Often near the holidays, many people consider adding a pet to their home. This pet may be a present, or perhaps a time of year that has significance for adding to the family. Whatever the reason is for adding a pet to your family, selecting a pet is an important step that should not be rushed. There are many considerations in adding a pet, and all family members' ability to care for this pet should be considered.
Unfortunately most people do not know much about what pet would really fit their home and lifestyle. They may decide on a dog or cat based on one or 2 desirable features such as soft fur to touch or a living being who is so happy to see you coming home that loads of affection are guaranteed. Other factors such as time to train, time to clean the litter box, total cost of care, feeding, boarding or grooming of the pet are unknown and not anticipated. Our shelters are filled with 6 month old and older dogs and cats due to new owner's frustrations with these factors in pet ownership. Planning ahead before you get a pet can save a lot of potential problems.
First of all, take a realistic look at the amount of time you have to feed, exercise, groom, and toilet a pet. For dog lovers, even with a fenced in yard, you may have to go out in rain and snow to encourage your dog to potty. Basically dogs need at least 2 leash walks a day off the property for 15 minutes for exercise and mental stimulation. Puppies need to play for at least an hour a day, 5 minutes of basic training daily and adhering to routine for feeding, play, and training. If your schedule is not routine, a dog would not be a good fit. Consider an alternate pet such as a cat or a bird.
Cats are less regimented to a schedule, but still need daily care. Litter boxes have to be scooped out daily to keep the cat happy about using the box. Cats do need play bouts of 5 - 10 minutes of play with the owner to prevent mischief, and maintain a healthy weight. You will need to provide places for your cat to perch at various heights and a place for them to look out the window. Cats do need to claw to mark their territory. If you do not want to declaw the cat, you will have to provide multiple scratching posts and other places to claw.
Birds are less demanding for their care, but do require special diets. Cages need to be cleaned regularly, they do need to be handled and have their beaks and claws maintained. Some of the larger birds tend to be noisy and may purposely scatter their food out of the cage. Some people are more allergic to bird's feathers than cats or dog dander.
Small mammals such as guinea pigs, rabbits and hamsters are easy to care for, do not take up as much space and do not require as much veterinary care. They do need to have cages cleaned at least once a week, possibly more and there is an initial cost to getting the cages and wheels etc. The small mammals do not live as long as dogs or cats, yet we are seeing some live over 4 years now.
Having a pet is a commitment for the life of the pet. Consider contacting your local veterinarian when considering adopting or purchasing a pet. Many veterinary practices such as ours offer pet selection counseling. Families benefit from getting guidance on a lifelong commitment, and the practice has taken a step in preventing the usual frustrations and problems poor matching can bring.
You can find out more about pet selection services by checking out some of our links to other online resources.