From adorable baby, to frisky adult, and into the “Golden Years”, pets of all kinds have health and emotional needs. Each pet is an individual both physically, and in their personalities, so we need to take these things into consideration when picking our next best friend.
Some of the questions you will want to ask yourself are:
What pet will fit best into my lifestyle? Do I have the time and patience to groom? Walk twice a day? I have seen web sites for some of the designer breeds showing the animals in long coats. It’s a beautiful thing, but it takes a LOT of grooming by both the owner, as well as the groomer. So if your heart is set on one of these pets, are you ready to spend a lot of time grooming him/her yourself, or have the groomer over a lot more often?
Do I want a pet for myself? If you are getting a pet for the children, don’t expect them to deal with the day-to-day chores. Most likely it will be the adults in the house who actually take care of the animals!
Does my family have allergies? If so, choosing a pet with a lesser incidence of dander,( the substance most likely to cause allergic reactions besides saliva), would be best. Of course, regular brushing and bathing can greatly reduce the amount of dander you are going to deal with.
Will losing a knick-knack or two upset me, or can I put things away for a while until my new pet settles down? Some types of pets are more gregarious than others, especially when they are younger. Also, it can take some breeds of dogs literally years to mature to the point where they aren’t jumping and running all over inside. Not to mention birds and cats, who love high places such as curtain rods and fireplace mantels.
Would I rather not have feathers and fur all over my furniture? All animals shed, but not at the same rate. Choose a pet which sheds at the rate you can live with. Regular grooming can also help with shedding. Long-haired breeds also shed. Sometimes we don’t see it, but if it’s not brushed out, it can tangle and matt. There is a myth that some dogs have hair rather than fur. There is no chemical difference between hair and fur. We are all animals, and people shed too! Have you ever noticed the hair in the drain and brush?
How much noise is too much noise? Will a loud bird be ok with me and my neighbors, or would a quieter pet be more appropriate for my situation? If your neighbors are very close, they might not appreciate that a happy bird is a vocal bird. Dogs bark, and cats meow. If you live in an apartment or condo this can be a test of how thick your walls are!
Do I have the room for a larger animal, or is a smaller one really a better fit? Some smaller dogs need a yard, especially if the owner cannot walk them regularly, and some larger dogs can live comfortably in an apartment as long as they have regular exercise.
Is spending money on vet bills going to be a hardship for me? If not, perhaps an older pet who needs a home would be a good idea. Certain breeds are prone to health problems such as hip dysplasia. This condition causes excruciating pain, and can run into thousands of dollars for treatment.
How long would I like my pet to live? Different species and breeds have different longevities. For instance, many large dog breeds have shorter life spans than others. Some bird species can live up to 100 years! In these cases, one must decide what will happen to the pet after we are gone.
Is my heart really set on a pure breed, designer "breed" (mutt), or can I enjoy a mixed-breed just as much? Many mixed-breeds actually have fewer health problems, and can live longer than a purebred animal. Some of the smartest animals I’ve known are mixed breeds.
Do I want a young animal, or an older one who may have fewer training issues? So many pets become unwanted simply because the owner was unable to house train them. Consistency is the key to this, and most training “problems”.
Am I able to deal with a “damaged” psyche? Many potential pet owners want to do the right thing, and give an abused animal a home. But are you prepared for the reality of dealing with the issues that come up?
What is my motivation? Am I getting a pet to give my children the experience of the “miracle of life”? If so, there are many ways in which to do this without involving living, breathing, sentient beings. A better lesson perhaps, would be responsible ownership. Getting your pet spayed or neutered is the only way to help reduce the unwanted pet population! No matter how careful we are, there are circumstances which we cannot foresee, or control. Go to the shelters and make your children acquainted with what happens when “back yard breeders” decide their pets are so superior, they must breed them. And these are the lucky pets. There are hundreds of thousands who never see the warmth of a home, or know the comfort of regular meals and cuddling.
Many of these questions can be answered by doing research.
There are many good things to be said about getting a quality pet from a reputable breeder. There are so many resources for finding reputable breeders, and I have found the best way is to start with organizations such as the American Kennel Club, the Cat Fanciers Association, the American Cat Fanciers Association, the American Rabbit Breeders Association, the Bird Breeders Association, the Rat Fan Club, and the American Fancy Rat and Mouse Association, (where you can find more information on other rodent pets as well).
Going through these organizations will ensure that your pet will have been bred with the highest standards, which may mean fewer health and personality issues now, and in the future. In this day and age though, nothing is guaranteed.
For information about different pets you can also go to these pages:
If you are looking for a dog, you can start with the AKC website.
Potential cat owners can start with youpet.com.
I’ve found that about.com has a world of information on all pets. Here’s the link to their cat page.
Many questions about birds can be found at about.com’s choosing a bird pages.
Or there is even more specific information at their bird resource pages.
Having a pocket pet can be a great way to introduce children to the world of animals. They are usually easy to keep. They don’t live as long as most species, and they have very specific needs. Be prepared, don’t expect the kids to clean the cage! Check out about.com’s exotic pet pages.
You get the idea.
Personally, I prefer adopting rather than purchasing. Though I started my life as a cat fancier, both breeding and showing Siamese, my family and my clients have noticed that adopted animals have a life-long gratitude. They know they are lucky!
And if you are interested in adopting from a reputable humane organization, I would suggest starting with the ASPCA. (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).
San Mateo County residents can visit their local rescue agencies. This is a short list.
For more rescue agencies in California and elsewhere, you can start with these. Many of them also have links to other rescue organizations.
Pocket Pet Rescue (Thomasboro, Illinois)
Remember that rescue organizations rely on donations mostly. The money they charge for adoption does not cover the costs they incur taking care of the animals. Most of the animals that go to new homes from there have been inoculated, spayed/neutered, and evaluated to see what kind of household they will best fit. These services are invaluable when adopting a new animal. Many of them give discounts to seniors and others who may qualify. They are looking for the best homes available, and are willing to work with you. Any donations are gratefully received.
These are only a few of the resources out there. Talk to friends, family, breeders, rescue organizations. Go to shows. There is a world of information about any animal you are considering. And happy pet parenting!