How do you choose the right pet for your lifestyle?
Choosing a pet is a really important decision – too many people make a bad choice, and then the poor animal pays the price – either in suboptimal living conditions, poor welfare, or even abandonment and rehoming. Of course, mistakes happen – none of us can predict the future! – but by taking a few simple steps when choosing, you can minimise the risk of upset and hurt later.
It is, therefore, vital to make sure that you know what you want or need, and that you’re getting a pet that will meet those needs. In this blog, we’re going to run through a simple “checklist” approach to help you choose the right pet for you and your family!
1) Why are you getting a pet?
This is the most basic question you need to ask yourself – because until you know the answer, you’re really going to struggle to make a good choice. There’s no one right answer – it might be for companionship, or for the children, or to help you get out and exercise, or any one of a thousand other good reasons. However, some of the answers may rule out certain pets – for example, if you want encouragement to get out and exercise, a hamster isn’t probably the best bet; if you want something for the children to look after, a twelve-foot python is probably a bad idea, etc. So, make sure that whatever pet you look for can actually meet (and benefit themselves from) whatever your fundamental requirements are!
2) Are there any pets you definitely CANNOT have?
Some people, for example, suffer from animal dander allergies. So, if someone in your household is severely allergic to a species, DO NOT assume you can keep the allergens away from them. It’s in everyone’s best interest (you, your allergic family member, and the prospective pet) to make sure that you don’t go down that road which will almost certainly lead to major problems later on.
Another factor that you need to bear in mind is that if you’re in rented or social accommodation, there may be limits on what animals you are permitted to keep.
3) How much living space can you offer?
As a general rule of thumb, the larger the animal, and the more active it is, the more space you need. So, while almost anyone can squeeze in reasonable living space for mice or a hamster, it isn’t kind to keep a very large dog cooped up in a one bedroom upstairs flat with nowhere to go unless you plan to spend a LOT of time out walking them.
4) How active are you?
Some animals need much more exercise than others, but it’s not just amount of exercise – the type is important too. So, while cats and rodents can usually entertain themselves, dogs need someone with them for walks and runs! Remember that exercise requirements vary dramatically between breeds, too – a Chihuahua or a Shih Tzu might only need a short amble twice a day, but a Setter or a Collie will need hours of work, while a Greyhound needs a “mad half hour” but will be happy to be a couch potato the rest of the time.
Obviously, if you cannot do the exercise yourself, be cautious of buying a pet that needs it.
5) How much time do you have to offer every day?
Some animals are very happy in their own company – reptiles, for example, and some cats – but others require either friends (e.g. rodents) or human companionship (dogs). Be realistic about how much time the animal will have to spend alone – if it’s going to be more than a few hours, consider a more self-contained pet.
6) Are there young children or other animals in the household?
You need to be certain that the new pet won’t fight with existing ones (mixing cats, or even rabbits, for example, can result in aggressive confrontations if not done very carefully). You also need to make sure that whatever pet you get is unlikely to hurt, or be hurt by, any children in the house. It will almost certainly be accidental – but any dog can respond badly to an over-enthusiastic child if they’re caught unawares. Likewise, children cuddling hamsters or guinea pigs can result in injuries to the pet, as the child often isn’t aware how fragile these animals can be!
7) Are there any major changes in your lifestyle on the horizon?
Remember, by taking on a pet you are taking on responsibility for it for its lifetime. While rats live an average of 3 years, a rabbit might well live to 8 or 10, a dog might easily get to 15, and a cat to 20 – so bear in mind any major changes that might upset your plans.
If you need advice – please give us a call! Our vets and nurses will be more than willing to help you make the choice!