularly 
Wash your hands with antibacterial soap after playing with your pets
Dispose of your pet’s feces in a timely manner
Bring your pets for regular health checks and ensure their vaccinations are up-to-date to prevent any kind of infections
Money, Time, Attention and Freedom 
Keeping a pet incurs both time and money, every particular type of pet has specific needs and one should plan for this in advance - there are even pet insurance services available nowadays! It is wise to seek out advice from friends with similar pets as well as online forums and pet shop keepers / animal adoption centers.
Specific needs and personalities for some types of pets
Dogs are more passionate and also require more company. Many of them will greet you earnestly when you arrive home, and they may bark when they are left alone for too long. Dog owners need to bring them out for walks and they should not be locked in a small cage at home. They are usually receptive to training and are willing to follow owners’ instructions. Regular health checks and grooming are required.
Cats are more independent than dogs. They do not require much company and usually resist obeying of orders. Owners should provide them with toys and equipment to keep them entertained. They are also quite likely to climb on shelves and other furniture. They usually sleep during the day and are likely to be less of an annoyance to neighbors (in terms of noise) when compared to dogs. Regular health checks are required. 
Small Mammals
Most of them do not have a problem staying inside a cage but it is important to clean cages frequently in order to provide them with a comfortable place to live. Let them out under your supervision but keep them away from dangerous objects including wires which they may chew.
Birds like space and the freedom to fly around. Provide them with a large enough cage and when possible, let them out and allow them to fly around your room under your supervision. Ensure all windows are shut and gradually train them to understand when it is time to go back into their cage.
Fish are good for those living in a small flat as a result of them being confined to a tank. Never overfeed your fishes as the leftover food will sink to the bottom of the tank and affect water quality and their general well-being. 
Final note
Reach consensus with those living in your household before making any decisions on adopting a pet. Remember that keeping a pet is not just for fun, but also entails a lifetime responsibility and commitment. 
Pet Adoption Centers and Charities in Hong Kong assist with the homing and care of abandoned pets. Unfortunately, they cannot support every animal that comes into their care and many have to be put down as a result of poor planning on the part of their previous owners. These centers provide an alternative to pet shops and it may be worth starting your search at one of the below organizations:
Pet Adoption Centers in Hong Kong
Hong Kong Rescue Puppies
Sai Kung Stray Friends
Society for Abandoned Animals (SAA)
Hong Kong Animals Adoption Centre Ltd (HKAAC)
Lifelong Animal Protection Charity (LAP)
Companion Animal Federation (CAF)
Hong Kong Alley Cat Watch
Whatever decision you end up reaching, we hope it is a wise one that makes your home that much more complete! 

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