Adding to your family is a big step. Whether your new family member will be furry, scaly, or slimy, do some soul searching before checking out local animal shelters and rescue groups. What pet will fit your family best? Ask yourself the following questions before impulsively swinging by the animal shelter.

What species of pet would I like?

While some people love cats and dogs equally, many sit in opposing camps. Before searching for your perfect furry addition, decide whether you’re a feline fanatic or a canine champion. Cats usually require less interaction and maintenance than dogs, but still have many daily needs. Ask yourself if you can handle cleaning a litter box—or several—or if you’d prefer a pet you can train to eliminate outside. 

How much time can I devote to a pet?

Dogs usually require a larger time investment, but cats, especially those with medical issues, can also demand a large chunk of time. Cats tend to be more self-sufficient, as they exercise and eliminate indoors, while dogs require daily walks and additional activities to stave off boredom and problem behaviors. Keep in mind that kittens and puppies require more time than older pets. House training, obedience training, and socialization are important to ensure a happy, easy-to-manage pet. And, while senior pets have plenty of love left to offer, they can develop medical conditions that require daily care. 

How active would I like my pet to be?

If you prefer curling up with a good book or the latest Netflix series to hiking or camping, factor that into your pet decision. Some dog breeds need to burn off their energy with daily two- to three-hour exercise sessions, while others are content to snore at your feet after a walk around the block. Cats may seem self-sufficient, but they require interactive play sessions to prevent obesity and promote mental health. Cats can usually entertain themselves better than dogs, especially with the midnight “zoomies.” 

How much space do I have for a pet?

Irish wolfhounds are gorgeous, majestic creatures, but do you really want to cram one into your 300-square-foot studio apartment? You may want to consider a goldfish instead. Pick a pet who will be happy with her living arrangements. An exuberant, energetic pooch will bounce off the walls of a tiny apartment, but would love the room to romp in your wooded 10 acres. 

Always consider a pet’s needs. For example, if you’re leaning toward a feline housemate, consider that cats may be relatively small, but they require vertical spaces for climbing, hiding, and resting to maintain a healthy mental state. If you are considering more than one, be aware that cats are uncomfortable living in close quarters, especially when all their resources are stacked together, and you will need to spread litter boxes, resting areas, and food and water dishes throughout your home to prevent resource guarding and ensure easy access.

How much can I afford to take care of a pet?

Big pets usually have big bills. Your 175-pound Great Dane will likely cost more than your 4-pound teacup Chihuahua. Food, parasite prevention, bedding, crates, collars, treats, and toys will tote a heftier price tag for large pets. Giant-breed dogs often have to double up on heartworm, flea, and tick preventives, as the available doses don’t cover such large pets. When considering a certain dog breed, also investigate common medical issues. If your heart is set on an English bulldog, for example, be prepared for skin allergies, cherry-eye repairs, breathing issues, and orthopedic problems. Also, look into pet insurance. The monthly premium may be another expense, but insurance is a good investment in your furry friend and will help you budget your pet’s monthly expenses.

What type of pet is best for my family?

Choosing a pet that the entire family agrees on can be tough. Your daughter may be enamored with the idea of a pony, while your son wants a rough-and-tumble Lab puppy. Your spouse may want the minimal upkeep of a goldfish. Set up a family meeting to discuss the pros and cons of each species. Consider the age of your children, or if you plan on having children soon. Some rescue pets prefer a home without children or other pets, so ensure you check out your potential pet’s background and her compatibility with your home life.

While dogs and cats are the most commonly adopted pets, lizards, birds, snakes, fish, horses, rodents, and other small mammals also routinely need new homes and may be the perfect fit for your family. After you’ve welcomed your new pet into your home, we’d love to welcome her, as well. Give us a call to schedule your new family member’s check-up.