Choosing a Pet.
Choosing the right pet for you and your family is very important. Here are some things that you should consider to make the best of your pet selection.

Choosing a pet

Sharing your life with an animal has great benefits and can bring you great joy. Choosing a pet and choosing the right pet are very important.

If you are thinking about adding a pet to your family, it’s best to learn about the needs of the different types of pets to make sure that your pet choice is the one that best suits your lifestyle.

Each type of pet is different in:

  • terms of care
  • feeding
  • behavior
  • cost
  • housing
  • demands on your time
If you know what you’re getting into, you’ll be more likely to have a happy animal, a good relationship with your pet, and an easier time dealing with any challenges that might arise.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you consider when choosing a pet:

  • what type of animal is the best for your family?
  • will you be able to live with pet hair, a litter box or the occasional wear-and-tear caused by pets?
  • if you have children, have you considered how having a pet will affect them?
  • will everyone in your home welcome an animal?
  • if you rent, do you have permission from the property owner?
  • how much space do you have inside and outside your home?
  • will you need a fenced yard?
  • if you get a cat, will you want an outdoor enclosure so your cat can spend time outdoors?
  • how much time do you have to spend with a pet?
  • what is your activity level? Are you sedentary or physically active?
  • do you have the financial resources if your pet has a medical crisis?
  • do you have someone who can be a secondary caregiver if you are away from home? If not, how will you provide care for your pet when you travel?
One key question is where to get your new pet. There are many wonderful dogs, cats, rabbits and other animals at most local animal shelters.
There are also rescue groups to choose a pet that have many specific dogs breeds and other types of pets.
The staff at your local animal shelter can help you find just the right pet for you. They know the animals in their care and can help you to choose a pet that will make a good match for your personality and lifestyle.

Some common types of pets:

Choosing a pet - Puppies or Dogs

  • Dogs are very social creatures; they are not happy when left outside or chained up in the yard alone all the time. If you are thinking about getting a dog, make sure you are going to be able to spend several hours a day with him or her.
  • You will also need to carefully consider what kind of dog to get. Adopting a puppy is a huge commitment, since you cannot leave a puppy home alone all day. Most puppies need to eliminate every two hours or so. In order to co-exist happily with humans, puppies must be taught house-training skills and basic commands.
    If puppies are not handled often and are socialized when young, they will become shy and fearful.
  • If you are thinking about getting a particular breed of dog, you should read up on various breeds before deciding what type of dog to get. Different breeds of dogs have different characteristics.
    You can still adopt from your local shelter even if you decide on a purebred dog, since a quarter of the dogs at shelters are purebreds.
  • You’ll also want to consider where you live.
  • How much space you have.
  • What your lifestyle is. For example, larger dogs may not do well confined to a small apartment or living in a big city, unless you are thoroughly committed to providing your dog with plenty of exercise.
    All dogs should have at least one walk a day outside, but some dogs need much more. If you are a fairly sedentary person, you probably would want to find a dog (perhaps an older dog) who doesn’t require much activity.
    Keep in mind that not all small dogs are less active and not all large dogs need a great deal of exercise. You should learn about the traits of the dog you’re thinking about getting to make sure that you are compatible, even if he or she is a mixed breed.
  • Dogs need quite a bit of interaction with their humans in order to be happy . If you’re very busy and don't spend much time at home, a dog might not be a suitable pet for you, unless you can bring your dog along when you’re away from home.
  • You’ll need to spend some time training your dog to do basic commands like sit, stay and come.
  • Make sure you have enough money to have a dog. Costs associated with dog care include food, toys, leashes, a crate, training, grooming, spay/neuter surgery, routine vet care and, sometimes emergency vet care.
  • Whichever dog you choose, keep in mind that you are making a long-term commitment; dogs can live 10 years or more. You're dog will need attention, love and respect from you; food and water are not enough. Consider your dog as part of your family – to your dog, you and all family members are a pack.

