Whether you’re a single person seeking a pet for companionship or a busy parent who is finally willing to give in to your kids’ begging for a puppy or kitten, you have decided to make the move to pet ownership. Before you add Fluffy or Fido to your household, there are several factors that you should consider. The responses that you give to the questions listed below can play a role in determining what sort of pet you should obtain. In some instances, you may need to reconsider your plans of becoming a pet owner altogether.
1. Your Lifestyle
All pets require some attention and care, but some pets demand more of your time and effort than others. Are you a homebody who rarely ventures outside your neighborhood or your home town? If so, you may be well suited for the demands of a dog that demands daily walks and frequent brushing. On the other hand, if you travel frequently or if you simply spend little time at home, perhaps a less demanding pet would be a better match.
2. Cost of Ownership
Purchasing a purebred cat, dog or horse can be very expensive. Even if you opt for a shelter pet, the cost of pet ownership can demand a significant chunk from your budget. If you are barely getting by, adding the expense of pet food, vet care, licenses and other pet-related costs can add up. According to the Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the average annual costs of owning different pets can vary from hundreds for small birds to thousands for large dogs.
3. Available Veterinarian Care
Medical care is a necessity for nearly every pet. Most urban and suburban environments have veterinarians available within a reasonable distance. In rural areas, however, this may not be the case. This is especially true if you choose a pet other than a cat or a dog.
4. Available Accommodations
Where you live, and more importantly, what accommodations you can provide for a pet should significantly impact your choices. It is unfair to expect a large dog to remain cooped up in a cramped apartment. Likewise, if you are not prepared to obtain a proper bird cage or aquarium, you should not consider either birds or fish as possible pets.
Be realistic about any allergies that you may have before you become hopelessly attached to a pet. If are allergic to pet dander, owning a long-haired cat or dog will make you miserable. On the other hand, allergy medications or treatments may make it possible to tolerate certain short-haired cats or dogs. Fish make excellent pets for people whose allergies make dealing with furry pets of any kind impossible.
6. Caretaker Responsibilities
Taking care of a pet involves more than setting out a food dish every day. Food and water are essential, but so are inoculations, grooming of fur and claws, keeping the pet’s main area within or outside your home clean and attending to illnesses and ailments. If you choose a cat or dog, you must also be prepared to show at least some affection to the animal. Older children and teenagers can reasonably be assigned some of these chores, but it is unrealistic to expect young children to take on such tasks – except for petting.
7. Ages and Health Status of Family Members
Do you have a baby in the house? Does an elderly relative live with you or visit regularly? If so, you may want to think twice before obtaining a rambunctious dog or even a large cat. A more sedate small kitten or even a bird or fish may be a better choice. On the other hand, a playful dog may be a perfect match for a household with children who are at least of primary school age. Likewise, if you are an active adult, a lively dog can provide wonderful company and help you stay in shape.
8. Expected Pet Lifespan
Young children may be traumatized by the death of a fish or hamster, both of which have very short life spans. On the other hand, dogs and cats each have average life spans of ten years or longer. And while teenagers or young adults would also be saddened by the death of a pet, their relative maturity makes them more likely to be able to handle the loss. On the other hand, if you are relatively mature, you may wish to reconsider obtaining a pet with a long lifespan. Such a pet may outlive you, which could place the pet’s welfare in possible jeopardy.
9. Residence Pet Restrictions
No matter how much you love your pet, risking homelessness is not wise. Some apartment buildings have strict prohibitions against all pets, including birds or even goldfish; others are more tolerant. Common restrictions include prohibitions against dogs over a certain weight limit or particular breeds with a reputation for viciousness. Unless you own your own detached house, check with your landlord or co-op association to determine what, if any restrictions are placed on pets.
10. Capacity to Care for Exotic Pets
The idea of an exotic pet may be fun to consider, but actual ownership is another matter altogether. Tiny tropical frogs, turtles and pot-bellied pigs are adorable when they are babies, but are you really willing to continue caring for an adult animal? Even if you are committed to providing care, do you possess the expertise? Can you provide the proper habitat? Other exotic pets such as snakes and tarantulas may terrorize visitors who mistake your pet for a poisonous predator.
Adding a Pet to Your Household
Adding a pet to your household represents a significant commitment. At the very least, your pet will have a presence in your home for several years. By taking an honest assessment, you can avoid the heartbreak of giving up a pet that you cannot properly care for and which should not have been adopted in the first place.