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Pick a pet using the best criteria for you and your family

Image of group of dogs, cats, reptiles, small animals & fishAs a child did you ever want to pick a pet so badly that you would do nearly anything to get it? The chance to select a pet would create such excitement that you would even promise "to do everything for taking care of the pet" to get the animal you wanted. As you grew and matured you started to realize that you cannot have everything and anything you wanted. You realize that some of those things that you once wanted as a child, that fantasy pet, were a bit unrealistic because of current living conditions and other factors that now play an important role in your decision making.

Graphic of personal decision network with Pets decision highlightedSince you are no longer a kid and do make more rational decisions, it is important to consider multiple factors in your life before choosing a pet. There are times when you make impulse buys, after all you are human, but allowing yourself to pick a pet on impulse will likely lead to undesired consequences for you and for the unfortunate pet.

How to choose a pet: Some important criteria

Some of the factors that are often overlooked but should be considered when choosing a pet are: work schedule, budget, life style, safety, and medical conditions.

Work schedule

Do you work a full-time job? Do you work during the day or do you work during the night? Maybe you do both. Perhaps you work from home or not at all. Whatever your current schedule it is important that it be considered when you pick a pet. Do you work close enough to home to stop home for lunch to tend to a pet? Different types of pets have varying needs with respect to demands on your time and availability.

Budget

Image of working on budget with calculatorNow that you know you have the time to dedicate to a pet, you must look at your finances. Animals can cost a lot more than people think.

The goal is to determine how much you want to spend. There is NO type of animal that does not require some sort of maintenance, whether it is small things like buying bedding and food to having to pay for shots and medication. There are also things to take into consideration such as classes, neutering/spaying and de-clawing. Some animals may even need de-scenting. And what happens if the animal suddenly becomes ill? You will have to make the painful decision as to whether you can afford surgery and a lifetime of medications or put it down? Either one can be incredibly expensive.

So, before you decide to pick a pet, ask yourself "Can I afford to take care of this animal for its entire lifetime?" Then make a budget and make sure to include money for emergency purposes. It's also a good idea to talk to a local Veterinarian to understand exactly what an animal may require. You may be surprised at what you may learn. If you have to travel a lot, or with short notice, you may need to pay for boarding costs for multiple days, which can be very expensive.

Life Style

Image of dog holding his leash waiting to be walkedYou have taken a look at your work schedule and you have planned a budget. Now it is time to take a look at the rest of your time. What do you do after work? On the weekends? During the summer? In the winter? Are you a traveler? Do your overall responsibilities allow enough time to take care of your pet without compromising your care for your family? Do you have time to devote to the daily maintenance of a pet? Do you have adequate space in your house or yard for your new pet? Do you have a job where you are on-call and have to respond with short notice? You may think that you have the time and money for a friendly companion, but what about your life outside of work?

It cannot be stressed enough about how important it is to take a good look at how you live your life. It is not fair to bring an animal home and then neglect it. Do you tend to be spontaneous with your time? Do you like to head away for the weekend at the last minute? With some pets, this could be difficult, requiring a neighbor or kennel to accommodate your life style. Does your city or landlord allow for the type of pet you are considering? When you pick a pet will it be accepted by all members of you household, including any existing pets?

Again, talk to a local Veterinarian or go to the book store and find information about the animal you are interesting in obtaining. When you are informed, you and the animal can have a better, longer, and healthier relationship.

Safety

Image of child petting dogs noseSafety is an important consideration for all families, especially when you have children or elderly parents living with you or visiting often. Will your new pet bite, scratch, or knock over someone? With infants, some pets could be a suffocation risk, when over friendly pets enter their crib or lay on them while sleeping on the floor. Reptiles may carry salmonella on their skin and can be a special concern for young children who constantly have their fingers in their mouths. Even something like a fish tank can be a drowning hazard or a tip over hazard for small inquisitive children. While no pet is completely safe, make sure you think about your specific situation before you pick a pet to purchase.

Medical Conditions

The last thing to consider when choosing a pet is your medical conditions. There have been so many instances where a family decides on a pet and they get it home and allergies flare up. What happens to the pet then? Sadly, it usually winds up in a shelter, a no kill shelter if it is lucky. So before you decide on an animal think about times in the past where you have had allergies flare up at a friend's house or in the pet store, and before you make any commitments take an allergy test. You do not want to be miserable while you have the pet and you do not want to have to get rid of it. It is only fair for both parties.

On the other end of the spectrum, maybe you already have a medical condition and you were looking to pick a pet as a support for therapy. If this were the case, I would talk to your doctor or a therapist to see what they recommend. After that I would take a look at the steps above and get some literature on the animal you were interested in. This will be a good way to find an excellent match.

Other criteria to consider when you pick a pet

Here are additional factors you may want to consider when making this decision.

  • Companionship
  • Long term commitment
  • Security
  • Provides a hobby (pet shows)

Some pick a pet alternatives

Here are the top 5 pet categories in the U.S. along with some thoughts on the selection criteria.

1. Dog or Puppy

  • They require a great deal of maintenance - obedience school, house breaking, walking, feeding, grooming, and vet care
  • There are many different breeds, sizes, and personalities, so you can pick one that would fit in with your lifestyle
  • They make great companions but some breeds can require a lot of personal attention

2. Cat or Kitten

  • They require very little maintenance - a clean litter box, feeding, and grooming with some vet care
  • There are many different breeds, so you can pick one that would fit in with your lifestyle
  • They make great companions but can be more aloof than dogs

Pick a pet: - Image of two fish in a tank3. Fish (Fresh Water or Salt Water)

  • After initial set up, a fresh or salt water fish tanks require regular maintenance - tank cleaning, water changes, filter changes, filter cleaning, and feeding
  • There are many different fish tank options, so there is bound to be one that would make a good fit into your lifestyle
  • Fish do not make good companions, but with the right tank set up they can offer a tranquil and entertaining diversion to any setting
  • Some fish are very sensitive to water changes and water PH levels, this can lead to heartbreak if they die suddenly

4. Pick a pet from the Small Animals category (Hamsters, Gerbils, Mice, Rats, Rabbits, ...)

  • Small animals require regular maintenance, possibly daily - bedding changes, feeding, watering, and sometimes grooming
  • There are many different types of small animals, so some effort is required to narrow down to ones that would fit your lifestyle
  • Small animals can make great, safe companions for children

5. Pick a pet from a broad selection of Reptiles and Birds

  • Both reptiles and birds require regular, daily maintenance - feeding (both reptiles and birds require special meals to be prepared for them daily like fresh salads and fruits), fresh supply of live food (crickets, mice, ...), watering, cleaning
  • There are many different species of birds and reptiles and it is important to find the right one for your lifestyle
  • A reptile or a bird has the potential to make a great companion. If a child will be around either pet, it is important that an adult be there to supervise because reptiles can carry salmonella and birds can have pressure capabilities of up to 1500 psi in their jaws.

Graphic of criteria and alternatives of the pick a pet decision

Going to Select a Pet Should Be Fun

After all is said and done, the opportunity to pick a pet should be fun. It should be a time that allows a person or a family to discover who they are and what they want as a companion. It is a time to build a friendship, a lifelong companionship. It was once said by George Eliot that, "Animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms." By following these simple steps in choosing a pet, it should be a fun and interesting journey!

James Cromwell quote about pets

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