Sharing your life with a pet can bring great joy and fulfillment. And, it’s exciting to think about bringing home that cute cat or adorable dog. But before diving in, it’s important (and smart!) to think about and consider your own lifestyle, and how a certain pet breed or species may be a better choice for you.
Each type of pet requires different housing, exercise, feeding, grooming, veterinary care and demands on your time. Pets also have their own personalities and energy levels, so a good personality fit, along with activity needs that match your own, should be considered as well. We at Lone Tree Veterinary Medical Center are here to help you explore the questions that will prepare you to choose the right pet for the way you live. And, with Adopt a Shelter Pet Month in full swing, the timing couldn’t be better for this topic!
First, answer some questions about your lifestyle, so that you can better determine what sort of pet will fit into your life.
- Are you home a lot? Or are you regularly gone for long periods of time during the day?
- What sort of weekend activities do you enjoy? Do you like to get outside or do you prefer reading or watching TV on the couch?
- Do you have young children, teenagers, or are you an empty nester?
- Who will care for the pet? Will its care be shared by others?
- Do you or anyone in your household have any pet-related allergies?
- How much time do you want to spend with a pet?
- How much space do you have inside and outside of your home?
- Do you have a yard with grass and, if so, how large of an area?
- Is your yard fenced for a dog? Or can you provide a catio enclosure for a cat?
- If you rent, do you have permission from the property owner to have a pet?
- Are you more physically capable of handling a smaller pet versus a larger one?
- Are you able to be active with a pet, such as taking a dog outdoors on daily walks and/or weekend hikes?
- What can you afford to spend on routine care for a pet, such as annual exams, vaccinations, and food, or for an unexpected illness or injury?
To find the right pet for you, next consider the species, age and the breed of pet you think will fit into your lifestyle.
Dogs – Dogs are social creatures and need attention and time with you on a daily basis to thrive. They won’t be happy if left alone all day, and certainly should not be left alone out in the yard or exposed to the elements. In order to co-exist well and to avoid behavior problems, puppies need to be house trained and socialized early in their lives. They also they need obedience training to learn basic skills, such as how to “sit”, “come”, and “stay”, be well-behaved, and walk safely beside you on a lead. Dogs also need yearly check-ups with the veterinarian, annual vaccinations, parasite control, and should be fed a high quality diet. And of course, they need lots of exercise!
Cats – Contrary to popular belief, cats are also social creatures and happiest with daily play and loving attention from their human. It’s a fact that cats are safest indoors, so environmental enrichment, playtime, grooming, (and maybe even a catio) are all necessary to help your cat thrive. Cats also need yearly check-ups with the veterinarian, annual vaccinations, parasite control, daily litter box cleaning, and a high quality diet to feel their best. Cats tend to require less time with you than dogs, since they typically enjoy independence and privacy, and their exercise needs can be met indoors.
Rabbits – Rabbits are intelligent and social creatures. They can be wonderful companions but need daily social interaction with people to become so. They live seven to ten years, and prefer gentle, quiet environments. They need to be fed a high quality, fresh, varied diet. They also need regular veterinary care, and should be spayed or neutered to make them happier and healthier pets. They can be taught to use a litter box, and must be kept inside to protect them from the elements and predators.
Other Small Pets – Small pets, such as hamsters, ferrets, Guinea pigs, hedgehogs, and pet rats or mice can be a good choice for a home where space and time are an issue. Small pets have their own unique personalities and can be very enjoyable companions. There are also many choices in cages and accessories for housing for small pets that provide activity and places to hide. These pets should be spayed or neutered, along with other veterinary care as needed. They also need an appropriate diet, regular cage cleaning and interaction with their human companion.
Birds – Birds are fascinating pets, but they are not particularly easy to care for. As highly intelligent creatures, birds (especially parrots) need specific handling and stimulation as well as an understanding of their natural behaviors. Birds can be messy, and require daily cage cleaning and a fresh varied diet. Birds also require regular veterinary care, including wing, beak, and nail trimming. Some breeds of bird can live up to 50 years of age.
Age and Breed
The age of the pet can be important in choosing the right pet for where you are in life. If you are home often and prefer a calmer, less demanding companion, a senior pet may be an ideal choice. Be honest with yourself about the time and energy you actually have to give to a puppy or a kitten. Also important to consider is whether or not a home with small children is suitable for a kitten or small breed puppy, as these small pets can be mistakenly treated as a toy and be easily injured. Likewise, not all dogs or cats are friendly or will behave safely around children.
As for breed, this is another important consideration, especially if you are adopting a dog or puppy. Breeds each have their own characteristics that can be either a good fit or a poor one, again, depending on your lifestyle. It’s a good idea to research different breeds to find out which ones might fit best in your household. We are a great resource for you in this area, too! Our veterinarians see different breeds every day, and can give you some good information about breed-specific needs and concerns.
If you’re considering a Shelter pet, take the time to visit and interact with the pet to get a sense of its personality. Do not be afraid to ask questions about the pet, as shelter staff members are usually familiar with the pets in their care, especially when it comes to the pet’s personality, needs, and what the pet likes and dislikes.
Choosing the Right Pet For You
Ultimately, by examining your lifestyle, doing your research and becoming informed about breeds and species, you’ll be equipped to find that special companion to adore and share life’s journeys with. If you have questions about acquiring a pet, we’re here to help every day, so don’t hesitate to give us a call.