Choosing the Right Pet for You

Having an animal friend at home can make your days so much more fun and fulfilling. Pets provide opportunities for entertainment and physical contact – things many of us have been missing lately. Countless studies have shown that pets can lift our spirits and even lower our blood pressure. Most importantly, having a pet to care for and talk to can alleviate feelings of isolation and loneliness for anyone who lives alone.

This is a good time to mention that if you’re thinking of getting a pet as a surprise for someone else, please don’t. Getting a pet is fun and exciting, but it requires planning and forethought to ensure a smooth introduction for any type of animal into a household. Whether the pet is for you or someone else, the following information covers all the important points to consider when thinking about getting a pet.

Checklist for Choosing a New Pet

Have you owned a pet before? If not, be especially honest with yourself as you read through the points below, as they may not have occurred to you. But if you are comfortable with them all, a pet will likely be a great addition to your life.

  • Consider your daily routine. Do you have time to care for an animal? Are you prepared to get up earlier (or stay up later) to feed a dog or get it outside for a walk?
  • Think about your mobility level. If you have difficulty walking without assistance, it will likely be difficult to walk a dog, too. In this case, consider a cat, bird or other pet that doesn’t need to be walked.
  • Puppies can be challenging for owners of any age or mobility level. House training a puppy is a 24-hour-a-day job for the first few weeks of pet ownership in order to be effective. Are you up to the task? Kittens usually figure out how to use a litter box on their own, and therefore may be a little easier to train.
  • Both puppies and kittens can be mischievous and even destructive as youngsters. Consider how you might have to “kid-proof” your home to keep the mayhem to a minimum.
  • Different animal species and breeds have very specific personalities and energy levels. Understand what you can expect from your preferred pet – friendly, happy, quiet, etc. Although they are generalizations, there’s usually some truth behind them.
  • Consider your budget, as pets are an additional expense. Food, treats, toys and gear are just the beginning; veterinary expenses add up most quickly. If you’re getting a puppy or kitten, you’ll have an initial checkup and immunizations, then spaying/neutering, annual exams and medications after that. Emergency veterinary expenses can also arise when least expected. Be sure you’ve budgeted properly for your new pet – now and in the future.
  • Have a back-up plan. If you have commitments that take you away from home for long periods of time, or health issues that might require hospitalization, be sure you have someone you can count on to care for your pet. Just as you’d plan for the well-being of a human dependent, ensure that your pet will be in good hands if you can’t be there for them.

Where Should You Get Your Pet?

Depending on the species of animal you choose for a pet, your options will vary.

Purebred dogs and cats are available from breeders, and if it’s important for you to know your pet’s lineage and history, a breeder might be the way to go.

A less-expensive option is to adopt a pet from a shelter. Shelter animals are usually there because their previous owner was unable or unwilling to care for them any longer. Most shelters will keep animals for a limited time, so you may also be saving an animal that might otherwise be euthanized. Shelters generally charge an adoption fee, but may offer a reduced fee based on your age (55+) and/or if you adopt an older animal.

Rescue organizations are another way to find a pet. There are rescue groups for all types of animals, and if you’re interested in a purebred pet at a lower price, there are breed-specific groups for most dog and cat breeds. Try to find a local group so you can meet your potential pet and talk with their foster family. This way, you’ll get the inside story on any personality or behavioral issues and know what you can expect from your new pet. Rescue groups are typically very protective of the pets they place, so expect that you’ll probably be “interviewed” as a potential owner before any decisions are made.

Pets are a tremendous responsibility, and it’s smart to be honest with yourself about how much you can or want to take on when bringing an animal of any kind into your home. Check out this video for some more tips and pointers about choosing a pet that’s perfect for you.