It’s Saturday afternoon. The store’s parking lot is packed. I’m cruising for a spot and spy a girl and an older woman sitting on chairs near the entrance. Next to them is a crate with several irresistibly-cute, furry baby animals.
For an instant I contemplate parking at the other end of the lot – near the entrance without the “crate of temptation” – before my daughter, lover-of-all-things-small-and-furry, notices.
Too late. “Hey! That girl’s got some puppies! Let’s go look,” she exclaims. If only I’d left the little angel at home.
“Okay,” I say, “but we are not taking one home. We are just going to look. Understand?” One look and she’s in love. “They’re so cute!” she squeals. “Pleeeease, can we get one?”
Of course, I realize taking a pet home on impulse is not a good idea, but I had to admit, they were cute. I’d wanted a little dog since I was a kid. Maybe a pet wasn’t such a bad idea. Still I wanted to make sure we got the right one for our family. There was a lot to think about. As Henry Ward Beecher stated: “The dog was created especially for children. He is the god of frolic.”
Three main things to consider before bringing a pet home, into the family, include: the particular pet’s needs, your lifestyle and health issues, and your financial situation. Let’s take a closer look at these important items.
Common Pet Needs
- Shelter. This may be your entire home, an aquarium or a bird cage. Any shelter must be safe, clean, give protection from the elements and be kept at a comfortable temperature.
- Food and Water. Cat food, dog food, rabbit pellets, nuts and seeds for birds – all pets need species-specific food.
- Mental Stimulation. All pets, except perhaps reptiles, need something to do. Mice like to run on wheels and rearrange their cages. Providing them with a wheel and extra bedding will go a long way to keeping them happy. Cats, dogs and some birds need a higher level of mental stimulation, such as puzzles, games, toys and human interaction.
Specific Needs of Common Pets
- Dogs need to play, be walked, groomed and have companionship. If you cannot commit to giving a dog plenty of attention, get a different kind of pet. Happy dogs are not left alone day and night or chained to a post for hours on end.
- Cats are not always loners. Depending on the breed and personality, a cat may want as much attention as a dog or prefer their own company to yours. They also need a scratching post, a litter box and somewhere they can hide out.
- Birds, like finches, are content to spend all day and night with their finch companions. Parrots, however, need social interaction.
- Guinea pigs and rabbits need safe enclosures. A guinea pig enclosure must have a solid bottom; they should never be kept in cages with wire bottoms because the piggies will develop a painful condition called bumblefoot. Rabbits can be kept in a cage or hutch with a wire bottom. Both species need to spend time outside their cages with you. Change bedding at least once a week and provide access to food and water at all times.
Lifestyle and Health Issues
- Are you away from home during the day or travel frequently? If so, you need a low-maintenance pet.
- Do you have an active household or children? Your pet must be able to tolerate noise and activity – a skittish or elderly dog or cat from a rescue organization probably isn’t such a good fit, although rescues have plenty of adult dogs that might fit the bill quite nicely.
- How big is your home? When you are house training a puppy, is there some part of the house that can be sectioned off? Having pee pads in the living room or kitchen is less than ideal. Tight on space? A small dog or a bird could work well for you.
- Does anyone in the family have allergies? Unless you’re willing to take allergy medication regularly, think twice about getting a furry friend or at least get one that doesn’t shed. A scaly friend, such as a lizard, might be a better choice.
Avoid Breaking the Bank
Can you afford expected and unexpected vet bills? They add up quickly. Your pet(s) need to be spayed or neutered; they should have a chip inserted, in case they are ever lost. They need to receive their annual treatments for breed-specific issues.
Some breeds may need grooming on a consistent basis. Now, you may try to do this at home, but I have found we are all in better shape when we let a professional wash, dry, clip, and style “Fluffy!”
And the same applies to other health and grooming issues. We all thought it would be fun to brush the dog’s teeth, but he had other ideas. We found out quickly that was not the best way to keep your dogs teeth clean. There are other ways, and you can save money too.
The things we do for love.
A Word to the Wise
To recap: before getting a pet, think about the needs of any pet you are considering. Think about your own lifestyle, health conditions, space issues and financial situation. Honestly assessing these areas will help you pick the perfect pet for your family.
About the Author
Pet-lover, Jane Warren, is a freelance writer who has devoted her life to fostering homeless animals and educating consumers about pet care. She enjoys traveling, scuba diving and spending time with her husband.