Image via Flickr by Jimee, Jackie, Tom & Asha
Whether you already have pets or are looking to get your first, choosing a family pet is a big decision. It is not a decision that should be entered into lightly or impulsively; you will be taking responsibility for a life. Choosing the wrong pet for your family can make your pet and your family unhappy. Choosing the right pet, however, can be magical.
Why Do You Want a Pet?
The reason for choosing a pet is probably the most important criterion to consider. Are you looking for a pet to engage in activities with you? If so, a dog may be the answer. Are you looking for a pet to be a cuddly lap animal? Dogs, cats, guinea pigs, and ferrets are all very affectionate pets. Are you looking for a pet that is very low maintenance? Look at fish, gerbils, hamsters, turtles, or lizards. Overall, dogs are the most common family pet because of their social appeal.
Where Do You Live?
Where you live, especially how much space you have, is critical when choosing a pet. If you live in a house with a large garden, almost any pet may be appropriate. However, if you live in an apartment or a house with no garden, you may want to think about a smaller, indoor pet. While most cats, birds, guinea pigs, bunnies, ferrets, and aquarium animals are content in a smaller space, most dogs are not. However, there are some breeds — greyhounds, for example — that are more sedentary than others and tend to tolerate smaller spaces.
How Old Are Your Kids?
Choosing the wrong pet for younger kids can be stressful for the pet and may result in aggressive behaviour. If choosing a dog, mixed breeds tend to be calmer than purebreds and larger dogs are more tolerant of young children’s rough play. Cats tend to be less tolerant overall of younger kids than dogs, but Maine Coons and Persians are often more child-friendly than other breeds. Caged or aquarium pets may be a good start for very young kids; birds and fish can be used to teach basic animal care, while keeping the animal (and child) safe.
What is Your Budget?
Pets can be expensive. Not only do pets have the initial costs of adoption, food, toys, accessories, beds, etc., but animals need regular veterinary care. The average cost per year spent on a cat or dog for veterinary care is almost £900. There are ways to lower this cost, through pet insurance programmes or online veterinary care, such as kuddly.co, which gives you access to 24/7 advice from veterinarians.
Getting a family pet is an important decision but one that will change your family in so many wonderful ways. When you decide on the type of pet you want, consider adopting your pet from a local shelter. Three million cats and dogs are euthanized every year in U.S. shelters, 80% of which are healthy. Shelter staff are knowledgable about the animals’ personalities and can assist you in choosing the right pet for your family.
* In collaboration with Laura Ashbury, a Freelance writer