When you have children, you’re going to find yourself facing a question at some point or another down the line – “can we get a pet?” Now, family pets can come hand in hand with a lot of perks, especially for growing children. They can be companions. They can teach children important lessons about the importance of being kind to animals. They can teach responsibility. They can form strong bonds with the entire family unit, becoming part of the gang. But you need to make sure that having a pet is the right decision for both your family and the animal you’re considering getting. There are all sorts of pets out there and it’s up to you to make the decision on whether having any animal is right for your family’s lifestyle, followed by which type of pet will suit you best if you do decide to go ahead with the process. This is a big responsibility and you’re ultimately going to be responsible for this animal’s ongoing happiness and wellbeing – not your children – so it’s important that you make an informed decision that you’re happy to stick with. Here are some questions to ask yourself before heading to the pet shop, a breeder or an adoption center.
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Do You Have the Budget for a Pet?
Pets don’t come cheap. Even the lower cost options will have an initial cost to bring home and ongoing care costs throughout the duration of the animal’s life. Maintaining a living animal is always going to be costly. Consider all costs entailed in owning any animal you’re considering. For all animals, you will need to fork out for food, ongoing veterinary care, shelter and bedding. For most animals, you will require accessories, such as toys, playthings or harnesses for walking. Make sure that you have the budget for any pet you’re considering. Do some research into the maintenance costs of different options. Paying for the ongoing care of a hamster, for example, is likely to be less than paying for a dog, which, in turn, is going to be a lot less than maintaining a horse.
Do You Have Space for the Pet?
Do you have the space for the pet you’re considering? If you live in a small apartment without a garden, a dog isn’t likely to be the best choice for you, as they need space to run, play and use the toilet. If you have a small house with a garden, a Great Dane or Irish Wolfhound may still require more room than you have available. When choosing rodents, consider whether you have room for a run and a large enough cage for them to live in. When choosing a cat, consider if you have room for scratching posts and other climbing frame style toys that will keep them occupied throughout the day. If you’re looking into ponies or horses, you’ll need stable space and fields, or the budget for them to be housed at professional, commercial stables.
Do You Have Time for the Pet?
Different pets require different amounts of time and attention. If you’re someone who is out of the house at work all day, while your kids are at school or at different after school clubs, you probably shouldn’t get a dog, as they need to be let out frequently throughout the day and many breeds can experience separation anxiety. If you’re choosing a dog, you need to consider their individual exercise needs, as some will require hours of walking each morning and evening – not everyone can commit to this. Cats are relatively independent and can often keep themselves occupied, but will still need time for play, attention and cuddles each day. Rodents don’t often require much play time, but you will still need to dedicate time to cleaning their cages, ensuring they get enough exercise in hamster balls and more.
Will They Fit In With Other Pets?
You may already have pets and be considering getting another. This can often prove fine, with many animals living in harmony in one household. But you need to seriously consider the well-being of the pets you already have before selecting a new one. Not all animals get on well together and not all pets are social and ready to share their space with another animal. For example, if you have a dog who doesn’t particularly like cats, it may not be the best idea to bring a new cat into your home. If you have a cat who doesn’t like dogs, picking up a puppy may not be ideal. You also need to remember predator and prey dynamics when choosing pets. Cats have been known to catch fish from tanks and both cats and dogs have been known to chase down rabbits and other rodents. Sometimes animals of the same species don’t get on either. You don’t want to have to deal with the trauma of one pet harming another while you’ve turned your back for a moment.
Are You Committed for Life?
When you get a pet, you need to be committed to taking care of them for the duration of their entire life. This can vary between different types of animals and different breeds within species. If you get a hamster, you are likely committing to between two and five years of care. If you get a dog, some breeds have a life expectancy of six to eight years, while the majority will have an expectancy between 12 and up to 20 years. Lucky Labs, for example, have an average life span of roughly 12 years. Cats are regularly known to live for up to 20 years or even longer. Horses, parrots and tortoises can live for decades. Make sure to look into the life expectancy of different pets you are considering and make sure that you are committed for the duration of that. If you’re planning on leaving the country once your kids have left home, committing to a cat, dog, horse, parrot, tortoise means you’re going to have to figure out transporting them with you or rehoming them, which can often be difficult.
Is This on a Whim?
All too many people get family pets based on a whim. Perhaps your kids have suddenly decided they want a specific pet and have been asking you repeatedly for days or weeks on end. You need to remember that children can be fickle and can lose interest in things pretty quickly. You need to be prepared to care for a pet even if your children lose the novelty of having a pet a few weeks or months into their arrival. Never buy a pet for a birthday or Christmas. They are not a gift and are, instead, living, sentient beings who require care throughout their lives. Instead, make sure that this is a decision that everyone is completely committed to and that you will ultimately take full responsibility for. Spur-of-the-moment adoptions or purchases can often end up in pets having to be rehomed and this isn’t good for them in the long run if they are not quickly adopted.
As you can see, there really is a lot to take into consideration when choosing a family pet. Ultimately, you need to remember that this is a big decision that you are making and it comes hand in hand with a whole lot of responsibility. Hopefully, some of the information above will guide you to making the best decision possible for both your family and the pet you’re considering.
This is a contributed post.
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