As 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.
Since 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.
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.
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.
Now 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.
You 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 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.
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.
Here are additional factors you may want to consider when making this decision.
Here are the top 5 pet categories in the U.S. along with some thoughts on the selection criteria.
1. Dog or Puppy
2. Cat or Kitten
3. Fish (Fresh Water or Salt Water)
4. Pick a pet from the Small Animals category (Hamsters, Gerbils, Mice, Rats, Rabbits, ...)
5. Pick a pet from a broad selection of Reptiles and Birds
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!