Choosing a Pet
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Selecting Your Pet
No matter what your age or stage in life, a pet can be a lovable companion. Whether you're old or young, living with others or alone, becoming a pet owner is a significant responsibility. That's why it is important to consider your options and learn more about different types of pets or breeds before you make a decision. In fact, the most common error cited regarding pet ownership is making an impulsive decision. By doing some advance research on animals, identifying your preferences, and recognizing lifestyle issues, you can choose the ideal pet for you.
Okay, so you've decided you want a pet. Begin by asking yourself some important questions about the responsibility, time, attention, effort and money you can commit, as well as your preferences for interacting with your pet. Consider these questions:
- How much time can you spend with a pet each day? Do you have the time to take care of the animal's daily care and feeding? Can you designate time to socialize and be a companion to your pet?
- Do you understand the effort required to pick up poop, clean cages, take care of illnesses and train new behaviors?
- Are you prepared for having another creature in your home permanently? If you rent, are pets permitted on your property by your landlord?
- What kind of space do you have for a pet?
- Will your preferred pet have enough space in your home when it reaches its adult size? Will there be enough room for it to exercise or play?
- Do you have the money to expend on the full spectrum of pet needs, including food, cages, litter, cleaning supplies, toys, veterinary care and possibly more?
- Can you handle a pet emergency - emotionally, physically and financially?
- How will a pet affect your other relationships?
- Do you accept that this pet will be part of your life for many years to come, even when your life circumstances may change?
- Do you have other pets now? How will they react to a new animal in the house?
- If you have children, is your choice of pet age-appropriate? And are you prepared to supervise your kids' contact with the pet every day?
- Do you want a pet that is cuddly and interactive, or do you prefer one that lives fairly independently?
- Do you need a pet that can be outdoors with you, or one that remains indoors at all times?
- Are a number of pet sitting alternatives available to you when you are traveling or unable to make it home?
- Are there other people living on the premises who might have objections to animal noises?
When you've clarified your answers, you should have a clearer picture of the type of animal that best matches your needs and preferences. Next, you'll want to do some additional research to select the specific breed or species. Pay attention to important facts like the pet's expected life span; its projected adult size; the space and resources it needs to live, eat, sleep and exercise; any special needs for caring for the pet; and any common illnesses. Also, be sure the pet you select is legal in your locality, state and the country. If you are found with an illegal pet, the pet will be seized and likely euthanized. The more research you conduct, the more likely you - and your family - will be able to choose a pet that fits.
Once you've narrowed down your options, it's time to start meeting the real candidates. Decide whether you want to purchase from a breeder or a shelter. Don't hurry. Take your time to play with the pets around people and other animals and, if possible, alone. Take a toy or two with you and see how each animal responds to you. Is the animal quick to follow your lead or distracted? Does it respond to your voice? Does it exhibit fear? Also look closely at the animal to make sure it appears healthy. Often if a pet is sick when you buy it, the situation will get worse, not better. Even if you feel one particular animal may be right for you, keep on observing and examining other animals. After all, once you make the choice, there is no going back.
First Things First
Choosing a pet on impulse may be the most common error new pet owners make, but there are others that are equally important to avoid. Here are some smart steps to start your relationship on the right path:
- Do your research. Make sure you know all about the pet's needs, behaviors and life span before you finalize a selection. Remember, owning a pet isn't just about your satisfaction - you have a responsibility to keep your pet safe, healthy and satisfied as well.
- Talk to current pet owners. This is particularly useful to understand the practical side of pet ownership, such as the real costs of keeping the pet, dealing with difficult behaviors and the location of the closest emergency clinic.
- Prepare a home for your pet before bringing it home. The transition to a new environment is very stressful for animals - to say nothing of humans! It will take days, and possibly weeks, for your pet to adjust. This isn't the time to be fumbling without a prepared space for your pet to live, sleep, play and eat. Right from the start you'll need to have your basic equipment in place, including a cage, bedding, litterbox, toys and food. You may also need to do some pet-proofing of your home.
- Make an initial veterinary exam a priority. Whether your pet is an infant or older and no matter how much you know about its history, take your pet for an initial veterinary visit as quickly as possible. The vet will conduct a thorough exam and do some important tests to make sure you pet is healthy and has, or will, receive all required vaccinations. The vet can also identify any potential physical problems and answer any of your care questions. It is vital that you have this baseline established for your pet's health and well-being.
- For families, discuss pet handling and responsibilities. At first, every pet is fun and cute. But it only takes a little time before the grind of daily care sets in. Discuss how you will share responsibility for your pet as a family. Decide which duties will be shared and how. Make sure everyone understands what to expect while the animal adjusts to its new home and how to handle it safely. Also make sure everyone understands what to do in an emergency.
By doing your research, choosing wisely and preparing for pet ownership, you'll find a pet that makes a great addition to your life and your family for years to come.