Choosing a pet – finding a friend that fits your lifestylePet ownership is a big step. It is exciting and fun. It can also be a lot of work. Before you make the leap and bring that adorable, wide-eyed, fluffy little kitten home, take some time to assess your personal situation and how it might impact your choice of pet.
By: Jill Pertler, Living North Magazine
Two decades ago, when my husband and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary, we decided we were ready for the next step in our responsible, married lives: pet ownership. We purchased a book that gave all sorts of information on different breeds of dogs, grooming needs, exercise requirements, cost, temperament, size and lifespan. It was very useful in helping us know what to choose.
We got a kitten.
The book made it clear that we weren’t ready for dog ownership. We lived in a small apartment, both of us worked full-time and had no extra moments in the day for things like dog walking or grooming. It wasn’t the right environment for a pooch.
A cat, on the other hand, was more suited to our circumstance. He could stay at home for hours at a time without chewing up our sneakers or furniture. His litter box was available, he didn’t need to go outside or be taken for walks. He could keep himself clean. We named him Bogart.
Because we made a careful and thoughtful choice, Bogart was a cherished member of our family for many years. He was a good fit, thanks to the book (about dogs).
Pet ownership is a big step. It is exciting and fun. It can also be a lot of work. Before you make the leap and bring that adorable, wide-eyed,
fluffy little kitten home, take some time to assess your personal situation and how it might impact your choice of pet. Some options, along with their upsides and downsides, are listed here. We’ll start with the simpler pets and work our way up from there.
Fish don’t require much of your attention. They don’t need to be groomed or played with. As long as you remember to feed them, they just about take care of themselves.
They can be pretty to look at, fun to watch and, depending on what breed you choose, you may get to see them have babies.
Unless you go for the fancy saltwater varieties, fish can be fairly inexpensive to maintain. They don’t go to the vet. They don’t chew on furniture.
Their tank needs to be clean; that means you’ll need to clean it. Depending on the tank, this might be a weekly or monthly chore.
Fish don’t give much back. They don’t purr or roll over to have their tummies scratched. They are basically non-interactive.
Gerbils, guinea pigs, hamsters and other rodents: Upsides
These pocket pets are cute and fluffy. While they don’t require your attention, you can hold them in your hand or on your lap and they are fun to watch when playing in their cage.
They are fairly easy to maintain. Like fish, they need to be fed and their habitat needs regular cleaning.
These little critters are rodents; they have sharp teeth and can bite if threatened. They are good at escaping from their cages and will chew on things.
They reproduce easily, so if you have more than one, you’ll want to make sure they are the same sex. Unless you want babies, of course.
Birds come in different shapes and colors. They are pretty pets. Some birds can be trained to talk.
They are fairly easy to maintain; give them a clean cage and a regular feeding of bird food. Some varieties also like fresh fruits and veggies.
They are naturally inquisitive and like attention.
Some birds can be expensive; larger birds require more of your time and can live for 50 years or more. They like to vocalize (scream), which can be unnerving at six in the morning.
While they are easy to maintain, they are messy and their cage needs to be cleaned frequently.
Birds have sharp beaks and can bite. Larger birds have larger beaks.
Cats are cute and cuddly (when they want to be). They can sit in your lap and purr. They like to play and pounce. Cats have unique personalities.
Cats groom themselves and need only minimal help with keeping clean. They are easy to train (litter box) and feed (cat food).
If your cat uses a litter box, you will have to change the litter.
Cats shed. You may find cat hair on your carpet and furniture. Some people are allergic to cats. If you are one of them, you don’t want a cat living in your house.
Cats require regular care from a veterinarian. You’ll want to have your cat spayed or neutered, and keep up with regular shots for things like rabies and distemper. This adds to the cost of maintenance.
Dogs are highly interactive pets. They seek out human attention and will love their owner unconditionally. They want to please you.
Dogs come in many shapes, sizes and personalities. You can pick the breed that you like best — from a small lap dog to a large guard dog, and everything in between. Dogs are smart. You can teach your dog tricks like roll over, shake hands and play dead.
Dogs can act out in negative ways if they are left alone for too long. They can chew (and destroy) everything from slippers to couches.
Many dogs shed. All need regular grooming – brushing, haircuts or both.
Dogs need exercise, hence the phrase, “walk the dog.”
There can be a number of costs associated with dog ownership. They need regular vet checks and should be spayed or neutered. Some breeds require the skills of a professional dog groomer. You may elect to put your dog through obedience training or puppy school. And, of course there’s dog food and the occasional Scooby snack.
Which pet is right for you?
A just-for-fun quiz
Choose the answer that best fits your situation.
Why I want a pet…
A. I want a friend to love me and play with me.
B. I want a pet to sit on my lap and pounce on my head when I am sleeping.
C. I want a conversation piece. Something to keep me entertained.
D. I want something cute and fuzzy that my kids will enjoy, without the upkeep of a real pet like a dog.
E. I really don’t want a pet. I’m just doing this to appease my spouse and/or kids.
I would give my pet attention…
A. Lots of times each day.
B. Once or twice every day.
C. Maybe every other day.
D. Once or twice a week.
E. I don’t want to play with my pet.
Space for my pet…
A. I have a big yard or play area for my pet.
B. I have a small outdoor area for my pet.
C. My pet would have to stay indoors.
D. My pet would stay in its cage unless I was holding it.
E. My pet would stay in its aquarium.
Holding my pet…
A. I want a pet that is too big for my lap.
B. I want a pet that can sit on my lap.
C. I’d like a pet that can perch on my finger.
D. I want a pet that is soft and fluffy and can fit in my pocket.
E. I don’t need to hold my pet.
Where my pet sleeps…
A. My pet will sleep next to my bed.
B. My pet will sleep wherever he pleases.
C. My pet will sleep with his cage covered at night.
D. My pet will sleep in his cage, but mostly during the day.
E. My pet will sleep when I turn the aquarium lights off.
A. My pet will want and need exercise every day.
B. My pet will pounce and jump. That’s exercise enough.
C. My pet will exercise by flying across the room.
D. My pet will run on a treadmill.
E. My pet will swim for hours and hours each day.
Loving my pet…
A. I want a pet that loves me back every minute of every day.
B. I want a pet that loves me, but only when he is ready.
C. I want a pet that loves looking at himself in the mirror.
D. I want a pet that loves squeezing through tight spaces.
E. I want a pet that loves swimming.
If you answered mostly A’s
You are ready for the big plunge into pet ownership. You are prepared to spend the time and energy on a pet that barks and wags its tail. A dog is the right choice for you.
If you answered mostly B’s
You understand the temperament of a feline and are ready to live with the attitude that makes this animal special. A cat will be purrfect for you.
If you answered mostly C’s
Tweet. Tweet. You want a pet that is colorful, loud, fun to look at and talk to. You don’t mind a winged creature flying across your living room. Go for the bird.
If you answered mostly D’s
You are looking for cute and cuddly without the time and expense of a cat or dog. Choose a gerbil, hamster or other fuzzy rodent friend. Just make sure the cage latch is tight.
If you answered mostly E’s
You really don’t want a pet, do you? You think fish are the answer because they take little or none of your time or effort. That’s okay. At least you’re honest. Go fish.