10 Things to consider before you choose a pet

Choosing a pet has two main stages:

  1. Determining if you are at the right point in life to live with a pet
  2. Selecting the right pet for you.

Here are some factors that you should consider prior to acquiring a pet, with some suggestions alongside of types of pets that may suit you.

1. Time
How much time do you have available for your new pet? A pet needs your time and your interaction. Even those animals who appear to exist without cuddles still need a significant input of time. Most time consuming of companion animals is generally the dog. If you work long hours, this may not be the pet for you (you could consider dog walkers or doggy day care if you are determined). Cats can be pretty self-sufficient but if left alone for long periods will tend to demand attention when you are home. Be prepared.

Lots of time – horse, dog, long-haired cat, parrot
Lack of time – fish






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2. Energy
Choose a pet that matches your energy levels. Some pet owners imagine their new pet will improve their fitness levels (“I got a Border Collie so I would have to go jogging.” Result = still unfit owner and bored, neurotic dog!) If you are a couch potato, consider a cat, preferably an older one. If you are full of energy you may cope with a Jack Russell, a working breed of dog or a Dalmatian.

Suggestions:Lots of energy – dog, kitten
Lack of energy – cat, rabbit, fish




3. Finances
Pet care is not about saving money. Pets are expensive. Most people only consider the initial purchase. This is a fraction of the total cost. Best not to add up the total cost! Consider your finances – can you afford a pet? Can you afford vet care, holiday care, day to day items such as food, flea medication etc.


Plenty of spare cash – horse, dog, cat, parrots, aquarium
Lack of finances – hermit crabs, goldfish


4. Space
Type of space is more important (in my opinion) than amount. People believe they need a big backyard (and if they have one, they believe their pet should be happy there!) but the quality of interaction with you is more important to your pet than the size of your garden. Dogs can live in very small spaces, provided they get adequate exercise and interaction with you.


5. Experience
Everybody has to start somewhere but some animals are better for beginners than others. Test drive a friend’s pet to see if the particular species and breed matches your expectations. Many people revert to pets they had as children but ensure you understand what the animals needs. Read books, websites and ask experts about the pet you are considering.


Lots of space – horse, dog, aviary
Little space – dog (less energetic breeds), fish, guinea pig, ferrets






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Need a challenge (ie experienced pet owner) – ferrets, Terriers, working dogs, cat

Beginner – Goldfish, Hermit crabs, Labrador, Spaniel. Do your research first.


6. Other family members
Your choice of pet may not suit everyone in your family. Perhaps you have always wanted a Great Dane but your husband has his eye on a Chihuahua (OK this scenario may not happen often!).

Discuss and weigh up the options prior to selecting a pet. If you can’t come to a consensus, then wait a while.
If you still can’t decide, go with the decision of the person who will be the primary carer. They are left with the work and will be more likely to bond with the animal of their choice.

7. Other pets
Consider any other pets you have and how they are likely to greet a newcomer into the family. Most introductions can go smoothly if you are careful, gradual and patient. An older animal may find an energetic puppy a handful so supervision is vital.If you are selecting a new pet, if possible try introductions on neutral territory first. Not all animals of the same species get along. Different species need supervision. If you have a behaviour problem, another pet is not going to fix it!


Pets who may go well together – two kittens, well socialised dog with younger dog (opposite sexes even better), two birds of the same species, two ferrets

Never together – some species of fish (check at your aquarium specialist); rats and mice 


8. Stage of life
Consider the point in life that you are at right now. Does a pet fit your lifestyle and lifestage? Do you have young children and so are time poor? Many breeders do not let their pets go to families with children under 5 which is sad (I had a child under 5 for 14 years and can’t imagine 14 years without a pet!). Are you elderly and need to consider your pet in your will?


If you have considered this thoroughly and still want a pet, great!

If this is not a good time, wait, borrow a pet or visit an animal shelter and donate your time to help other pets.



9. Your expectations
Are you realistic about your expectations for life with a pet? Do you have enough time, money and commitment? Will you solve any problems if they arise? Is the pet being acquired for ulterior motives than love and affection eg. status, fashion.


Ask yourself if you have consistency, routine, support and a lot of love to give. If the answer is yes, you may be ready for a pet right now.
If the answer is no, consider borrowing a friend’s pet, pet minding or volunteer at a shelter.

10. Which pet
If you have considered all of the above and you still want a pet, now is the time to decide which pet. You may already be set on one particular species or breed or you may reconsider your choices after reading this. A researched decision is a good one, even if that decision results in putting off your acquisition for a while. Pets are a commitment. Pets are a priveledge.

Love and enjoy your pet.


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