8 Tips for Choosing a Family Pet
Pet ownership can foster compassion, care, and commitment in children. Before choosing a family pet to bring into your home, consider these tips.
1. Investigate options.
Research the type of pet you are considering and speak with experts who are familiar with that type of animal. Obtain information about temperaments, personalities, breed needs, medical issues and life expectancy. Online resources include akc.org, aspca.org and cats-central.com.
2. Rely on referrals.
Whether you work with a breeder or a shelter, ask for referrals. If you work with a shelter, find one that knows its pets and works with families to ensure there is a suitable match.
3. Take on temperament.
Consider if you want an active or subdued pet; one that is easily trained or strong willed; one friendly to strangers or loyal to the family and aloof with visitors; one who requires a lot of attention or enjoys spending time alone.
4. Toss around time.
Consider the time commitment for this pet. Puppies require their owners to be home every few hours to be housebroken. Although housebroken adult dogs can be left at home for extended periods of time, they still need at least two to three walks a day for exercise and mental stimulation. Some high-energy breeds need more. If your family is seldom home, choose a smaller breed you can take with you. Or consider a more independent animal such as an adult cat, hamster, rabbit or bird.
5. Examine age.
Before choosing a puppy, consider its full-grown height and weight. Can you afford the price of food, spaying or neutering costs and ongoing health maintenance needs? Do you have time to housebreak, socialize and exercise a young pet? Will your children be safe with their sharp teeth and rough play?
If you are considering an older dog or cat, ask if it has lived with children and how it interacted with them, as well as any existing medical needs.
6. Contemplate coat.
Consider how much time and energy you are willing to invest in your pet’s coat and grooming needs. Most dogs and cats shed but some lose hair all year round. Pets with long coats require effort to keep their coats healthy and beautiful. Pets with short coats may be easier to groom but may need protection from the elements.
7. Consider costs.
Look at your budget for ongoing costs like monthly feeding expenses, annual healthcare bills and breed-specific medical concerns as the animal ages. Pet insurance plans, which range from $5 to $40 for cats and dogs, can save your pet and your wallet. Some plans even include routine care.
8. Recognize responsibility.
Tasks such as filling water bowls, cleaning pet dishes and taking part in training classes are good ways to teach children pet ownership but adults must be responsible for and oversee the pet’s care.