Adopting a Furry Friend in Doha
Perhaps your children have been asking (or begging!) for a dog, or maybe you grew up with a family cat and are contemplating one for your children. Finding a pet in Doha is no problem, but there are a few things to consider to make sure that you are ready for this commitment and responsibility.
One for all and all for one
Once you've confirmed with your landlord that pets are allowed in your rented villa or flat, make sure that everyone in your home is on board with the prospect of adopting a pet. It is a good idea to identify who will be responsible for which tasks to help you get an idea of the commitment a pet requires. Your older children might be responsible enough for tasks like walking the dog, while younger children could be assigned with filling the water dish.
You should also be certain that your family has time for a pet. On average, dogs require at least two walks per day—even in the hot summer. High-energy dogs will most likely require additional walks and entertainment (toys, games, etc.). Cats can be less high-maintenance as they don't need to be walked to get their exercise, but they do need their litter trays cleaned daily. All pets also need to be fed, bathed and groomed regularly. Long-haired dogs and cats may need frequent visits to the groomer to keep their fur maintained (every six to eight weeks), and keeping nails trimmed will help protect your furniture and you from unwanted scratches.
All furry pets can shed hair, chew on or scratch furniture, have accidents in the house or make messes of trash bins or unattended food. Be sure that you are prepared for this. Understand that dogs, in particular, might need extra guidance or training in their adaptation to a new home. While litter training often comes naturally to cats, dogs need to be trained to do their business outside. All pets require a life-long family commitment including taking them with you when you move.
Bills, bills, bills
Caring for a dog or cat over their lifetime can be costly. It also depends on the size of the animal. Adoption fees (which cover the costs of neutering, immunisations, de-worming, micro-chipping, etc.) at most shelters in Doha can run anywhere from QR 500–1,000. There are ways to cut down on expenses like purchasing your pet's medicine and vaccinations from a pet pharmacy and taking them to the government veterinarian for treatment. If you plan on using a private clinic, yearly vaccinations can run QR 100–150 apiece. In addition, pets can get sick or injured and the medical costs can quickly add up.
If you adopt a puppy or kitten, it will need to be neutered or spayed when he or she is old enough (ask your licensed vet). These costs can vary greatly depending on your choice of clinic. They also need toys, beds, food, litter trays or leashes, collars, travel kennels and basic grooming supplies.
Exporting a pet from Qatar can be cost prohibitive depending on the destination. If you are serious about adopting a pet, research the costs to export an animal to wherever you are most likely to end up after Qatar. The rabies test (RATT) can run anywhere from QR 100 upward and is required to import a pet to many countries, particularly Europe. It can take months to complete so it's always a good idea to have the test up-to-date in case you need to leave Qatar. Also, the cost to fly a cat or dog to Europe or the United States varies greatly—you could pay between QR 500–30,000 depending on the size of the animal, the airline and the destination. Quarantines, which some countries like Australia or New Zealand require, can also add a tremendous cost to exporting a pet. You will also need a certificate of good health and import and export papers, which can cost between QR 30–1,000 depending on the destination and whether you plan to file the paperwork yourself or hire a pet export agency.
When you travel
If you travel for a holiday, your pet will need attention and care while you are away. Boarding an animal in a good pet-care centre will cost you anywhere from QR 50–120 per day depending on the pet and its size. Pet sitters, people who drop by your home to feed and care for your animal, typically charge QR 20-50 daily. Pet boarding and sitting slots can fill up quickly so make sure you book well in advance as these facilities and qualified caregivers book up quickly during the busy holiday times.
Adopting from a shelter
Adopting a stray pet versus buying a pet from a store is a controversial topic. Some people argue that store-bought pets are often sickly or depressed and that pet shops contribute to a throw-away culture—buying or adopting a pet and then abandoning it when it no longer suits the owner—when the local animal shelters are teeming with animals that need loving forever homes. Adopting an animal helps that animal as well as others that would then have space to enter one of the shelters in Qatar.
Picking a pooch
Consider what kind of traits you want in a furry companion. If you are an active family, you may enjoy having a high-energy dog. If you are more of the couch-potato type, a lap cat might be the right choice. Do you mind a pet that sheds a lot or would you prefer a short hair breed? Some breeds don't do very well in Qatar's heat, specifically those that are meant for cooler weather or with short snouts like pugs. Also, some countries have banned specific dog breeds, and some airlines do not allow certain breeds to travel on their aircraft.
Research different breeds to get accustomed to the types of traits you can expect, but do not always assume that a specific breed is indicative of a certain behaviour or temperament. Most street dogs in Doha are mixed breeds and still make wonderful family pets.
Fostering a friend
Consider fostering before you adopt to see if owning a dog is right for your family. As a first step, perhaps volunteer with your family at one of the local animal shelters to get a little experience with the animals there. These organisations are in desperate need of dog-walkers and cat-cuddlers, and volunteering is a great way to get to know the animals. The shelters are able to keep their doors open through donations, so consider donating money or pet food to help their cause.
Adopting a pet in Doha is a big commitment. It's a family responsibility where everyone needs to be willing, but it is also a hugely awarding experience for children and parents alike.