Choosing a pet - Kittens or Cats

  • cats are social animals and love attention. Though most cats don’t require as much attention as a dog, they still need play time, attention and petting on a daily basis. Spending time every day with your kitty can be the difference between a happy cat and a bored cat.
  • Make sure you are able to afford to have a cat. The costs of caring for a cat include food, toys, litter and a litter box, spay/neuter surgery, and vet care.
  • cats are very fastidious about their litter box habits, so it’s important to keep the litter box clean and fresh.
  • cats can live up to 15 years or more, so you should be prepared to make a long-term commitment.
  • cats need to scratch, so a sturdy scratching post is necessary. Declawing a cat is cruel and unnecessary (and illegal in some parts of the country).
    • Declawing - the removal of the first knuckle of each toe, is extremely painful. You can learn to trim your cats nails to prevent damage to furniture.
    There are products available at pet supply stores that deter cats from damaging furniture.
  • kittens are not a good choice if you have children less than three years old; an adult cat would be a better choice.
  • cats have different personalities. Some like to be held and snuggled; others are more aloof and don’t like to be picked up. So, be prepared to adapt to your new cats individual personality traits.
    If you go to a shelter or contact a local rescue group to adopt a cat, they will be able to let you about the personality of each cat in their care and help you choose just the right cat for you.
  • you’ll need to decide whether to have an indoor or outdoor cat. Many organizations will not adopt cats out as outdoor pets because of the risk of disease or injury. Indoors is a much safer place for cats.
  • indoor cats live longer and are generally healthier.
  • indoor cats should have plenty of toys and regular play time.
  • adding a cattery or cat enclosure is a good solution if you would like your cat to enjoy the outdoors safely.
Cats can be wonderful companions, but before you get a cat, make sure you are willing to make the commitment to provide your cat with the necessities, and that you don't mind changing your lifestyle as necessary to accommodate your new family member.

Choosing a pet - Birds

Birds are fascinating and beautiful creatures, but they are not an easy-care pet. Careful consideration must be made when choosing a pet bird.
Birds are intelligent, social animals that need lots of attention.

  • before choosing a pet bird for your family, make sure you are willing to spend time daily with your feathered friend.
  • you may want to think about adopting more than one. Life alone in a cage is not much of a life for a bird.
  • a birds cage should be large enough so that he can spread his wings fully and be able to fly from one side to the other.
    If you have a room in your house where your bird can safely be let out during the day, a smaller cage for sleeping in is okay.
  • some birds are a lifetime commitment – many types of parrots can live 50 years or more.
Choosing a pet - Parrots

If you’re thinking of choosing a pet parrot, there are some special details you should know about their care:

  • you’ll need to spend at least two to three hours a day interacting with your parrot outside of the cage.
  • you’ll need to provide some entertainment for your bird for the rest of the day; such as safe toys, radio or television, and contact with other family members or other parrots.
  • most people don’t realize that parrots are messy. You’ll spend time cleaning the cage, around the cage, the play area, and any other areas of the house where the parrot goes.
  • a parrot requires a very complex and varied diet of pellets, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds - you’ll need to prepare these every day.
Choosing a pet - Rabbits

Rabbits are intelligent, social animals who need affection. They can become wonderful companion animals when given the chance to interact their human families.

Some things you should consider before choosing a pet rabbit:

  • rabbits live seven to ten years; make sure you are ready for that kind of commitment.
  • rabbits need daily care.
  • if they are not handled gently and often, they may not be comfortable with being picked up and cuddled.
  • rabbits have a fairly delicate digestive system; to obtain necessary nutrients, they must be fed a varied diet.
  • rabbits prefer a gentle, quiet environment and may not do well in a hectic family life or with active dogs and cats.
  • your rabbit will need regular veterinarian checkups.
  • rabbits should be spayed or neutered; this makes them happier and healthier pets.
  • to control the temperature of their environment and to keep them safe from predators, rabbits should be kept inside.
  • they can be taught to use a litter box, especially if they are spayed or neutered.
Choosing a pet - Ferrets

Ferrets belong to the weasel family. They have distinctive, engaging personalities and a playful, active nature. They are very social, affectionate creatures who bond closely with the people who take care of them.
Please understand that when choosing a pet, ferrets are not a low-maintenance pet.

  • they require a specific diet and a clean cage. They shouldn’t be left in a cage for a long time; they need daily play time outside the cage.
  • they must be closely supervised due to their inquisitive nature that can lead to mischievousness.
  • ferrets have a high metabolism, a fairly long lifespan (eight to ten years), and strong personalities which means they are not the perfect pet choice for everyone. If you aren’t home much, have young children, or have a busy lifestyle that would prevent a ferret from roaming free on a daily basis, then a ferret is probably not a good pet choice for you.
Choosing a pet - Horses

Choosing a pet horse can fulfill many roles and are a source of enjoyment for many people however keep in mind that horses require a serious commitment of time, money and care.

  • a horse requires grooming and care that takes a minimum of a half an hour everyday, often more.
  • a horse can live up to 30 years.
  • make sure you are willing and able to care for a horse who is no longer sound enough to ride, due to age or injury.
    Almost every horse will need such care, and no horse should ever be abandoned or sold for slaughter because he or she is no longer “useful.”
  • horses can be expensive. The services and care provided (feed, bedding, training and care) and your location determine the cost of boarding a horse. This can range from $50 to $2,000 a month.
    Other costs include tack, stable tools and supplies, and veterinary care.
If you are thinking about choosing a pet horse for your child, make sure that your child's other activities will allow time for a horse.
  • does someone in your family have the experience to care for a horse? If not, are you willing to learn?
  • if you have any doubts about your child's level of interest, you may want to consider leasing or sharing a horse before committing to owning one.