At one time, we had a pet snail (I believe I mentioned him before, Slimeny). Not a good pet for us; not a lot of action with a pet snail and we were a family on the move! Not a lot of personality or relationship potential either. And surprisingly (or not) a lot harder to take care of than one might think (I don’t believe they like being ‘caged’ or handled, ours stopped eating and sadly did not last long as a pet). At another time, we had a pet rabbit, Mr. Hobbs. Again, this was not necessarily a good choice for our family. Rabbits can be a little meaner than we are led to believe. They need to be interacted with regularly and need to be let out of the cage often. They like to dig; a lot! (We didn’t know that going in!) They are pretty and soft but their exterior can be a little misleading! Now, there are some families who would do well with a snail (okay, maybe not too many) or a rabbit for a pet, just not mine.
7 Key Factors in Determining the Right Pet for You
We have learned a lot, since those days, about choosing a pet. As a matter of fact, I believe there are seven key factors in determining an appropriate pet for your family. All families are different, but if you look at each of these factors and answer honestly for your household, you will be led to a pet that will thrive in your home as well as become a true member of the family because of your love for them.
- Take Your Time!
Yes, that’s right, take… your… time… (After all, you have 6 more factors to look at; this is not a quick process!) One of the biggest mistakes people make is rushing into buying the ‘pet du jour’. I have heard stories about people seeing a cute puppy, not recognizing the breed, buying the young dog only to find out that Irish Wolfhounds can grow to 7 feet when standing on their hind legs and weigh up to 150 pounds! Soon the dog didn’t fit into the apartment! Do your research and be patient; it will be worth the wait to get the perfect family member.
- Count The Cost.
Evaluate your financial capacity for a pet. There are costs associated with all pets. Food, enclosures, leads, accessories, veterinary costs (shots/injuries/pregnancies), babysitting (who wants to take the guinea pig on a vacation to the Caribbean?), toys, etc… Having a budget, not for just purchasing the pet, but for maintaining them in the lifestyle of which they are accustomed will help preserve the relationship in the long run (isn’t it always the truth; money is the most difficult thing to deal with in any relationship!).
- Be Prepared for Added Responsibilities.
Every child says they will take care of the new pet. Newsflash: that lasts about a week! As the adult in the situation, you will end up with the bulk of the responsibility so make sure to chose a pet that you can deal with and are willing to take care of. Are you willing to walk a dog? Feed mice to a snake? Clean up fur balls? Change water in a fish tank? Scour the house for the escaped hermit crabs? What you decide here will help point you in the right direction of what kind of pet you want. Remember, the pet is dependent upon you so…in for a penny, in for a pound!
- Be Honest With Yourself – Are You a Teacher or a Watcher?
Are you willing to be involved in the animal’s upbringing (i.e. training) or are you a watcher? Dogs and cats require us humans to teach them how to live in our house. They are willing to learn, but just like our kids they will make mistakes, challenge boundaries, and get into mischief. Can you deal with that or are you a watcher? (Fish don’t require much training unless you are trying to get them to do a double flip out of the water with a reverse twist!)
- Evaluate Your Lifestyle.
Are you constantly on the go? Are you a home body? What type of space do you have available? A one bedroom apartment is not a good place to keep a horse, I’m just saying. Likewise, if you are never home, you may be looking at a more self reliant pet that can take care of themselves and don’t need a lot of attention. (Of course, that’s what we thought the snail would be; oh well!). There are a lot of animals that thrive on human interaction and crave our attention, leaving them alone is inviting chaos. They, like our kids, get bored when we are not around and that leads to chewed furniture, turned over garbage cans, ripped up carpet, and all types of other mischief. Make sure you consider a pet that fits whatever lifestyle you may have.
- Think About Age (Yours AND Theirs!)
The sixth factor to consider is whether you want to bring a baby or an adult animal into your home. It may be difficult for you to raise a baby and a baby puppy at the same time. They both need a significant amount of your attention (though if you find yourself spending more time tending to the puppy than the baby, we may have a problem!). On the other hand, adult animals come with some pretty established behaviors and habits that can be a challenge to change. Carefully evaluate your decision here, it could be the difference between a successful integration of pet to family or a disaster where no one wins and all are unhappy.
- Ponder the Personalities.
Finally, consider your family dynamics. The personalities present in the household need to fit the personalities of any potential pet. Pets can be outgoing or introverted. They can be driven or passive. They can be loud or quiet. They can be upbeat or morose – have you ever heard the song of a parakeet at 4:00 am? If you are not a morning person, perhaps you should make another choice! Make sure that whatever pet you chose can mesh with the personalities already present in the home.
I have spent but a second on each of these 7 important decision making factors. There are no right answers here, just a hope that we will be self aware when deciding what pet to invite into our family. No one issue is more important than another, just please, think about your choice, for your sake, for the sake of your family, and for the sake of the pet.