So you're ready to commit to the responsibility of owning a pet, but you're not sure what kind to get. There are loads of things to consider when adding an animal to the family. Here, our Madison vets discuss types of pets and the rewards and challenges that come with each kind.
Choosing a New Pet
Spending time with animals is one of the greatest joys in life. Our pets soon become vitally important family members that we love and care for deeply. Different types of animals come with different challenges and care requirements but they all have one thing in common: they rely on you to survive. So getting a pet must be a carefully thought out decision to ensure you have all the resources you need to properly care for your new friend.
A Few Things to Consider
The first thing to consider when selecting a pet is whether that particular animal will suit your family's lifestyle needs. For example, if you are often out for most of the day, a dog might not be a good choice because they require a lot of attention, walks, and bathroom breaks. Instead, you might opt for a cat that is more than capable of hanging out alone for 8-10 hours a day. Some other questions to ask yourself are:
- Am I financially able to care for the pet I'm choosing? All pets come with a cost commitment, but some are more expensive than others. For example, a dog's vet bills are likely to run a higher bill than a small goldfish tank and fish food.
- What is a good match for my family member's personalities? If you're an outgoing and extroverted family a dog makes a great pet as they tend to be quite outgoing themselves. If you're a family of introverts you might prefer the quieter companionship of a cat or rabbit.
- Do any of your family members have allergies? If being around pet fur makes you sneeze, a reptile might make a more suitable pet.
- Can your family handle the care requirements? Each type of pet has different needs and ways to accomplish their care. Dogs require a large time commitment but cats need to have their litter boxes changed, hamsters and guinea pigs need their cages cleaned regularly, and reptiles might require a diet that makes some people squeamish (like bugs and mice). Make sure you're committed to the care requirements of whatever pet you choose.
Choosing a pet is not always as simple as checking off a few mental boxes. Maybe you think that a dog would make a perfect pet for your family, but it turns out that a rabbit or a bird is ideal. Keep an open mind and be sure to do your research and you'll end up with the perfect pet for you and your family.
Thinking About a Dog?
Choosing a dog starts with considering a breed that will suit your home and lifestyle. Do some research about the breed's general temperament (but remember that all animals have their own personalities as well). Some dogs are calm and content to sit at your feet all day while others can be bold and boisterous. Size should factor in as well. If you live in a small apartment a smaller dog is probably a better choice. Large dogs need ample room to run and exercise.
Care requirements to consider: Registering with a license, training, taking them out on walks, and providing the proper food, grooming, and veterinarian care.
Considering a Cat?
Cats can make great pets. They are often playful and affectionate - but remember, like dogs, they will each have their own distinct personality. Cats are fairly low-maintenance pets once they're fully grown. Cats, however, are known to scratch (and sometimes ruin) furniture, so you will have be sure to keep their nails trimmed and provide scratching posts to help with this problem.
Care requirements to consider: Changing the litter box, providing proper food and stimulation (toys, scratching posts), nail care, and veterinarian care.
Perhaps a Bird Would Be Best?
If you're keen on having a pet bird, choose carefully-some are more suited to human companions than others. Budgies are a popular choice because they can be quite affectionate and enjoy handling while cockatiels can be trained to talk and even perform tricks. Keep your bird's cage clean with food and water bowls replenished daily. The cage should suit your birds' adult size-they need to be able to flap their wings without touching the sides of the cage.
Care requirements to consider: Cleaning the cage, noise, commitment to ownership (some birds can live to be 100 years old), and veterinarian care.
Wondering About Fish as Pets?
While fish are not a cuddly pet option, they can be quite beautiful to look at as they swim in their tank. They also require less care than some other pets do. Care requirements can vary depending on the species of fish but the main factor to consider when getting a fish is that you will have to keep their tank clean. Some fish are predatory towards others so if you're considering getting multiple fish be sure to do your research and speak to the pet store for more information on which types of fish get along well.
Care requirements to consider: Proper nutrition, tank cleaning.
Thinking About Getting a Rabbit?
Rabbits can be quite affectionate and intelligent. They are also social creatures and thrive when they have a companion rabbit rather than being on their own (just be sure to get two females or two females to avoid a situation where you have more pet rabbits than you'd like). Proper care for rabbits includes access to a litter box, a food bowl and water bottle, and clean bedding. Bedding should be made of non-toxic materials like recycled newspaper or aspen wood.
Care requirements to consider: Cleaning their cage regularly (including changing their bedding), companionship, proper nutrition, supervision at all times when they are outside of their cage.
Maybe a Hamster or Guinea Pig Would Be Best?
Hamsters and guinea pigs are small animals that are great for older children, happy to be handled if they've been socialized from a young age and love to be snuggled gently. Both animals need cages and bedding with proper access to food and clean water. And like most pets, they also need toys and accessories-like wheels, chew toys, and tunnels to stimulate their minds. Guinea pigs require a larger, roomier cage than hamsters, and their cages should be cleaned daily. Other than the cleaning requirements, however, these are fairly low-maintenance pet options.
Care requirements to consider: Regular cage cleaning (including clean bedding), proper nutrition.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.