For many of us, animals play an important role in our lives. We bring them into our homes and give them shelter, food, and love in exchange for the entertainment, joy, and sense of security that they give in return. Although dogs and cats are the most obvious pet choices, there are many other types of pets, such as hamsters, rats, birds, and even snakes. Bringing the wrong type of animal into your home is a problem that can be disastrous to your family and to the animal itself. Whether you’ve grown up with animals or are getting a pet for the first time, it is important to choose the right kind of pet for you and your family.
Evaluate Your Lifestyle
Before introducing a new pet into your home, evaluate whether you’re ready to make the necessary commitment. Your lifestyle and family should greatly influence whether it is a logical decision to get a pet, as well as what type of pet you should adopt. In terms of lifestyle, where you live, the hours you work, who will care for the animal, and the amount of time spent away from the home are all important points to consider.
These factors will not only help you decide if your family is really ready for a pet, but it will also help you decide what kind of animal will best fit into your lifestyle. For example, if you work long hours, you may want to consider a cat or a small animal, such as a guinea pig. Unlike dogs, these animals do not need a large amount of attention and they do not need regular walks and potty breaks. If you do not have the time or energy to dedicate to a pet, you may also want to consider an older animal who will be less active than a younger one.
Your personal experience with animals should also be considered. If you do not know how to properly train a pet, or don’t have the time to do so, look into the cost of training classes or a pet trainer, or consider getting a pet who will need little to no training. If you travel often, you may want choose a type of animal that can travel with you, like a small dog. Consider the impacts of traveling with an animal; such as finding pet-friendly hotels, driving long distances with a dog in the car, or making flight arrangements for an animal.
Another thing to consider is whether or not you have children. The age and maturity of children in your home should be taken into account. Not all types or breeds of animals are suitable for families with children, particularly younger children. To prevent injury to the child and the animal, it is important to research what animals are suitable for households with children, considering both the safety of the animal and the child.
Also, carefully consider your personal finances. Owning a pet costs money beyond the initial cost of the animal. If you are on a strict budget this may greatly affect your decision to get a pet. Some of the expenses involved in caring for an animal include routine veterinary care, food, toys, and emergency care in the event of illness or injury. Add up these costs for every year of the animal’s life expectancy to get an idea of your long-term financial commitment.
After confirming that a pet will fit into your lifestyle, the next important step is to research different types of animals. Because of the diversity between types and breeds of animals, research is a critical part of determining what animal will be most compatible with your lifestyle and family. For example, by researching different dog breeds, you will discover which breeds tend to be more energetic and need a lot of exercise and activity, and which breeds have a tendency to be quieter than others. This information is helpful if you live in an apartment or want a dog that is not an excessive barker. If you are not especially active, you may want to avoid choosing a pet that requires frequent play time and instead choose a calmer breed or older dog. Reading up on your chosen pet beforehand will prevent many problems later on, such as discovering this pet doesn’t match your expectations or lifestyle. You don’t want any surprises that might make your family and new pet unhappy or make you reconsider your choice.
Find Your Pet
When you and your family are ready, there are several ways to find a new pet. The most common ways are through animal shelters, rescue organizations, breeders, and pet stores. Breeders are people who breed a specific type and breed of animal, with most legitimate breeders having papers to verify the animal's pedigree.
When choosing an animal from a breeder, it's important to select one from a clean environment with one or both of the animal's parents on-site, and the breeder should have a good reputation. Asking to see the parent of the animal will give you an idea of the animal's temperament and you can look for any health issues. Take great care in selecting a breeder, as there are many disreputable breeders whose immoral and sometimes illegal actions could include forging pedigrees to over-breeding and ignoring genetic problems in puppy or kitten mills.
Animal shelters and rescue groups are both smart choices when looking for a pet. These organizations give shelter, provide veterinary care, and find homes for unwanted animals. In some cases, certain animal rescue groups are dedicated to specific breeds that have been mistreated or abandoned, such as Greyhounds. This is a good method for people who want to adopt a specific breed but don’t want to run the risk of buying from a bad breeder.
People who adopt an animal from shelters are saving that animal's life, particularly an animal at “kill” shelters. These types of shelters euthanize animals that have not been adopted after a certain amount of time or if there is no room for them. “No-kill” shelters can become over-populated if animals are not adopted as they provide long-term sanctuary to animals that are not adopted. By finding a pet through one of these outlets, a person is helping to relieve the financial burden and they are doing their part in keeping these types of valuable services available. Contact local shelters to find out their adoption policies, and when adoption events are held.
Pet stores are a convenient way to find a pet when looking for rodents, reptiles, fish, or birds. They offer a diverse selection of animals and the supplies necessary for their care. It is not advisable to buy a puppy or kitten from a pet store, however. Dogs and cats from pet stores often come from mills, are taken from their parent at an early age, and may have health or behavioral problems.
Pet Search Resources
- Choosing and Getting a Pet - A Guide to Success. A guide from the Partnership for Animal Welfare, or PAW, that reviews how to choose the right pet and prepare the home for a new pet. It includes tips on adjusting to having a dog in the family.
- KidsHealth for Parents. This article guides parents in selecting pets that are safe for their children. It includes how to conduct research on animals, questions that should be asked of the breeder, and what should be done when bringing the new pet home
- Choosing the Right Animal for You and Your Family. Advice on how to properly select the right type of animal for as a pet. The article includes tips on researching different breeds, finding a compatible animal, and getting animals from local shelters.
- PetFinder: Things to Consider Before You Adopt a Dog. For example: how much to spend on a pet, the age of family members, and who will care for the animal. Links to other sections of the guide include picking the right type of dog, how to choose the right dog at the shelter, and problems to look out for.
- Picking a Pet. This article points out how to decide if a pet is right for your current lifestyle. It is made up of four questions that anyone should ask themselves before getting an animal.
- Choosing the Right Pet for You. This PDF lists a series of questions to answer before choosing a pet.
- Companion Animals - Choose Wisely. This article lists different types of companion animals, such as birds, rodents, cats, and dogs. It includes a description of the different types of animals and questions to think about.
- Pet Care. This article discusses different topics about pet care. It is divided into sections that include responsibilities when adopting a pet, spaying and neutering, pet collars, protecting a pet in hot and cold weather, and veterinary care.
- Is your Family Ready for a Pet?. This PDF reviews questions that families should consider before getting a pet. It also advises against certain types of pets for families with young children.
- The Right Pet For You. This is an article on the ASPCA website that reviews the pros and cons of certain types of animals, such as birds, dogs, guinea pigs, cats, hamsters, and rabbits.
- Finding Your Dog. This page on the American Kennel Club website describes the best way to search for a new dog. The article discusses the benefits of breeders vs. rescue groups. It also lists questions that should be asked of either.
- Is a Dog Right for You?. From the American Humane Association website, this article helps you to determine whether a dog is the right choice for a pet. The article gives points to consider before deciding to adopt or buy a dog for a pet.
- Housetraining. Instructions on how to house train a puppy. The article reviews the basics and explains two principles to ensure successful house training.
- Preventing Canine Behavior Problems. Information on how to properly train a dog. It includes crate training, social behavior, and problems like barking and biting.
- Crate Training Your Dog. This is an article on how to properly crate train a dog. The training is explained in four steps. The article also includes a section that discusses potential problems.