Considerations When Choosing a New Family Pet
Bringing a new pet into your household is exciting.
It’s joyous for you and your family. It’s also a new beginning for your pet, and an opportunity to provide a loving “forever home.” But it’s also a big decision, and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Before making that decision, it’s important to take a step back and take a breath. There are a few things to consider as you move forward in the process – but trust us, doing your homework and being prepared is worth it in the long run.
Do you have a pet allergy? If so, have you been in the company of the pet you’re considering? We recommend visiting with a friend or family member who has a pet that you can visit, or spend some time at a local shelter to make sure you can tolerate the fur and dander. In our experience there are breeds that shed less or produce less dander, however, there isn’t a pet that is truly hypoallergenic.
Is this the right time? Take into account your social schedule, your work schedule, and your general “busy-ness.” If you live a full life, know that your pet relies on you for their needs, and being able to meet them is a big responsibility.
Are your children at an appropriate age to have a pet in the home? If so, is everyone on board with the decision?
There are also financial and living-space considerations to weigh before making a decision on a new pet. For example: some renters have landlords that place restrictions on species, breed and the number of pets (and there’s usually a pet deposit that comes attached). Within that space, it’s important to know if there’s enough room for the pet to run, play, and feel at home – both indoors and outdoors.
Cost is one thing that many pet owners aren’t prepared for. The first year of pet ownership can be one of additional medical expenses, especially for puppies and kittens. Young animals need a series of vaccines given about every four weeks, and they will also need to be spayed or neutered at an appropriate age. Pet insurance for dogs and cats should strongly be considered and often can save large amount of cost for owners especially in advanced in treatment for dogs and cats of any age. There are many great insurance plans which may cover emergency treatment and wellness visit depending on the plan selected. There is often a small deductible per year. For example: an ER visit to the local specialty center requiring foreign body removal may cost between $3,000-$4,500 and a policy may cover 90% of the cost. Bear in mind that insurance companies typically will not cover pre-existing conditions and sometimes may not cover certain conditions until a minimum amount of time has passed. It’s always important to talk to the insurance company in question before making a decision to obtain a policy.
Other annual factors to keep in mind, from a cost perspective, include: vaccinations, quality food, heartworm, flea, and tick prevention, pet care and (if desired) regular grooming services.
The following is a list of questions that you should be able to answer before bringing a new pet home:
- Do you already have other pets? What will they think?
- Who will care for your pet if you go on vacation?
- Where will you adopt from?
- Are there veterinarians close to you?
And then, once you’ve made your decision on cat vs. dog, rabbit vs. bird (or another pet), you need to know the basics of different ages and breeds. Remember: not all breeds are created equal.
Some dogs enjoy a busy day and will need three walks per day with other activities, such as a game of fetch. Other dogs prefer to relax, nap, and take it easy for most of the day. While some dogs are social butterflies, others aren’t as receptive to strangers and those interactions may be difficult. Also consider the health risks of certain breeds; for example, brachycephalic pets may need to have their activity and exposure to heat limited. Chinese Crested must have their skin protected from the sun.
There are similar considerations for cats. Some cats will be more active and social, while others prefer their independence and won’t be as active. Cats are more forgiving with spending time alone when their parents have busy work schedules. They do appreciate clean litter boxes and toys for recreation.
They may prefer to be alone or in pairs. Although these cute animals are smaller, there is a lot of at home care involving very frequent cleaning of their environment and providing adequate husbandry. They often need more space than we think beyond a cage to be happy to have a good quality of life. It is important to talk to other people who have owned pocket pets to see what ownership entails. There’s also a large financial investment in supplies for their environment including bedding, toys, feeding supplies.
How large the bird grow to be, and how much social interaction do they need? Also (here’s an important one)…how long will they live? Some birds can live to be 50 years old or more. Birds are very social creatures and need interaction to have a good quality of life. They require appropriate husbandry including a specific diet and rotation of toys. Birds also produce a lot of waste and cage management can be labor intensive. Birds should be examined by an exotic veterinary specialist as safe restraint is very important and often by the time birds show you signs they are sick, the condition is often advanced.
While fish are probably the lowest-maintenance pets, you still need to commit to cleaning and maintaining their tank. There is a science to fish tank management and it is important to research and prepare the tank before fish are purchased. Salt water tanks typically are an additional financial investment and often require hiring someone to help maintain them.
These pets have specific habitat and diet needs, and this makes preliminary research very important. Diet and temperature are extremely important for reptiles and most often if not ideal will cause disease.
Now that you have these tips and considerations to do the homework, you should be better prepared to make a decision on bringing a new pet into the home. It’s an exciting time, so remember to enjoy it! Always err on the side of caution, and reach out to your veterinarian for additional information. Please let us know how we can help. All questions are good questions.