When you choose a pet, you are accepting responsibility for the happiness, health, and welfare of another living thing. You’re making a promise to care for that pet for their entire life. You also become responsible for that pet’s impact on your family, friends, and community.
Unfulfilled expectations are a leading reason why people give away, abandon, or give pets up for adoption, so invest the time and effort to make an informed decision and ensure the years with your future pet are happy ones. Your pet-owning experience will be most enjoyable if you consider carefully what type of pet best suits your family, home, and lifestyle.
Questions to Ask Before Picking a Pet
Each type of pet is different in terms of care, feeding, behavior, cost, housing, and demands on your time. If you know what you’re getting into, you’ll be more likely to have a happy companion, a good relationship with that 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? What are you looking for in a pet? What is your activity level; are you sedentary or physically active? Do you want a pet that’s easy to care for?
- If you have children, how will having a pet affect them? Will everyone in your home welcome a pet? Additionally, if you have young children, a pet that’s active at night would not be as right a choice as one that is active during the time your child is awake.
- Who will care for your pet? Consider who will be the pet caretaker; what is their experience level and knowledge, as well as how much time they will have available. Although it’s good to involve children in caring for pets, it is unrealistic to expect a child to be solely responsible for any pet’s care and welfare.
- Do you already have any pets? If so, will your current pet accept another pet of the same or a different species?
- What future changes might occur in your living situation that would affect your ability to keep your pet in years to come? You are making a commitment to that pet for their life, so consider what you will do with your pet if your life situation changes.
- Do local laws, or your housing arrangement limit your choice of pet? If you rent or live in a condominium or townhouse, landlords and many homeowner associations may restrict the type or number of pets you can have. If you live in a city, your choice of pet may be very different from your choice if you lived in the suburbs or the country. Some species or breeds of pets are not allowed by building, town, county, or state ordinances. Consider also the amount of exercise your pet will need, and whether your living arrangements accommodate that need. How much space do you have inside and outside your home? Will you need a fenced yard?
- How much time do you have to spend with a pet? How long will you be away from your pet? Do you work long hours or travel frequently? Some pets need frequent exercise, feeding; they might not be the right choice for owners who spend a lot of time away from home.
- And how many years are you willing to commit yourself to care for a pet? Different species and breeds of animals have differing needs for companionship and attention, as well as differing life expectancies. For example, some larger birds or turtle/tortoise species have been known to live for more than 50 years! Do your research to make sure you have a realistic understanding of the commitment you’re making when you get a particular type of pet.
- Who will care for your pet in your absence? Consider not just short-term absences (business or vacation), but also what might happen if your pet outlives you, and plan accordingly for your pet’s care.
- Can you afford the costs of caring for your pet? Some species or breeds of pets have special needs that may require additional cost or effort. Think of the requirements your pet will have for food, housing, socialization, exercise, grooming, and veterinary care, and make sure you can afford and are willing and able to provide them. Do you have the financial resources if your pet has a medical emergency?
- Is veterinary medicine, for your desired pet, available in your area. Some pets (such as reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, pocket pets and birds) require special veterinary care, so make sure there’s a veterinarian in your area who can provide that care.
- 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 different 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.
- Are you considering a wild animal as a pet? Wild animals should not be kept as pets. They are not domesticated and often do not behave in a manner that’s predictable or that is acceptable in a family home. Wild animals have specific needs that are difficult or impossible to meet in a home environment; this can put their health and life at risk. Also, they may pose a threat of disease for other pets and human family members. Leave wild animals wild and appreciate them from afar, for your safety and theirs.
Sharing your life with an animal has great benefits, both emotional and physical, and can bring you unconditional love, companionship, and joy. If you are thinking about adding a pet to your family, it’s best to learn about the needs of different types of pets to find one that will best suit your lifestyle.