Choosing The Right Pet For Your Southern Highlands Family
From farm animals to feathered friends and everything in between
Choosing a pet is a big decision for a family to make and we’re so lucky that the extra space in the Southern Highlands means we have so many more options – from farm animals to little critters and of course traditional doggos and cats!
We spoke to Charlie Carter and Chris Watson of Moss Vale’s Southern Highlands Veterinary Centre about how to decide which pet will suit your family and property best.
"One of the most important things to consider is life expectancy of a pet and the responsibility that brings with it," says Chris.
"Reptiles and birds such as cockatoos can live for decades so it's important to be committed to the decision the family makes."
So, let's look at all the different types of animals that make great pets....!
Small and friendly farm animals
If you’re on acreage and keen to recreate the whole River Cottage country living dream, why not consider getting some smaller farm animals?
Chickens are awesome and of course, can contribute to the household with delicious eggs. You’ll need to make sure they're protected from predators though! Click here for everything you need to know about keeping chickens.
If you want to create a bit of a hobby farm vibe, consider getting some goats and pigs.
“Pigs need plenty of space – about an area of 10 metres by 10 metres – but are fantastic garbage carts!” Charlie says.
“They’ll pretty much eat any leftover food you have and for the most part, if they’re well looked after and in a good environment, are friendly and calm.”
Goats and sheep are also popular with hobby farmers, but make sure they have a secure enclosure to keep them safe.
“Miniature goats are gentle, friendly and playful so would suit a family with plenty of space and property. They are also herd animals so they’ll need at least one other friend or more to keep their spirits up,” says Charlie.
Man's (and woman's!) best friend
Did you know there are nearly 5 million pet dogs in Australia? The most popular of household pets, dogs are super loyal and provide great companionship.
“Many families on acreage and property get working dog breeds such as kelpies, border collies and cattle dogs. These dogs will thrive where there is plenty of space, but owners need to be committed to keeping these breeds busy and exercised,” Chris recommends.
Smaller breeds such as terriers, dachshunds and cavoodles are popular in the Highlands too.
“They’re great indoor dogs and don’t take up much space. Be mindful that some smaller breeds can be boisterous and may not be suited to families with small kids,” Chris says.
A horse is a horse, of course, of course
Horses are a wonderful addition to a family but require a fair bit of work (and money!).
“Owning a horse is a big commitment in time, knowledge and of course, financially,” Charlie points out.
“Be really clear about what the horse will be doing before you buy one. Is it just for riding at home? Or Pony Club? Or serious eventing? This will help dictate the type of horse you look for. If you’re unsure, chat to your local vet but make sure they understand and specialise in equine health.”
A paddock with approximately a hectare is sufficient for a horse. The more land they have to exercise in, the better. Trees that provide natural shelter and stables will protect your horse from the elements – necessary in the Southern Highlands thanks to our gusty winds, frosts and hot summers.
The cat that got the cream
Cats are fantastic companions and perfect for snuggling up to on a cold Highlands night!
“Cats are very adaptable and cope well in most homes and environments. If they don’t, they’ll let you know it!” says Chris.
“Be sure to keep them in at night so they don’t attack or get attacked by local wildlife. Desexing your cat, particularly male cats, is also recommended - this can help prevent fights with other neighbourhood cats.”
Cats are easy to look after. They wash themselves, can be trained to use kitty litter and are fairly low maintenance. They do love to scratch though so get a scratching post and save the back of your couch!
Don’t forget! There are plenty of cats looking for a furever home at the Wingecarribee Animal Shelter.
Rabbits and guinea pigs are a popular pet choice for families and easy to look after.
“Rabbits like to have a friend, so don’t get just one. But remember to get them desexed so they don’t do what rabbits are so well known for and have lots of babies,” laughs Charlie.
You’ll need a rabbit hutch that keeps the rabbits protected from predators and weather. This can be outdoors or indoors.
“Remember that cats and dogs chase animals like rabbits and guinea pigs, so either create a super safe hutch for them, or perhaps only buy a rabbit if you don’t have a dog or cat,” Charlie says.
The needs of a guinea pig are very similar to rabbits, but don’t ever mix the two in together. They will NOT get along.
“We recommend you either get guinea pigs OR rabbits. Not both,” says Charlie.
If creepy crawlies are more your thing, snakes and spiders are an option. You might want to make sure no one in the household has any sort of phobia first though! In NSW, reptile ownership is strictly managed, and many need a licence requiring you to be over 16.
Spiders don’t take up much space and are low maintenance. You’ll need a glass tank of at least 30cm x 30cm x 30 cm (depending on the type of spider) and of course, make sure that sucker is well and truly secure! A species like the Bird Eating Spider or Australian Tarantula can live up to 15-20 years!
“Hermit crabs are also becoming popular with people wanting low maintenance pets,” Chris says.
“They’re friendly, don’t smell, are very clean and can be housed in a simple glass tank. They are cold blooded so keep that in mind and only get one if you have good indoor heating to get them through the Highlands winter.”
Under the sea
Fish are another super-easy pet great for busy families. You can get cold water fish – goldfish, comets, fantails – or if you fancy something a little more colourful, tropical fish are popular too.
“The upkeep on a warm water tank for tropical fish is a bit more than a cold water tank. Kids love looking after fish and it’s a great way for them to learn how to look after a pet and the pet’s environment,” says Charlie.
A budgie is a fun choice for families with children or someone new to the world of bird ownership. They are small, friendly and easy to care for.
“Budgies still need room to fly around so let them out of the cage – indoors! – to give them some exercise. They’re also social, so would like another budgie friend to hang out with,” Charlie says.
“They love to whistle and can be taught to talk so are hours of fun for kids, or can provide companionship to someone who lives on their own.”
You do require a licence to keep some birds so be sure to check the NSW Government’s Office of Environment & Heritage website first.
Aaaaand we’re thinking that maybe a pet bird would thrive better (and for longer) in a cat free household. You don’t want to tempt fate…...!
This blog features friends and advertisers of The Fold Southern Highlands and is fully endorsed by The Fold Southern Highlands. We strongly believe in the businesses and all the information we share with you on The Fold and we're excited to share the amazing stories and adventures of our local businesses. We want to say a BIG thank you to you for supporting our sponsors who help make The Fold possible.