If you’re thinking about adopting a pet, it can feel a little daunting knowing which type of furry, hairy, feathery or scaly friend is best for your family – especially in Dubai where a long hot summer isn’t ideal for certain creatures. What’s low maintenance? What type of animal doesn’t shed that much hair? What steps do you have to take? It’s all a bit of a whirlwind mamas, so we’ve spoken to a few of our readers with family pets – our ‘petsperts’ if you like, about what life with critters is like here in the City of Gold and what you should consider when thinking about making the move to add another member to your clan – a big responsibility and a big decision (especially when the household already feels like a zoo). Here’s what they had to say….
- The Brooks Family and Their Cats George and Margot
- The Burns Family and Their Dogs Spud, Jack and Diesel
- The Coates Family and Their Dog Juno
- The Collin Family and Their Tortoise Toby
- The Oakes Family and Their Chickens Cilla And Korma (Plus Hamster Roly, Cat Whiskers and Japanese Fighting Fish Derek)
- The Wilson Family And Their Goldfish Ruby & Rufus
Remember mamas there are lots of abandoned or unwanted pets that need a home so try to adopt rather than go to a pet store. Adopt-me is a fantastic database that collates animals in need of adoption from shelters and charities across the UAE. You can then search by your criteria, view images and contact the right people to find out more and take the process further. They also promote regular adoption days and share expert insights on pet ownership. (Thanks for the tip Good Magazine!)
The Brooks Family And Their Cats George And Margot
We have two enormous British Shorthair cats who moved to Dubai with us from London in 2007. They were our first ‘babies’ before the babies came along and they are the nicest, gentlest cats you will ever meet, but that’s got a lot to do with the breed: they’re known to be docile and dopey which is perfect for small children. The breed is also one of very big cats, they weigh around 7kg each and three year old Billy’s proudest moment this year was when he could finally pick up and carry the cat!
When friends worry that their children may be too rough with the cats, I reassure them that cats are faster and jump higher than toddlers so they will stay out of the way. They have never once been aggressive, although some cats will be and aren’t suited to small children. We now have three young children and our tabby George adores them. Having pets is great with children as they learn gentleness, patience and how to take care of something, and ultimately they will learn about losing something as our cats are already ten.
George is a very involved family member, if any of the children cry, he will find me and yowl at me to be sure I know about it. He likes to sleep on the end of the boys’ beds and under our daughter’s cot if I will let him. He likes to sleep in the sinks when it is hot or the playroom, lie down in the middle of jigsaws and board games for a little guaranteed affection and will do anything for a treat. His sister Margot is much more timid but has taught the boys patience and stillness, as that is how they can get near her for a cuddle. They are very low maintenance with an annual vet visit for vaccinations and feeding twice a day.
We live in a quiet community away from busy roads so they go freely in and out, although leaving in the summer is hard as I need someone reliable to take care of them and they definitely need a cuddle too. I was always more of a dog person growing up (my husband and I always had both in our families), but I would find a dog too much of a commitment in Dubai. George and Margot are lovely and are known by all our neighbours. As my friends daughter said to me when we got them, ‘pets make a home’ and I think she was right.
The Burns Family And Their Dogs Spud, Jack and Diesel
We also have a Rottweiler, Labrador and British Bulldog. The bulldog is a rescue that was abandoned last summer, but the other two we brought over from the UK (along with our 72kg French Mastiff, but unfortunately he got bloated during the flight and had to be put down soon after we moved). In terms of pets for kids, dogs are great as they can teach them so much, but at the same time it’s about teaching your kids how to interact with dogs and be respectful. Otherwise accidents can happen. We had the dogs before the kids and they’ve adapted brilliantly, but I would still never leave them alone together. Generally it’s the child that hurts the dog and the dog that pays, so it’s just not fair.
I wouldn’t say dogs are easy to keep – they’re a huge investment both time-wise and financially. Having big dogs costs quite a bit in feed alone (we go through about 25kg of dry food a month!), then there are annual vaccinations, quarterly wormers and deticking treatments, not to mention vet bills when something goes wrong. Our Rottweiler recently had an abscess in his knee, which ended with three surgeries and cost 1000’s of dirhams! But they are family to us and whatever they need, they get. We knew that when we chose to have them. I try to get them groomed (washed, dried and deshedded) every couple of months but thankfully they don’t need shaving as well!
In the summer months, they find it too hot to go for walks so we invested in an above ground swimming pool. They now swim 2-3 times a week with Craig and they love it! It’s great for joints and to keep them fit. When we went back to the UK for Christmas, we got a pet sitting company to come in twice a day to feed and care for them, which although costly would’ve been perfect, except she didn’t always come, despite saying she had! It was such a nightmare! It’s only because mum was here that we know that she was lying about going to the house. Craig doesn’t like kennels, so I’m not sure what we’ll do next time we go away. Perhaps that’s why we haven’t been away for 2.5 years!!
