Bringing a new pet into your home is a decision that will affect your family for years to come. Whether you’re thinking about a cuddly kitten, a playful pup, or perhaps something a little more exotic, several factors should be considered to ensure a harmonious fit. Town & Country Animal Hospital shares tips to help you select the best pet based on your family’s lifestyle and a new pet’s needs.

Understand your budget

Pets are an incredibly rewarding part of the family, but they also come with costs. Potential pet owners should research the cost involved over a pet’s lifetime and decide whether they are financially prepared to provide the care the pet will need. Pet-related costs can include:

  • Initial expenses — Adoption fees, pet supplies, vaccinations, spaying or neutering surgery, parasite prevention, behavior training
  • Ongoing expenses — Pet food, routine veterinary check-ups, grooming, toys
  • Unexpected expenses — Emergency veterinary care, pet insurance

While some pets, like goldfish or hamsters, may have minimal costs, others, like dogs or exotic birds, can be quite expensive over time. Research the long-term financial commitment involved before making a decision.

Assess the amount of time a pet will require

Different pets require different amounts of time, attention, and exercise. For example, dogs need regular exercise, mental stimulation, and social interaction. Although cats are more independent, they still require play and companionship. Pets such as rodents and fish might demand less interaction but still need routine care, such as regular cage cleaning, feeding, and enrichment activities.

If your family has a busy schedule, a less demanding pet or breeds known for their independent nature might be a better choice.

Consider pet size

Size matters, especially if you live in a small apartment. Large dog breeds often require more space and exercise than small breeds, although this does not always hold true—Great Danes are often giant couch potatoes, while Jack Russell terriers are known for their high energy levels. 

Cats are adaptable to both small apartments and large homes, but they appreciate vertical spaces (i.e., cat trees) for climbing. Small rodents don’t need much space but should have sizable cages for exploration. Always ensure that your home can comfortably accommodate your pet as it grows.

Estimate the pet’s activity level

Honestly assess the amount of time your family can consistently devote to a pet’s care and exercise, and choose accordingly. Energetic pets like border collies and Australian shepherds require multiple daily play and exercise sessions to prevent boredom and destructive behaviors.

Other breeds, such as the basset hound and greyhound, are more laid-back and require less activity. Do your research and match your new pet’s energy level with your family’s lifestyle.

Understand the pet’s care requirements

Every pet has specific care requirements. For example, long-haired dogs and cats may require regular grooming appointments. Exotic pets like reptiles or birds often have unique husbandry needs, such as specific lighting, temperature and humidity levels, and specialized diets.  

All pets, regardless of species or breed, require regular veterinary visits to assess their health and provide wellness care, such as vaccines and parasite prevention. Keep in mind that pets sometimes develop health conditions that necessitate more frequent veterinary visits. While certain breeds are prone to developing specific health problems, and carefully choosing a breed based on research can help you prevent or prepare for these issues, any pet can become sick at any point in time and may require more involved care.

Research the pet’s expected lifespan

Although most dogs and cats live from 10 to 20 years, some exotic pets can outlive their owners. With proper care, many bird species can live up to 60 years, and you must ensure you are fully aware of the commitment you are making before adopting such a pet. On the other hand, small rodents, such as hamsters and rats, typically live for only a few years. While this may mean a lesser commitment, it also means dealing sooner with the heartbreak of losing a beloved pet, which can be especially difficult for children.

Consider how your children and other pets will interact with a new pet

When choosing a pet, keep in mind the age and maturity level of your own children and any regular visitors to your home. Small children often do not understand how to carefully handle or interact with pets, and may accidentally hurt them. Loud noises and fast movements scare some pets, who may lash out in fear, and scratch or bite in defense. For these reasons, some pets are better suited for families with older children who are able to be more careful.

If you have other pets, also consider how they will accept a newcomer. While some pets would love a companion, an older or sick pet may not appreciate the chaos that can accompany a new puppy or kitten.

Think about potential future changes

Your new pet will be part of your family for a long time, and you should ensure they will have a home with you. However, if you anticipate any major changes that could impact your ability to care for a new pet, such as a move, new baby, or new job, you may want to consider waiting to adopt until you are sure you can provide a lifelong home for your new addition.

Selecting the right pet for your family is a journey of understanding the pet’s needs and your family’s capabilities. With thorough research and a heart full of love, you’re on the right path to finding a furry, feathery, or scaly friend that complements your family. Once you find the perfect companion, schedule their new pet appointment with Town & Country Animal Hospital to start them on the path to good health.