For both Thais and foreign expats living in Thailand, buying a pet is something many do. From rabbits to hamsters, dogs and cats, snakes, fish, iguanas and more – people in Thailand buy pets, often without considering a slew of factors that should be thought about before that important purchase is made.
Owning a pet, in Thailand or elsewhere, is already a responsibility few think about beforehand. Add onto that, Thailand comes with its own set of challenges, and before you set foot in a pet shop or a dealer’s make sure you have the answers to these questions.
How Much Should The Pet Be? – I mention this as I recently stopped a Thai friend from buying a rabbit she was about to pay over $100 for at Chatuchak Market. The pet shop owner had her convinced it was a ‘special breed’ and so my friend thought forking over what amounted to 10 times the legitimate cost was ‘normal’.
Luckily, I know something about rabbits having bought four of my own in Thailand, so could tell her the ‘special breed’ rabbit she’d just fallen in love with was a regular Thai rabbit ie: a mix of a number of breeds and not ‘special’ at all. She finally got her ‘special rabbit’ for less than 10 bucks.
Before you go shopping for a new pet in Thailand, make sure you know the average cost of each particular pet as well as the specific breed you’re looking for. If you want a labrador and know dog’s like that shouldn’t be more than $250, you won’t end up spending $1,000 just because you fell in love with one and thought the price was ‘fair’.
Do You Want Thoroughbred or Mongrel? – You can buy just about any type of pet in Thailand, from dogs that are made up of about 50 different breeds to pedigree cats with all their papers. Decide what you want before buying. Also, if you do decide on a pedigree animal, only buy from a licensed dealer as there are a number of scam artists out there selling anything but pedigrees for pedigree prices.
Remember too, if you do not mind have a non-thoroughbred dog or cat, for instance, you can adopt one of the many thousands of street animals all over Thailand.
Will Your Pet Be Kept Inside Or Out? – Before you buy a pet in Thailand, the most important thing to consider is where you’ll be keeping it – inside or out. Thailand is one of the world’s hottest countries and Bangkok officially the world’s hottest city so, if you’ll be keeping that pet outside, how will you keep it cool? And, if inside, can you afford to have the air conditioning on all day to make sure it doesn’t suffocate?
When I bought my rabbits, I made sure I could keep them in my apartment and that’s where they’ve been ever since. That means my air conditioning, in hot months, increases by more than $50 a month but, with the other option being they live outside on my balcony and par-boil to death, I took that into consideration before I bought them.
Can The Pet Adapt To Extreme Heat? – Some animals are fine in extreme heat, some are not. In Thailand, animals are imported all the time that simply aren’t bred for hot weather. Buying an Old English Sheepdog, for instance, may not be the smartest move – not unless you plan on keeping it shaved and inside the house 22/7.
Can You Easily Buy Pet Food? – If you live in far north Bangkok or Hat Yai in the south of Thailand, and you buy a rare breed of parrot, can you easily buy the food that parrot needs to survive and survive healthily? Keeping a pet fed correctly can be a chore so make sure getting what it needs where you live is actually possible.
My rabbits eat an enormous amount of fresh vegetables, meaning I must leave my house every couple of days to buy them. Luckily, there are four supermarkets and two local markets near my house, so that’s no problem. If however I owned a rare breed of snake and couldn’t get the live mice it needed regularly, I’d have to reconsider buying it – or move.
Do You Have Time To Take Care Of A Pet? – This can be much more of a factor in Thailand than it can in other countries. Much of Thai culture revolves around being out with friends and relatives – drinking coffee, eating breakfast, lunch and dinner out, going to the movies, bars etc. If you are going to be involved in what’s a normal Thai lifestyle – ie: out more than 16 hours a day, every day, owning a pet is the last thing you should do.
Pets require care, they need attention and they like being entertained. Plonked in a cage in the middle of your kitchen all day and all night is cruel. If owning a pet means that pet won’t spend a huge chunk of its life with you then, please, don’t buy one.
Can You Afford Vet’s Bills? – One of the downsides of owning a pet in Thailand can be the cost of vet’s bills. Initially looking cheap, as they’re not as expensive as in the west, compared to an average Thai salary (for both Thais and average for westerners), vet’s bills in Thailand are actually quite high.
If you can’t afford to pay vet’s bills if your pet gets sick or injured, you absolutely should not buy a pet in Thailand as being able to afford any future medical care (and that includes spaying and neutering) must be a priority.
What About A Soi Dog? – Finally, think about this. Do you really have to buy a pet, or can you adopt one from a shelter instead? Unlike in the west, there aren’t many shelters in Thailand but there are a few that adopt out ‘soi dogs and cats’ (stray dogs and cats living in one of Thailand’s millions of sois or small lanes). The cost to do this is minimal, usually just the cost of the animal getting all its shots, and as you’re giving a home to a pet that might otherwise be euthanized, it doesn’t get much better than that.