Essential Tips for Choosing the Right Pet for You and Your Family

Picking the right pet for your family is more important than you may think. It can be the difference between a seamless fit or a mismatch with your lifestyle and expectations. Unfortunately, shelters are full of pets that ended up in there because they were a poor fit for the family or the they underestimated the level of responsibility or financial impact of having a pet. 


The decision to get a dog should not be taken lightly. Though dogs make wonderful companions, they are a significant investment of time, money and emotions. Before you decide to get a dog, you need to ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have time for a dog?
  • Do you have enough space for a dog?
  • Can you afford to properly care for them?
  • Are you prepared to take on this responsibility for the life of the dog, which could be 10 to 14 years?
  • Do you have someone to watch your pet when you work or travel?

If you answered yes to all of these questions, then you meet the bare minimum requirements to be a responsible dog parent, but you still have to decide which type of dog is best for you. To find the right dog for you, you need to consider how their size, coat, grooming needs, level of activity, ease of training, temperament, and breed-specific health issues match your lifestyles. For example, a high-energy Visla would get bored and destructive if they don’t get enough daily exercise, which is a recipe for disaster. However, the same high-energy Visla would be the perfect pet for an avid runner who wants a running buddy to join him on his daily runs. There is no perfect breed of dog or mixed-breed, but if you do your research, you can find the perfect dog for you and your lifestyle. 


While cats may be easier to care for than dogs, they still require a sizable commitment. Even though you don’t have to walk your cat, your cat needs a litter box which requires regular maintenance. Are you prepared to scoop poop every day? Another difference between cats and dogs is that cats can get onto just about anything. No counter is safe and they seem to have a knack for finding the most expensive things to knock over! Like dogs and humans, cats also need regular check-ups, immunizations and parasite control.

While cats are generally clean and self-groom, long-haired cats, like Perisans and Ragdolls, require daily brushing to avoid mats. If you aren’t willing to brush your cat everyday, consider getting a short-haired cat. It’s not about a beauty preference, it’s about being realistic about the grooming demands of having a long-haired cat. Even short-haried cats have grooming needs. Short-haired cats shed more than you would expect and brushing them on a regular basis keeps the shedding at a manageable level. Since cats can live 20 years if you are lucky, picking the right cat is an important decision with lasting consequences. 

Small Animal Pets

Not ready to commit to a dog or cat? Guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, rats and mice also make great pets. I know because I have had them all! As a veterinary student, I even had a hedgehog. Though small pets are less demanding for attention and require less maintenance than cats and dogs, they still need proper care. You need to clean their habitats, change their bedding, and give them fresh water and food daily. And though these pets have an independent streak, they still enjoy spending quality time with you. Just remember that their diminutive size makes them vulnerable to falls and injuries. Be extra careful if you have small kids as a fall can be fatal. To avoid falls, have your kids sit on the floor and have them hold their pet on their laps. And always remember to supervise your kids around small pets. If scared, small pets can bite over eager little fingers. 


Choosing your next pet is an important decision with lasting implications. Although all pets require care and attention, some pets have greater needs. Ultimately the joy and love they give back makes it all worth it. To avoid disappointment, just remember to do your homework and pick the right pet to match your lifestyle and expectations.


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