Choosing the Right Pet for You

For as long as I can remember, I have had a strong attraction to animals. I begged my parents to take in every homeless kitten and puppy that I saw, always promising to be a responsible and attentive caregiver. Once I was old enough to make my own decisions, I quickly acquired a menagerie of dogs, cats, goats, ducks, chickens, rabbits, finches, and fish. As my adult life moved on, my pets became my friends and extended family and life without them became unthinkable.

Sharing your life with an animal has many wonderful benefits that bring great joy in a variety of ways. It also implies a level of responsibility for these creatures that are now entrusted to you. So if you are thinking about adding a pet to your family, it’s wise to study the needs of different types of pets to find one that will best suit your lifestyle. Each type is different in terms of care, feeding, behavior, cost, housing, and demands on your time. Knowledge will help you make the best match for you and your family – ensuring 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 what type of pet to get:

• What type of animal is the best fit for your home? Do you mind living with pet hair, a litter box, or the occasional wear-and-tear caused by pets?

• If you have children or share your home with others, have you spoken with them about acquiring a pet? 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 (a cattery) so your kitty can spend time safely 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 and has high veterinary bills?

• 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?

Now you are ready to consider specific species and breeds.

Dogs are very social creatures; they aren’t happy left outside or alone all the time. Make sure you’re going to be able to spend several hours a day them. Also, consider carefully what kind of dog to get – different ages and breeds can produce very different characteristics. Since dogs live ten years or more, keep in mind that you are making a long-term commitment. Consider your dog to be part of your family – to your dog, you and your family are their pack.

Contrary to popular opinion, many cats are social animals and love attention. Though most cats don’t require as much attention as dogs, they still need play time 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.

Birds are fascinating and beautiful creatures, but they are not easy-care pets. They are intelligent, social animals and need plenty of attention. Before you add a bird to your family, make sure you’re willing to spend time with your feathered friend each day. Some birds are also a lifetime commitment – many types of parrots can live 50 years or more.

Rabbits are intelligent, social animals who need affection and activity. They can become wonderful companion animals when given a chance to interact with their human families. Rabbits can make pleasant house pets, and most can learn to use a litter box.

One key question is where to get your new pet. Please consider adopting – there are many wonderful dogs, cats, rabbits and other animals at most local animal shelters. There are also rescue groups for many specific dog breeds and other types of pets. What’s more, 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 make a good match for your personality and lifestyle.


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