It's so exciting to think of bringing home a new furry, four-legged addition to the family! Since pets can live a long time, choosing the right pet should be something that merits some thought. Here are some tips on how to choose a pet that fits your family.
Adopting a pet is a life-long commitment. It's a greatly rewarding experience - not only will your pet become a part of your family, but it has been shown that pets improve our lives in so many ways ... there are even health benefits such as lowered blood pressure and more exercise. Consider these things before choosing a family pet:
Your family's activity level. If your family is the type that goes hiking often you may want a dog that you can take with you. If your family prefers to relax at home on the couch, a cat or a low-activity dog may be better for you.
Pet size. Is your home, yard, and car big enough to accommodate a large-breed dog? Are you able to physically handle a large dog? Do you have any physical conditions that may prevent you from exercising or caring for a dog versus a cat or other type of pet?
It isn't always true that large dogs need bigger spaces. Many breeds of large dogs are couch potatoes, while some breeds of smaller dogs have boundless energy. However, there's no denying that a big dog physically takes up more space (which might be a little tight in small homes), eats more (that means costs more!), and are physically stronger (which can be difficult for some people to handle - although training can help teach dogs what's considered acceptable behavior).
Your schedule. There's no doubt about it: dogs typically require far more time and effort to care for than cats. Cats are wonderful for people who like the companionship but don't have time (or lack the desire) to walk a dog every day or let it out every few hours to do its "business". Consider exercise needs, need to regularly eliminate, feeding, training, and attention.
That's not to say that cats are care-free, of course... remember that they too need exercise, attention, and a clean litter box.
Coat type. Generally speaking, long-haired dogs and cats will require regular grooming either by your family or a professional groomer. This can be very time-consuming and expensive unless you do it yourself. All pets need to be groomed, of course, but the longer-haired breeds often deal with more coat issues like matting.
Your budget. Take into consider the costs of caring for a dog versus the costs of caring for a cat. It's not just about how much food they eat -- although big dogs eat more, of course -- but all the other ongoing costs including vet care, grooming, licensing, pet-sitting or boarding, and more. Pets cost money... it's not just about the adoption fee!
Kitten or cat, puppy or dog? Baby animals are cute. Many of us would gladly spend copious amounts of time watching or playing with them... but they're also a lot of work. If you do not have the time or the patience to train a puppy or kitten, consider adopting an adult or even adopting a senior pet. Adult dogs and cats have ample love to share and will bond to their new people just as well as puppies or kittens.
Where you live and go on vacation. If you are renting your home or going to college, keep in mind that there places that do not allow pets at all. Others may allow small dogs or cats but do not permit larger breeds. There may also be restrictions on the number of pets or types of pets you are allowed to have. The same thing goes for vacations: if you would like to take your pet with you, you will generally find it easier to locate pet-friendly accommodations that allow small dogs rather than the larger breeds or other types of pets.
Your lifestyle. Are you always traveling (business/pleasure)? Is someone at home for a good part of the day, or is everyone always on the go? All pets need time and attention. If you're always away and your pet needs to be boarded most of the time, then perhaps it's not the right time to get a pet. Or if you're at work during the day and just want to relax on the couch when you get home, a puppy or a young dog might not be the best choice since their need to get some exercise will be in conflict with your desire to lounge around.
Please do not adopt a pet as a surprise gift for someone else. Many pets are turned into animal shelters every year because the recipient of the pet did not want it. Pets have thoughts and feelings just like we do and it is frightening and confusing for them to be dumped at a shelter.
Choosing a pet is an exciting experience! Talk over your expectations with your family before deciding to adopt a pet. Many humane societies and pet rescue organizations will be happy to help you with the process as well. Give it some thought, and when the time's right, adopt a pet that will fit your family.