Before falling head over heels over a dog, cat or other pet, determine whether a pet is the right fit for you. Do you have enough time to properly feed and clean it? A new pet can change the structure of a family and needs to be acceptable to all family members. Take the time to learn all about the kind of pet you are considering. Pet types and breeds are as different in their personalities, abilities and needs as people are. If you have children, consider whether they’re mature enough for the pet you choose.
Average dogs and cats live 12-16 years and some live longer. Tortoises and goldfish have indeterminate life spans that approximate our own. Small parrots live 8-14 years and larger parrots 35-60 years. Mice, however, are old at two years.
Match your pet to your home environment. How much free space is there? Is there a back yard? Is it fenced? How will your neighbors feel about this new pet? If you rent, does your landlord allow pets? Consider the reasons you want a new pet. Do you want to play with it and caress it? If you already have other pets how will they get along with the new one?
Visit local humane society or ferret, guinea pig and rabbit rescue organizations and interact with some of the animals there in a quiet one-on-one basis. Once you’ve made your selection, spend time alone with the animal, at least 10 to 15 minutes, to see if they can relax with you.
Before selecting an animal, learn the care the pet will need. Along with books and Websites, try to find local owners you can visit with. Besides the initial cost of the pet, you will incur expenses such as pet food, veterinary care, grooming and perhaps a pet sitter.
Before you adopt, teach your family and kids about dog parenting. Learn about dog care, and explain to your children that walking a dog several times a day or cleaning up after it is part of the ongoing responsibility of caring for an animal.
Consider adopting an older dog (four months and older) so you can look for attributes that wouldn’t be obvious in infancy. These include: Approximately how large the dog will be, how much exercise he or she requires, and what his or her general level of energy is. You don’t want the puppy that pushes his siblings around, or the runt of the litter. Look for puppies that interact with you but are not overly aggressive.
At pet shelters and at your local humane society, puppies generally get adopted quickly, so if you’re looking for one, call your local shelter and put your name on the waiting list. When puppies are available you may not see the whole litter, just one or two puppies.
Some breeds are naturally more aggressive or high-strung than others. Breeds such as Labrador and golden retrievers are known to be more even-tempered and well-behaved around children.
Dogs are intelligent, loyal, happy and obedient. They bond closely with their owners. But they do require a lot of your time if they are to remain healthy and happy.
Whether you are buying from a breeder or adopting from a shelter, it’s crucial to ask if the kitten was with her mother and litter until she was at least seven weeks old (and preferably 12 weeks). A kitten needs feline companionship in those early weeks to learn how to be a cat. Take a pass on any kitten that didn’t have social-developmental time because she is less likely to grow into a confident cat that can integrate into a household with other cats or with children.
It can be difficult to assess a cat’s real temperament at an animal shelter. This is because a cat at a shelter isn‘t in her natural environment. Cats are housed in a way that’s contrary to feline behavior, with the food, litter box, and sleeping area placed next to one another.
If possible before adopting a cat, take her out of its cage and place her in a room that approximates the size of one in your home. Spend at least 15 minutes with her. Kneel down five or six feet away and call her several times, but don’t make eye contact for more than a few seconds at a time, which may threaten a cat. Positive behaviors to look for include some eye contact, a slow approach, and the cat sniffing your hand.
While kneeling, extend a hand to the cat as you call her. Ideally, she’ll start sniffing and rubbing her body against your hand. You don’t want her to strike at you with her paw or hiss and growl. If she seems responsive to your touch, pet her along her head and neck and talk to her.
Cats are more independent than dogs and may thrive better if they must endure long periods of the day alone. They have been desirable pets since the days of the Egyptians.
Owning a horse is a big responsibility and requires a commitment of both time and money. A horse owner should be prepared to spend time grooming, exercising, and caring for the animal or paying someone to do it for them. Costs of owning a horse include shelter, feed, veterinary medical care, hoof care, and riding equipment. Before buying a horse for a child, parents should assess their commitment in caring for the animal. Find someone who’ll allow your child to care for their horse for a month or two. Whether the horse is for adults or children, give serious thought to riding lessons before a purchase.
A good place to buy a horse is at a stable where you plan to ride or keep the horse. A stable owner has an interest in keeping you happy and can determine your riding abilities and should know the history and the temperament of animals boarded there. Riding instructors can also help in locating a suitable horse.
First-time buyers should be accompanied by a knowledgeable horseperson and observe the horse in the stable, at pasture, loading, and hauling. Ask the owner to ride the animal first. Thoroughly inspect the animal in a well-lit place, preferably in sunlight.
Good sources for finding horses for sale are the classified section of your local newspaper, local Websites, and the bulletin board of your local tack shop.
These are gentle and affectionate pets. They can live in small quarters. They are cheap to feed and and when well maintained have little odor and produce very little dander. They live for 5-8 years. They almost never bite and make good pets for children. If you live in a cool environment and want a longer living rodent, consider purchasing a chinchilla.
Very desirable pets, ferrets are about as intelligent as a cat. They are nearly noiseless and do well on a commercial diet of ferret or kitten chow. Ferrets have short attention spans. They generally live 8-10 years. Some people find their odor undesirable. Most of the day they will be found asleep but they don’t appear to mind being woken up and cuddled.
Rats, Mice, Gerbils and Hamsters
These all make good pets if they are handled from the time they open their eyes. Rats live 4-6 years and mice 2-3 years. They are economical to buy and maintain and can be very affectionate. They do have a rather strong odor especially if their cages are not cleaned frequently. The most odiferous of this group are hamsters; the least are gerbils.
Turtles, Tortoises, Lizards and Snakes
These are all basically “observational” pets. That is, you can watch them, handle them and pet them but they do not generally return affection. The most affectionate of the group are tortoises. All these pets have very long lives which can pose a problem as our life situations change. If you choose to have one, pick a common, native variety. The ones sold at pet shops are usually exotic species from far-off places and the pet trade has driven many of them to near extinction.
Rabbits are adorable when they are babies. But as they mature their needs increase and they may become aggressive. Many owners just love their pet rabbits and they do well in households with cats. Small rabbits like dwarfs usually live 10-12 years. And larger to medium sized rabbits usually live 8-10 years.
Parrots, Cockatoos, Parakeets and Cockatiels
These are the most affectionate of all birds that are commonly kept as pets. They usually bond to only one member of a family. Generally, the larger the bird species, the longer they live. They can be quite noisy and cockatoos in particular produce large amounts of dust.