ÛÏThe first thing I would recommend for any family is to look at their lifestyle,Û said Adam Goldfarb, director of Pets-at-Risk Program, Humane Society of the United States, www.humanesociety.org.
He suggests analyzing your time and energy level. ÛÏHow often can you take a dog for a walk or supervise a rabbit running through the house?Û Adam asked. ÛÏTime is a really big one. ItÛªs important to be honest about how much time to give an animal. Money is important to an extent, but the reality is that unless you are looking at a gigantic dog, the annual costs donÛªt differ too much from pet to pet.Û
Adam said that while thereÛªs no limit to what you could spend on a pet throughout the year, an average-sized dog or cat, who stays healthy, will add approximately $2,000 to your budget each year.
Keep in mind that itÛªs not about the fancy toys or food, itÛªs about the attention you can give an animal and whether or not that meets the animalÛªs needs.
ÛÏDepending on the exercise and amount of time you have, a lot of times a really active dog can be fine in a small space and sometimes there are little dogs that have lots of energy and need more than a little space,Û said Adam. So before getting any pet, look at your situation and do research.
Start by talking with your family. ÛÏHave a really good to talk with your kids about what they are interested in,Û said Adam. A child may thinks he wants a bird because thatÛªs what the neighbor has, but really, he wants a pet he can take for walks around the neighborhood.
Then, do some research on types of pets and breeds, keeping in mind that each individual animal will have its own personality. That is why Adam suggests that parents of young children consider adopting an animal this is a couple years old.
ÛÏA lot of families are tempted by puppies or kittens because they are cute and young and active, but when you have small children itÛªs worth considering an older pet,Û he said. ÛÏWith an adult pet, not only are they house-trained and have basic training, but their personalities are fully developed. When you meet these pets you know what you are going to get.Û
Knowing a bit about breeds of cats or dogs can also be helpful, but that doesnÛªt mean you should eliminate all other breeds ÛÒ or think you have to run to a breeder.
According to Adam, about 25 percent of the animals in shelters are purebreds, and if the breed you are seeking isnÛªt there, there is probably a rescue shelter in your state that has an animal who was left behind and is in need of a good home.
ÛÏWe encourage you to adopt,Û said Adam, who added that local shelters can give you advice on breeds and animals and what kind of animal can best suit your household.
Having a furry pet in your home can be advantageous when you have children. ÛÏThere are some studies that show that kids who grow up with dogs or cats are less likely to grow up with allergies,Û said Adam.
ItÛªs also a great way to teach a child about responsibility and how to care for another living creature. Just remember, that while a child may help feed and walk an animal, itÛªs the parent whoÛªs ultimately responsible for the animalÛªs care.
ÛÏThe animals need our care. While a pet can help teach a child about responsibility, a pet is an animal first and their needs have to be met, regardless of what is going on in the household,Û said Adam. ÛÏItÛªs not for a pet to go hungry so a kid can learn a lesson.Û
When considering what type of pet to adopt, Adam cautions about matching up small mammals with small children.
ÛÏThey (small animals) are more fragile, more sensitive,Û cautioned Adam. ÛÏThey are prey animals so they have a different perspective on the world and can be startled by large movements or loud noises. ItÛªs better if you have older kids who can understand them and take care of them.Û
He also suggests staying away from reptiles. ÛÏWe discourage keeping them as pets for a couple reasons. One is a safety reason, almost all carry salmonella. It doesnÛªt bother them but bothers the kids and adults when they donÛªt wash their hands.Û The second reason is because even reptiles bred in captivity arenÛªt domestic. ÛÏThey are wild animals and they often have challenging environmental care needs with the temperature (and humidity),Û he said.
Regardless of the animal, do your research on what the animal enjoys to eat ÛÒ some have complex dietary needs, how much activity it needs and what kind of attention is required.
Every pet is different and takes varying amounts of time to adjust, but an animal can bring much joy and love into a home.
Before getting a pet
Do your research: talk to people who have a pet you like, research animal types, breeds and behaviors
Consult with your family members and determine how much time and energy you have to care for an animal
Spend time with the potential animal and see how he/she gets along with rest of the family
Know whatÛªs required when caring for the pet (brushing hair, changing litter, scooping poop, cleaning fish tanks, etc.)
Know your limitations (how much time is required for care — hair to brush and clean up, walking, etc.)