Choosing the right pet

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Sharing your life with an animal has great benefits and can bring you great joy. If you are thinking about adding a pet to your family, it’s best to learn about the needs of different types of pets to find one that will best suit your lifestyle. Each type of pet is different in terms of care, feeding, behavior, cost, housing and demands on your time. If you know what you’re getting into, you’ll be more likely to have a happy animal, a good relationship with your pet, and an easier time dealing with any challenges that might arise.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you consider what type of pet to get:

  • What type of animal is the best fit for your home? Will you be able to live with pet hair, a litter box or the occasional wear-and-tear caused by pets?
  • If you have children, how will having a pet affect them? Will everyone in your home welcome an animal?
  • If you rent, do you have permission from the property owner?
  • How much space do you have inside and outside your home? Will you need a fenced yard? If you get a cat, will your cat have access to the outdoors, do you live on a busy road or do you intend to keep the cat solely indoors?
  • How much time do you have to spend with a pet?
  • What is your activity level? Are you sedentary or physically active?
  • Do you have the financial resources if your pet has a medical crisis and has high veterinary bills?
  • Do you have someone who can be a secondary caregiver if you are away from home? If not, how will you provide care for your pet when you travel?

One key question is where to get your new pet. Please consider adopting: There are many wonderful dogs, cats, rabbits and other animals at most local animal shelters. There are also rescue groups for many specific dogs breeds and other types of pets. What’s more, the staff at your local animal shelter can help you find just the right pet for you. They know the animals in their care and can help you make a good match for your personality and lifestyle.

Puppies or dogs

Dogs are very social creatures; they aren’t happy left outside or chained up in the yard alone all the time. If you are thinking about getting a dog, make sure you’re going to be able to spend several hours a day with him or her.

Also, consider carefully what kind of dog to get. Adopting a puppy is a huge commitment, since you cannot leave a puppy home alone all day. Most puppies need to eliminate every two hours or so. Also, in order to co-exist happily with humans, puppies must be taught house-training skills and basic cues such as “sit,” “stay” and “come.” If puppies are not handled often and socialised when young, they will become shy and fearful.

If you’re thinking about getting a particular breed of dog, you might want to read up on various breeds before deciding what type of dog to get. Different breeds of dogs have different characteristics. You can still adopt from your local shelter even if you want a purebred dog, since a quarter of the dogs at shelters are purebreds.

You’ll also want to consider where you live, how much space you have, and what your lifestyle is. For example, very active dogs may not do well confined to a small apartment or living in a big city, unless you are thoroughly committed to providing your dog with plenty of exercise. All dogs should have at least one walk a day outside their home turf, but some dogs need much more. If you are a fairly sedentary person, you probably want to find a dog (perhaps an older dog) who doesn’t require that much activity. Keep in mind that not all small dogs are less active and not all large dogs need a great deal of exercise. You’ll want to learn more about the traits of the dog you’re thinking about getting, even if he or she is a mixed breed, to see if you are compatible.

Dogs need quite a bit of interaction with their humans in order to be happy. If you’re very busy and spend little time at home, a dog might not be a suitable pet for you, unless you can bring your dog along when you’re away from home. You’ll also need to spend some time training your dog to respond to basic cues.

Make sure you have enough money to have a dog. Costs associated with dog care include food, toys, leads, a crate, training, grooming, spay/neuter surgery, routine vet care and, sometimes, emergency vet care.

Whatever dog you choose, keep in mind that you are making a long-term commitment, since dogs live 10 years or more. Your dog will need attention, love and respect from you: food and water are not enough. Dogs need to be part of the family.

Kittens or cats

Contrary to popular opinion, many cats are social animals and love attention. Though most cats don’t require as much attention as dogs, they still need play time and petting on a daily basis. Spending time every day with your kitty can be the difference between a happy cat and a bored cat.

Make sure you have enough money to have a cat. The costs of caring for a cat include food, toys, litter and a litter box, spay/neuter surgery, and vet care.

Here are some other things that you need to know before adopting a cat:

  • Cats are very fastidious about their litter box habits, so it’s important to keep the litter box clean and fresh.
  • Cats can live up to 15 years or more, so you should be prepared to make a long-term commitment if you adopt a kitten.
  • Cats need to scratch, so a sturdy scratching post is necessary. You can learn to trim your cat’s nails to prevent damage to furniture; besides scratching posts, there are many other products, available at pet supply stores, that deter cats from damaging furniture.
  • Kittens are generally not suitable if you have children less than three years of age in your home. An adult cat would be a better choice.
  • Cats have different personalities. Some like to be held and snuggled; others are more aloof and don’t like to be picked up. So, be prepared to adapt to your new cat’s individual personality traits. If you go to a shelter or contact a local rescue group to adopt a cat, they will be able to advise you on the personalities of the cats in their care and help you choose just the right cat for you.
  • You’ll have to make a decision about whether to have an indoor or outdoor cat. If you choose to have an indoor cat, you’ll want to provide him or her with plenty of toys and regular play time. You might also think about adding a cattery or cat enclosure to your home so your cat can enjoy the outdoors safely.

Cats can be wonderful companions, but before you get a cat, make sure you are willing to make the commitment to provide your cat with the necessities, and you will not mind adapting your life a little bit to accommodate your new feline family member.

Horses

Horses fulfill many roles and are a source of enjoyment for many people. However, horses require a serious commitment of time, money and care. A horse will require grooming and other care that require a minimum of a half an hour a day, often more. They are a long-term commitment, since a horse can live up to 30 years.

You should also give some thought to whether you are willing and able to care for a horse who is no longer sound enough to ride, due to age or injury. Almost every horse will need such care, and no horse should ever be abandoned or sold for slaughter because he or she is no longer “useful.”

Horses can also be expensive. Depending upon the services provided (feed, bedding, training and care) and where you live, the cost of boarding a horse ranges from €50 to €2,000 a month. Other costs include tack, stable tools and supplies, and veterinary care.

If you are thinking about getting a horse for your child, make sure that your child’s other activities will fit in with a horse. Does someone in your family have the experience to care for a horse? If not, are you willing to learn? If you have any doubts about your child’s level of interest, you might want to try leasing or sharing a horse before committing to owning a horse.


Content adapted from Best Friends.org