Choose the Right Pet for Your Family

Find a furred, feathered or finned friend who is a perfect match with these 5 questions.

dog and boy laying down

So, you finally gave in to those heartfelt pleas from your kids and are searching for a new addition to your family. Pets can be the perfect companion for both young and old, but be sure to consider every angle before choosing a cat, dog or other animal to join your family. Clarice Brough, the content manager of Animal-World.com, and Teoti Anderson from the South Carolina-based pet training program, Pawsitive Results, gave us some pointers on what to look for in a new pet. Ask yourself the following five questions before making any final decisions on growing your family:

  1. Where Do You Live?
    Do you live in a small apartment? If so, a large dog or even an energetic puppy would be uncomfortable in a tiny space with no room to exercise frequently. Do your research before choosing a pet. Certain small breeds (like the parson russell terrier) are usually extremely active and need lots of room, while a large dog (like a greyhound) may be fine in an apartment home because they are often couch potatoes. A big house with a backyard might be more conducive to dog-owners.Consider getting a cat or aquarium-based pet that wouldn't mind being contained in a smaller living space. Remember that while birds won't leap through a townhouse like a Great Dane, they're often loud, and certain species can disturb your neighbors.

  2. Who Will Take Care Of The Pet?
    If you work long hours, animals such as fish or reptiles that don't require constant attention might be a better fit for your family. Or if you and your family take trips and travel a lot, consider your options for pet sitters. Parents with very young children who require a lot of attention may not be able to also care for a rambunctious puppy or other energetic animal. If you employ a nanny, ask if she would mind incorporating feeding the cat or walking the dog into her daily responsibilities. Families with older children might want to think about what tasks their kids can take on to learn about responsibility and caring for animals -- taking the dog for walks, cleaning the cat litter, feeding the fish or setting up a hamster house are all great chores for bigger kids.

  3. What Is Your Budget?
    Caring for an animal can get expensive, so set a budget beforehand and choose your pet accordingly. You'll need to purchase toys for your pet to play with, water and food bowls and living space, such as an aquarium for fish, a cage for birds or a heat tank for reptiles. Certain animals require a specific diet, which can also increase your budget (parrots, for example, eat pellets, vegetables and nuts). Some pets may also need trainers, an added cost that can quickly add up.

    You also might want to budget for pet insurance, which can sometimes be the difference between being able to keep a pet or having to give it up for adoption. According to the ASPCA, the most common insurance claims for dogs include accidents, like swallowed objects and bite wounds, and illnesses, such as skin problems and more serious concerns like cancer. Many of the top claims for cats are similar, so regardless of what type of pet you choose, getting them insured could save your family from financial troubles down the road should your pet need health care.

    Anderson points out that it may be easier on your wallet to care for an older pet. When an animal is young, it will require extra attention (and money!). Slightly older dogs have "already gone through their chewing stages; they may already be housetrained and may have been raised with children and already love them," she says. That's extra money you save by adding an already-trained animal to your house. On the flip side, older dogs can also incur added expenses, should they experience health problems. Larger breeds often develop arthritis and hip troubles as they age, and surgery and joint medications can be costly. It's important to weigh your options when considering the age of your pet and your budget.

  4. What Kind of Pet Should You Bring into the Family?
    From dogs, cats and fish to rabbits, snakes and newts to even something as exotic as a bearded dragon, the possibilities abound.Brough notes that there are many kinds of animals that can be welcomed into your home, but they are typically broken down into three types of pets: companion, working and show animals. Companions are those pets, like horses or dogs, which will stick with you through thick or thin. Working animals are chosen because of their special abilities, like guiding a blind person or herding sheep. And show animals often require a great deal of dedication and time, as they are being groomed for a specific purpose. Most families are looking for companion pets, unless they have a family member with a disability -- or they have dreams of Westminster dog show glory.

    Which pet you choose depends on many factors. If you have smaller children and don't have a ton of time to look after your new pet yourself, consider animals that are easiest to care for, such as fish, hermit crabs, sea monkeys or snails. If you're looking for a cat, American shorthairs, Birman and Burmese breeds are some of the most kid-friendly and happiest cats. If you're looking for dogs, golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers would be a great addition to the family, and they are some of the most energetic and faithful companions kids can find. Brough notes that when looking at reptiles, a corn snake, leopard gecko and water turtle are best for beginners.

  5. What Other Questions Should You Ask?
    The Alaska Dog and Puppy Rescue provides a thorough questionnaire for people looking to adopt, which can be useful no matter what type of animal you are thinking of adding to your family. For example, do you need to get permission from a landlord, what vet will you go to and do you have any allergies to consider?

Whatever kind of pet you choose, if you take the time to consider your family's needs, living situation and financial commitments, your new fuzzy -- or scaly, feathery or slimy -- friend will be a part of the family in no time.

Jennifer Eberhart recently completed her master's degree in museum studies from the City College, New York. She has many years of experience in the arts through writing, video production and art history, and can be reached via Twitter at @egyptologist. Her work can be found here.

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Comments (1)
Photo of Maureen M.
Maureen M.
As a mature person who has raised many kids and dogs, here is what I know about both:
1. People with young children will probably be too tired or stressed out to take care of a puppy.
2. If you like 13 year old girls with an attitude, you will love a 9 month old dog--same kind of challenges--they know what to do, but they will push your limits to see exactly where they can get away with something.
3. Do not think you can get away with not training a dog. The dog deserves better than that! If repeating yourself hundreds of times a day seems aggravating, add to the mix cleaning up after accidents.
4. Yes, what I advise is to adopt a shelter dog, an adult or even a senior dog. They are in the shelter because their people messed up--and did not fulfill their end of the contract--to care for this dependent animal for the rest of their 10 to 18 year life.
5. Adopting a shelter dog is saving 2 lives: the one you take home AND the one who can live at the shelter until his/her new home is found.
6. Under no circumstances should you purchase a dog from a store. MOST pet shop dogs are overbred, undersocialized and have emotional and physical problems that you will have to pay to fix. No joke. Puppy mills are hell on earth for dogs. Do not think that you are 'rescuing" dogs by buying them.
7. If you are really dedicated to a specific breed, find the rescue group that takes care of them. You will learn a lot and find a bargain price, bc the group will have spent hundreds to take care of the animal before you get them.
8. Love the pet for the rest of their lives. It is the only ethical thing to do.
Posted: July 08, 2013 at 1:45 PM
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