Choosing A Pet
There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a new pet. Even if you know you want a Golden retriever, or a Persian, or a guinea pig, it’s important to do your research and really understand the commitment you’re making. It’s easy to go to the local shelter and fall in love with an adoptable pet, or see a picture of a cute dog on Instagram and decide that’s the dog breed you want! But in order to be fair to the animal and yourself, make sure you know the responsibility that comes with that pet. Each species, each breed, and each individual can have widely varying needs, so before you adopt or buy an animal, consider the following questions:
Have you had any pets before?
If you're looking into getting your first pet, start small and simple. It's probably not a great idea to adopt a senior pet with medical issues, or a pet with known behavioral problems.
Do you currently have pets?
Depending on what type of pets you already have, their age and temperament, you may need to be careful in selecting your next pet. Not all animals get along or will coexist peacefully.
What is your typical daily routine?
If you're busy and have little extra time to care for an animal, this will affect your pet selection - either limiting your options, or requiring you to think about things like hiring a dog walker during the day.
What kind of home do you live in (house, apartment, etc.)?
Rental spaces tend to have restrictions on pets, so be sure to look into that ahead of time. These may be weight limits, breed restrictions, or other rules (such as cats needing to be declawed, which is another issue we will cover at another time). Space can be an issue as well, especially when looking at caged/exotic species or puppies that need to be crate trained. Outdoor space should be considered, too.
Will you be living in your current home for the foreseeable future, or do you have plans to move?
Moving can be stressful for animals, and if your new living space differs significantly from your current home, be sure to consider that as well. It is best to wait until you are settled in your home before introducing a new pet.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Some pets require energetic owners, and some do not. For example: If your idea of fun on the weekend is Netflix and chill, don't get a Labrador retriever - opt for a cat or a hamster instead.
How frequently do you travel?
If you want to be able to bring your pet with you, consider the size, type, and breed. If you want to leave your pet at home for a pet sitter to care for, or in a kennel, again - consider the size, type, and breed. Separation anxiety is a pretty common problem, primarily in dogs, and can be avoided if they are trained early.
About how much expendable income do you have each month?
Pets are expensive! Some more than others, but there is always a chance for an emergency to arise and you have to be prepared to handle that. Some veterinarians offer CareCredit or payment plans, but most require payment for services at the time they are performed. Look into pet health insurance and prepare a budget. Food, exams and vaccinations, monthly parasite preventatives, training, and other supplies like a leash and collar are the bare minimum you'll need to consider. Tack on pet health insurance, sick vet visits or emergencies, boarding or pet sitting fees if you travel, dog walking if you're gone all day... the expenses add up quickly. Not to mention that as pets age, they tend to need more medical attention, supplements and medications, etc... don't forget to think about where you'll be in 5, 10, 15, even 20+ years.
Do you have any children or elderly in your home, either living with you or frequently visiting?
Some pets make more or less sense with children or elderly in the home. Some pets can carry zoonotic (transmissible between people and animals) diseases. Physical injury can occur to people and animals if an animal is handled improperly.
Why do you want a pet?
Who will be the primary caretaker of the pet?
Pets should be age-appropriate and your expectations need to be realistic. It is not realistic to get a puppy and expect a child to be the primary caretaker. It is also not a great idea to get a young animal for an elderly person.
Playing pet matchmaker can be difficult; use your answers as a guide and seek out help! Myself or your local veterinarian can help you choose a pet based on your answers. If you’d like help determining the best fit for you and your family, please don’t hesitate to ask! You can call or text me at (804) 393-0998 or email me at AlyssaCaryLVT@gmail.com. This is a big decision for you and your family and you should be as prepared as possible to make the commitment to care for an animal for its life.