Many people have fond childhood memories with their pets, like playing fetch and going camping or snuggling up while reading. Sometimes, people choose pets because of those positive memories. But, when you have your own family, you'll need to take a few things into consideration when picking a pet.
Choosing the Right Kind of Pet
While some people jump immediately to thoughts of a dog or cat when considering a pet, these are far from the only options. What's more, they may not be good options for some families. Know why you want a pet. Some families prefer pets that they can cuddle, while others may not be as hands-on.
Don't forget other factors. When allergies get in the way, you might want a pet that lives in a container, such as a lizard, fish, or even a snake. While children may promise to take care of a pet, it often falls to the parents to care for those animals. If you don't want to deal with scooping a litter box or picking up poop in the backyard, consider a different pet. Your children can still learn about responsibility with pets other than dogs and cats.
Fits Your Lifestyle
Pets should match your lifestyle. Do you like to walk, run, or hike? If so, a dog might fit right in! If you don't have space for a dog or the time to walk it, a cat might be a better option. Pets that need frequent attention might be difficult if you're rarely at home during the day or frequently leave on family vacations.
Preparing Your Home
Every pet needs its own supplies, whether that be a tank, crate/kennel, scratching posts, cage, bedding, leash, or something else. Elimination is a reality for pets, so add a litter box, poop scooper, and similar tools to your shopping list. Don't forget toys to enrich your pet, and pick up some treats, which you can use for bonding and training.
After shopping, you'll need to prepare your home. If you decide that a puppy is what you want, make sure you puppy-proof your home in order to prevent serious problems. Put away chemicals and trash, and enclose cords that might harm mischievous pups. Keep curious cats safe by removing strings that they may try to eat. Spray cords with no-chew spray, use no-scratch tape on furniture, and put away breakables for the time being. Finally, check if your essential oils and plants are pet-safe.
Money is a practical issue that you cannot ignore when considering a new pet. How much do you want to spend to adopt and care for the animal? A purebred dog can cost thousands, but you might spend much less if you adopt a pet from a shelter. That pet may have already received basic care, such as spay/neuter, microchipping, and parasite treatment. You'll have to pay for those services yourself when buying from a breeder.
The expenses don't stop when you first bring home your pet. You'll need to continue feeding and providing that animal with supplies. Pets must see a veterinarian periodically, usually once or twice a year, for a checkup, vaccinations, pest prevention, and dental treatment. Some species may need grooming to remain healthy as well. As pets age and health problems increase, so too do vet bills.
Of course, one of the biggest expenses that comes with owning an animal arises when there is an emergency, and you cannot predict how much this will cost. Some people invest in pet insurance to offset the cost, but this means your monthly pet budget will increase.
When you adopt a new pet, you're making a commitment to care for it for its entire life. Do you want a pet that lives just a few years, such as a hamster, or can you handle a pet that potentially lives a decade or more? Cats, dogs, rabbits, and chinchillas all usually live at least 10 years. Some guinea pigs, rabbits, and geckos live to around nine years of age. When it comes to some pets, you're essentially making a lifelong commitment. Koi live 25 to 35 years, which is a similar lifespan as horses. Cockatiels can have life spans up to 25 years, and some snakes can live four decades. None of those compare to the largest parrots or turtles with lifespans of 50-plus years.
If you're considering any sort of exotic pet, it's important to verify that it's legal in your municipality. Some species, like sugar gliders, are not universally legal, and Alabama and Alaska both prohibit rabbits as pets. If you're hoping to own a monk parakeet in Colorado, think again!
The legality of your pet matters because you might have to surrender or euthanize an illegal pet should it be discovered. You also might not be able to seek veterinary care in time of injury or illness.
Even if the type of pet you like is legal, it may be difficult to find appropriate veterinarian care in your area if it's an exotic type, which could impact your pet's quality of care if it becomes sick or injured. If the closet veterinarian is an hour away, could this impact your pet's health?
Once you've narrowed down your pet search to a specific species that fits your lifestyle and budget, there's one final consideration: personality. Just because you want a dog doesn't mean that every dog will fit into your family. Some may not enjoy children. Consider any other pets that you might have and whether they would welcome a new pet.
It can be difficult to get to know a pet when visiting a shelter, store, or breeder as those animals might be quite uncomfortable. An animal can really open up once it arrives at its new home, but you won't necessarily realize that before you get home and allow them to settle in.
Getting your family a pet is a big responsibility that shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you honestly consider your ability and needs when choosing a pet, you can add a member to your family and provide your children with years of happiness.
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