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PC: Xenia Gabriel

Expanding the family… a little differently this time

by Xenia Gabriel

Almost a half of all Dutch households own at least one pet. There are more than 2.5 million cats, and over 1.6 million dogs.  Hamsters, bunnies, guinea pigs are very popular too. So how do you go about getting a pet? And once you find him, or her, what do you actually do? Do you buy or adopt? How do you make sure they stay healthy, well fed and safe? What do you do if they wander away?

A story about an expat family getting a pet

Since I was a child, I always wanted to have pet. Growing up, my parents were not the kind of people who approved of dogs in apartments, and my dad is allergic to cats, so I had to settle for a goldfish. And that was fine, but I knew, once I had a house of my own, there would be a furry, four-legged friend in it.

It turned out that house of my own would be thousands of kilometers away from where I expected. But the dream stayed the same. In 2015, after my kids were out of their toddler years, I decided it was time to make it happen.

Now, I must admit I am equally crazy about both cats and dogs. My husband and I lived with two dogs before we got married, but this time around, I realized we were more suited for a cat. I started the search…

Getting a pet in Delft

When you decide you want to get a pet, there are several ways to go about finding one. If you are looking for a full breed dog or cat, you can get in touch with official breeders. A proper breeder will provide you with detailed information in advance and they often use official contracts for pet purchases. The puppy or kitten is ready for pick up after his first visit from the vet.

You can use Marktplaats to search for both full breed pets, and the mixed breeds as well. Try and be careful with choosing the people you will buy from. Unfortunately not everyone has the animal’s best interests in mind.

Local animal shelters also offer pets for adoption, as do certain rescue organizations. The costs of getting a pet through them usually cover the medical bills and often sterilization costs of the animal.

Expat pet ownership, things to consider

There are some specific things to consider when you’re getting a pet as an expat though. Mainly – who will help you look after the pet when you are out of the country (for most of my foreign-born friends here in Delft, that means four to five weeks a year). What are the travelling rules for your pet, in case you want to bring them with you on holiday? Can you easily (and affordably) take them with you when you travel? Certain airlines will not allow the transport of Rottweilers or Pitbulls.  Some won’t even let you travel with your Pug or French Bulldog, because of their snub-noses.

And last but not least, what happens if you decide to permanently move out of The Netherlands, will you be taking your fur baby with the rest of the family? Lots of things to consider before even deciding on getting the cute little bundle of joy.

Welcoming the fur baby into the family

PC: Xenia Gabriel

After a short search, I found my schatje, Dante, on a local farm. He had been born just four weeks earlier, and his mom’s owners invited me to come and meet the kittens. I wasn’t sure if I wanted a boy or a girl, so I figured, I’ll just let the right kitten choose me. And that’s how it happened. He was the first one to come up to me, playful and happy, and not to mention incredibly cute. The little tail, the tiny paws… I was in love.  Still I had to be patient, and wait another month before he was old enough to leave the nest.

I bought the basics well in advance – a pet carrier, a litter box, a bed, feeding bowls. You can find all of these at the local pet store, or on online. There are specialized websites, but I found that bol.com worked perfectly well for my cat needs too. I especially obsessed about the kitten food! To make things even more complicated, Dante was not at all interested in eating in the first weeks of his life at our house. He knew straight away what he was supposed to do in the sand box, though. I showed him just once, scratching the sand with his paw, he knew instantly. His mommy had done a good job teaching him.

Going to the vet’s office

The standard next step for a pet owner is to find a vet who will care for your fur baby. You can get pet health insurance, or sign up for a yearly plan at the vet’s office if they provide such a service. There are many animal doctors in and around Delft. We have been very happy with a practice in Ypenburg, and we also had a good experience with one in Kalverbos. You can always choose to move your pet if you are not happy with the vet, and you are also free to get a second opinion at another practice if you wish.

The first visit is usually for follow up shots, and if you so choose, a microchip placement. The vet’s office will often offer to send you yearly reminders for checkups and vaccines, and you can, and should, always go and see them if your pet has any kind of a health problem.

PC: Xenia Gabriel

One thing I learned, and I found it a bit surprising – the vet’s office is a lot more forthcoming with appointments and medical help than, say, your own Dutch GP. You can usually get an appointment quickly, and the animal will promptly be offered all kinds of care if needed. Most of it is directly available at the vet’s practice. When my Dante had a strange problem with his paw they were very eager to let him have a scan, x-rays were taken, and they even offered to send him to a specialist straight away.

To microchip or not to microchip…

Getting a microchip for your pet in my opinion, is a good idea. Dante couldn’t be kept inside the house for long, and the garden also proved to be too small for him very quickly. He got lost the first couple of times he went out on his own. Although he was only gone for a couple of hours each time and ended up in the next door neighbor’s garden, it was still scary! That’s why I was glad he had gotten the microchip straight away. If your chipped pet gets lost, the animal ambulance or any vet can simply scan your pet’s neck, and access his basic information as provided by the owner – name, phone number, email, and sometimes address. This is very helpful in case the little (or not so little!) adventurer decides to wander away.

Pet passport and travelling with(out) your pet

Your pet will have his “passport” or medical card from the vet, and in it you can keep a record of all his vaccines. This is important if you decide to take your pet to a dog or cat hotel for example. Some places insist on a very strict vaccination regime, and will ask you to bring the passport with your pet. If you need a holiday hotel for your four-legged friend, you can ask at the vet’s office, or you can google dieren pension and check out the available options in the region.

PC: Xenia Gabriel

We were lucky to find a wonderful lady in Rotterdam who provides an excellent second home for cats when their owners go away. In her own words “the kittens deserve a vacation too”. Our cat is always spoiled when he comes home from her place, because he sleeps in her bed, climbs every available surface, and eats the most unbelievable treats. Keep in mind that pet hotels can be quite pricey, so you need to calculate an extra couple of hundred euros on top of your holiday budget. And book them well in advance! Vacations are popular with everyone. 🙂


Notes from the editor (who also has 2 feline companions):

  • There are MANY older animals looking for homes (either rescued or given up by families for one reason or another), so think about whether or not a young animal or an older one would be more suitable for your family/home.
  • Want a cat? Think carefully if you want to have an indoor cat or an outdoor one. Some organizations will only allow you to adopt if you keep them inside, which was our case.
  • Another option for people who need care for their pets while they are away is PawShake, a service similar to AirBnB that allows you to find and choose pet sitters local to you, available to pet sit or take your fur companions in their homes while you are away. They also offer dog-walking services, which is good even when you are not away on holiday!
  • Good article to read about travelling with big dogs.
  • See here for more information about what to do when you lose or find an animal…
  • If you like laughing about cats, check out The Oatmeal’s cat comic collection. Especially noteworthy is his infographic about domestic cats’ hunting habits.

Coming up next on the blog is an interview with a local entrepreneur and long time supporter of Delft MaMa. See you next time!

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Kate Groves, editor

As coordinator of the DMM blog, Kate enjoys helping others share their stories and knowledge with the DMM community. When not working on the blog, Kate can be found working on her PhD while raising a human toddler and two feline kids in Delft with her Dutch husband.

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