How to Choose the Right Pet

New pet, cat, child

Sharing your home with a pet can be a rewarding experience filled with lots of joy and happiness. It can also be stressful and financially difficult if your pet is ill-suited for your home or lifestyle, or is more expensive than you can afford. When you are thinking about adding a new pet to your family, be sure to fully consider the animal’s needs and costs to determine if you would be the best owner for them.

Questions to Ask Before Getting a Pet

Even if your heart may be instantly won by an adorable puppy, you must be sure that adopting that particular animal is in your and their best interest. Many pets that are adopted end up being returned because they were not the right animal for the situation they were brought into. Here are some questions you should consider when deciding what pet to adopt:

  • What animal would be a good fit for your home? Do you have the space inside for a litterbox, dog crate, or bird cage? If you rent, are animals allowed? If so, is there a weight limit?
  • What type of animal would be the best fit for your family? Would you be the primary caregiver for the pet or will everyone be involved? Are any family members allergic to certain types of pets?
  • Do you have adequate outdoor space for the pet? Is your yard enclosed, or would you need to invest in a fence? If you live in an apartment, can you easily and safely take your pet outside?
  • How active are you? Do you prefer to have a pet with lots of energy that needs frequent exercise, or are you looking for a pet that is more sedentary?
  • How much time will you realistically be able to spend with your pet?
  • Who will watch your pet when you are not home?
  • Can you afford this pet? What are the initial costs, such as adoption or breeder fee, spaying/neutering, and supply fees? What are the ongoing and long-term costs, such as those associated with veterinary checkups and shots, grooming, and food? What are the possible unexpected or infrequent costs, such as emergency vet care and boarding while traveling?
  • Can you take care of the pet for their entire life? How pet-friendly will your life be in the future?

Popular Pets

Owning a pet is common in the United States, with dogs and cats being the most popular pets. A 2012 study by the American Veterinary Medical Association found that 36.5% of households owned a dog, while 30.4% owned a cat. Birds, rabbits, fish, and various other types of animals are also popular types of pets. Here are some animal specific things to consider when choosing a pet.

Puppies and Dogs. They have earned the nickname Man’s Best Friend for good reason; dogs are loyal and loving companions when adopted by the right family. They are social animals who enjoy being around people and other dogs. There are many different breeds, which means you have lots of choices when deciding which characteristics you would like for your dog to have. If you live in a small apartment, a small less active dog might work better for you, whereas an energetic larger dog would be less happy in that situation. If you want a dog that can go on long hikes, you will want to select one with the size and stamina appropriate for the terrain and distance. Puppies and dogs can be expensive and require more of a time commitment than most other types of pets. Training your dog to obey simple commands or taking an obedience class can help make your relationship a happy one, and keep in mind that welcoming a dog into your family is a 10 year or more commitment.

Kittens and Cats. While dogs are owned by a higher percentage of households in the United States, there are over 4 million more cats kept as companions than dogs. Although kittens and cats need less attention than puppies and dogs, they do still need frequent interaction. If you have a busier schedule, or a smaller home, a cat might be well suited for you. When deciding to get a cat, you must consider if you have room for a litter box and will be able to keep it clean. If you have young children or already have a pet, take into consideration the temperament of the cat, the curiosity of your child, and your other pet when selecting one to adopt. Some cats like to be cuddled, while others prefer to be left alone, so be sure to ask about the personality of the one you are considering. Cats are typically more affordable than dogs, but have similar lifespans and will still require your regular attention and care.

Birds. Birds are common pets, likely due to their beauty and intellect. There are many types of birds that make suitable pets, such as parrots, caiques, conures, cockatiels, finches, and canaries. Some types are adopted because they like to be handled, others because they are happier being observed. Some birds can fill your house will quiet peeps or operatic songs, while others can be heard squawking or even talking. Even small birds will require a cage large enough for them to spread their wings and fly between perches, as well as food specially selected for their breed, fresh water daily, and toys. Some birds prefer to be the only bird in your family, while others thrive when caged in small groups. Some, such as conures, will mimic behaviors, while parrots can learn to speak many words. Birds can be terrific companions, but similar to dogs, the characteristics of the particular breed should weigh heavily into the decision to adopt one. Some companion birds have lifespans of 5 years, while others may live longer than 40 years.

Rabbits. Rabbits are social animals that have their own unique personalities. They should be kept indoors and prefer quiet environments. They can live 10 years, and require a cage, food, and enrichment toys or activities. While rabbits are not considered to be low maintenance, they can be trained to use litter boxes. Each bunny has its own personality; some enjoy being handled, while others like to remain on the ground when being petted. A rabbit is an affordable pet, but you will need to invest in some bunny proofing supplies to make your home ideal for them.

Fish. Owning a fish is a great way to have a pet without investing huge amounts of time. Fish are great starter pets for children and are generally less expensive than other pets. They do require a proper environment; for some breeds this may be a pebbled lined filtered aquarium with lots of fish, while for others it may be a single fish living in a vase alongside a water plant. Fish can live for many years, come in many sizes and colors, take up as little or as much space as you wish, and are extremely low maintenance.

Other Types of Pets. Many other types of animals make wonderful pets for the right owner. Horses are commonly owned by those who enjoy riding regularly and have large properties or can afford to board them at a stable. Ferrets are playful, active creatures that are perfect for owners who appreciate having a mischievous pet. Pot-bellied pigs are intelligent, adaptable, social animals that are non-allergenic and affectionate. Guinea pigs are popular pets, often chosen because of their size and gentle temperament.  Small rodents, such as hamsters and gerbils, require less of a time commitment than larger animals, but are still entertaining to watch and interact with. Reptiles, such as turtles, frogs, snakes, geckos, and lizards are great pets for those who are able to recreate the animal’s natural environment and want to have a cool, interesting pet.

You have lots of options when selecting which pet will be best suited for you. Properly researching the type of pet and particular breed you are interested in should be the first step towards pet ownership. There are physical, mental, and emotional health benefits to owning a pet, and pet ownership and care can help teach responsibility to children. Selecting the pet that best fits your home, lifestyle, and budget will ensure you are both happy with the arrangement.

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