The decision to bring home a pet shouldn’t be made lightly. While there have been countless studies affirming the health benefits of pet ownership, figuring out whether or not a pet is right for you can be a difficult decision to make. While a pet can become your best friend and contribute to your overall well-being, they also require huge investments in time, money, and patience—especially if you also have small children that may require coaching on proper animal care.
Pet ownership is certainly not for everyone, but if you’re thinking about bringing a furry—or, not so furry—friend into your home and life, we outlined a few helpful tips to get you started below.
While the excitement can be considerable, there are a few things to think about before making the commitment.
1. Allergies: Have you ever had an allergic reaction to the type of pet you’re considering? If you adore cats but erupt into a sneezing fit every time one is near you, adopting one may not be the best fit. If you’re unsure about whether you may be allergic to dogs or cats, volunteer to pet-sit for a friend or at your local SPCA.
2. Responsibility: Pet ownership, especially of high-maintenance animals like cats and dogs, is a huge commitment. If you happen to live in a smaller space (and bringing your pet into the office isn’t an option), you might want to decide against adopting a large dog. Likewise, if you love to travel, your pet may feel abandoned while you’re away. Always consider your lifestyle before adopting.
3. Expenses: Along with companionship, pets also bring expenses. Many are obvious, such as food, toys, traveling equipment, veterinary bills, etc. Some, however, are unanticipated. If your pet is sick, you may have to use vacation time to visit the vet, or the bill may be larger than you anticipated.
There are many different types of pets to choose from, depending on your lifestyle, preferences, and ability to fully commit. Some of the most common options are outlined below.
Pets like cats and dogs are the most popular pets, and for good reasons: Most cats and dogs will happily curl up with you on the couch, love to play, and prevent boredom. Many people think of their cat or dog as another family member. They’re also readily available from animal shelters. Resources like your local SPCA chapter, Petfinder.com, and Adopt-a-Pet.com make adopting a pet that needs a home easy.
However, these types of pets are a big commitment. Their food is expensive, as are the veterinarian bills. Their needs for affection and for being fed means that they are unsuited to being left alone over long spans of time, making them a poor choice for anyone who travels frequently for work or otherwise.
Cats can be trained to use the litter box, at which point you can leave them home alone if you don’t mind the possibility of some minor property damage (that poor couch). There are remedies for your possessions in the form of repellant sprays made with natural ingredients. However, not everyone finds it easy to live with cats, and this could be due to allergies, or simply not being able to sleep with a small animal clawing at the door or jumping on you to request breakfast at 5 am.
Dogs tend to work best for people who have yards, although some small dogs are comfortable enough in an apartment. Still, a dog left alone inside for hours is likely to make a mess of things, unless you kennel your pet, which there are arguments for and against. Dogs need to spend time outside and may need to be walked regularly—although this can be a health benefit for you. A dog can also double as a security measure, whether a large dog warding off potential intruders, or even a small dog barking to alert you of danger.
Caged pets like reptiles or fish don’t offer the cuddly companionship that a cat or dog may, but the fact that they live in a cage makes them much easier to care for. Caged pets are ideal for people who are rarely home, or live in an apartment. Although many apartments have policies against cats and dogs, fish are usually allowed. Turtles and fish also make good family pets. Children can learn responsibility by feeding a pet that requires less work than a dog or cat.
Part-time Caged Pets
If you want the companionship of a free-roaming pet, but need the ability to put it in a cage for hours while you’re away from home, you might consider a part-time caged pet, such as a bird, rabbit, or guinea pig. These pets require slightly more work than a fish or reptile—and more frequent cage-cleaning—but they’re also more likely to enjoy sitting on your shoulder and playing with you.
Owning a pet is a commitment and one that you should take seriously. Be sure to do your research before deciding when and which pet to bring into your life.