The Coates Family And Their Dog Juno
Juno joined our family when our daughter, Isla just turned 2. We had recently moved out of an apartment and to one of the lovely larger villas in JVT, so naturally our first thought was, “We need a dog.” The deal was that if I could find one that was small and good with kids then go for it. We didn’t really want to pay any of the extortionate prices that are generally asked for dogs. For example, a mini Yorkshire terrier is AED 15,000! I nearly fell over.
After a rather fun filled evening, I woke head hurting to my phone ringing, answering one of my many queries from Dubizzle: “Come you can take my dog.”
It turned out the chap was the street down so we trotted off, both Mama and Dada Coates trying to explain to our 2 year old that if we didn’t like the dog we wouldn’t take it. However, when hungover and faced with an 8 week pup that my Isla (who’s usually stuck to my leg at all times) was running with and hugging, we didn’t have the strength to say no. We left holding what we were told was a half Labrador, half dingo puppy and went straight to the pet store. You’re inevitably faced with so much stuff for dogs and we naturally came home with most of it.
The main thing for my husband and I was that Isla would be comfortable with animals, both of us having grown up with a real pick n’ mix of fauna throughout our childhoods. Turns out Isla is a natural and having a puppy with such a young kid means that they grow up together. Isla learnt lessons of patience, gentleness and how to approach dogs elsewhere, not just at home.
Juno and Isla grew together, and our tiny pup turned out to be a collie/dingo crossed with a German shepherd. So she’s quite a big one and THE HAIR! (She is integral to our family though.) My only problem in Dubai is keeping her exercised. JVT actually wasn’t so great for that. We ended up moving else where and we are now lucky enough to walk for a good amount. We’ve made sure she’s trained so letting her off the lead is not an issue unless she’s on heat – that’s my only real problem, as you have to be a certified breeder before your dog has puppies. However, we’re about to book her in for an op.
In summer, early morning walks are essential as hot bricks can burn dog’s feet. It’s also important that they get an all over body shave, which is the ugliest look on a dog like ours – she looks like a giant bat without wings! When we go anywhere in the summer, there are dog hotels out here which are unfortunately expensive but like nothing I have ever seen. Most have CCTV that you can log into through out your hols.
Coming from the UK and like I said, growing up with friends and family who all had pets, it’s slightly different in Dubai because of various religions or cultures. For some people, dogs can be either quite frightening or disgusting, so both Isla and myself have had to learn to respect that and just be aware of who comes to our house too.
Having a dog or any pets that can become part of the family and who can respond to your care, particularly with the kids is awesome. It’s also an important dynamic, for example when we brought our son home from hospital in March both Isla and Juno had to learn about the new baby, but they still had each other.
The Collin Family And Their Tortoise Toby
Ok, so we have a tortoise called Toby. He’s absolutely great (although we’ve only had him 2 months). He was a replacement for Hamish the hamster, who was much more hard work. Tortoises are minimum effort: no cleaning out, no smell, no noise. On the other hand, hamsters are very noisy – DO NOT get one! The temperature is great for them, plus we can leave him outside in the summer in the garden where we’ve planted his favourite foods and our gardener will give him water. My daughter Amber has already found out that if you stroke his shell, he pokes his head out. He’s not cuddly or entertaining like our cats, but he’s pretty cool.
The Oakes Family And Their Chickens Cilla & Korma (plus hamster Roly, cat Whiskers and Japanese Fighting Fish Derek…phew there’s a whole menagerie there!)
We have a few chickens who are very stylish, one crazy cat, one adorable hamster and one Japanese fighting fish plus two boys – Oliver aged 8 and Ferdinand aged 6.
The cat is mad as Ferdie loves it too much and rather torments it, but it has Stockholm syndrome and keeps coming back for more. It doesn’t need too much care as goes out at night and just needs feeding twice a day. It is very needy though. Oliver love his hamster Roly very much too. It’s an adorable pet, its cage needs cleaning out once a week and loves to play. Very friendly and never bites.
I gave the chickens to my husband for Christmas. The black one is called Cilla and the white one Korma (the brown one actually belongs to someone else, but she had spent Christmas and New Year with us). Not too much care required and can give them all your left over peelings.They can run around the garden but they do poo a lot. And at night you need to put them away. Which is no mean feat. We have let ours out today but not everyday.
We had a lovely handyman build us a beautiful chicken coop, but we definitely need to furnish it with a nesting box etc. The weird thing is that Sharjah seems to have the monopoly on all things to do with chickens. I bought mine at sharjah animal market on a Friday and they sell the feed there too as well as the feeders. They haven’t laid eggs yet, but I am expecting them to. I know they stop in the summer which is probably a good thing, as they would be scrambled by the time you got to them.
The fish belong to our boys Bertie and Theo who were desperate for a pet (and not satisfied with a new baby brother!) They only cost AED 15 for two and another AED 115 for their tank – both from Plant Street in Satwa. About once every 10 days the tank needs cleaning out and once a day they get a small pinch of food. They’re excellent feng shui and possibly (hopefully) have quite a calming effect on the children and generally they attract the attention of most small visitors so our tank rather riskily sits in the playroom at a height that little fingers can’t reach to. Very low maintenance pets and a good option if the kids are desperate for an animal and you can’t commit to anything bigger!
Featured image sourced via Pinterest