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Finding a pet that suits your living situation is essential for a harmonious, happy relationship. In the past we have looked at ideal starting pets, however it is worth discussing the high commitment group of pets. These pets are generally much better suited to pet owners who are prepared to invest a lot of time, effort and money into keeping such an animal. Having said that, you can be rewarded with a unique and engaging relationship with really interesting animals. So what sort of pets fall into our ‘very high maintenance’ category?


Proper reptile care involves meticulous attention to their diet and habitat. Reptiles require special light sources, heating rocks, a specialised diet, strict and carefully administered feeding regimen, humidity control and temperature gradient checks, amongst other things. You need in-depth knowledge and attention to detail in order to keep them happy and healthy. Some reptiles, such as turtles, are literally a lifelong commitment. Captive turtles can live for over 100 years! We would strongly encourage doing a lot of research into reptile requirements before making such a commitment.

High drive dogs

We get it – you look at some cute dog doing tricks online, and the next minute you are in love with the breed. Working dogs such as Kelpies, Border Collies and Belgian Malinois are capable of extremely impressive acts of obedience and agility. However, that high intelligence and high energy comes at the cost of them being highly demanding. If these dogs don’t get huge amounts of daily exercise, training, and stimulation, they will redirect their energy into antisocial behaviour. This could include barking or environmental destruction. Before choosing a high drive breed make sure you are ready to provide hours of attention, every day, for the rest of their lives. They must have it in order to be happy and healthy!.

Most fish

As for reptiles, many fish require their environment be kept within a fairly narrow range of measurements in order for them to survive. These include water temperature, pH levels, hardness, low nitrate and nitrite levels. Salt water fish have even more strict criteria to maintain for them to be healthy. Many people often don’t expect that some fish, such as Oscars, are quite intelligent and need plenty of space and stimulation to keep happy. Some saltwater fish need movable objects so they can rearrange the tank and build little hidey holes.

If you are going to get a multi-species tank, it is also important to ensure you are mixing compatible species so one doesn’t eat or harass another. Usually a dedicated aquarium store can help you with advice in this regard. It is worth mentioning that moving house can be very stressful for fish. Many will live for over 20 years, so if you’re planning to move be sure to consider the decision to keep these fish.

Hermit crabs

This is bought up more for ethical reasons than anything else. Guess how long hermit crabs live for in the wild. 6 months? 1 year? Hermit crabs properly cared for live for up to 30 (yes, 30!) years. We don’t think of them as long living because they tend to die a slow death in captivity. We would suggest that unless you are very experienced at keeping crustaceans, avoid hermit crabs due to their demanding husbandry requirements.

Intelligent birds

In the wild, many parrots spend 6 hours foraging per day, they engage in complex courtship behaviour, build a nest, raise chicks with their bonded mate, engage in complex social behaviour and fly over great distances. We take these intelligent, free, highly social animals and put them in a small cage by themselves. It’s no wonder some of them become highly anxious! In order to reduce their stress, they need environmental enrichment such as setting foods up for foraging, providing stimulating puzzle toys, training, placing them in fresh air and natural light, increasing their flying space, bathing them regularly, and ensuring they get 10 to 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. More simple birds such as finches are generally better if you don’t have the time to keep your bird engaged.

Finding the Right First Pet for You

There are so many weird and wonderful pets out there. But, for their sake and your own it’s important to be thoughtful about the decision to get a demanding pet. Having said that, they can be highly rewarding pets to maintain and many will literally be with you for your lifetime. If you have any questions about what pet is right for you, feel free to call or email our clinic.