Thinking about getting a pet but not sure which one is right for you? I’ve had cats, dogs, guinea pigs, hamsters, fish and birds throughout my adult life. I think that makes me pretty qualified to help you decide on the right family pet for you!
Right now, I have three dogs, three cats, two guinea pigs and an African grey parrot. Years ago, I also had an iguana, parakeets, lovebirds, fish and a hamster. My boyfriend has a ball python and I have an aunt who had a goose for a pet. Throughout my family, we’ve also had bunnies, turtles and several other types of birds. We’ve pretty much had them all! My grandfather really wanted a pet ostrich, but my grandmother drew the line at that!
Best tips for choosing the right family pet
- Consider the ages of your children. When you’re up all night changing diapers, the last thing you want to do is chase after a puppy. While it’s great growing up with a dog-my mom got my childhood dog when I was 6 months old-raising a puppy alongside a baby is quite the time commitment! Young children also really don’t understand how to be gentle with fragile pets, so getting your toddler a hamster may also not be the best idea.
- Think about your expectations. Do you want a pet that cuddles with you after a long day? Go with a dog. Prefer a more independent pet that will curl up with your teenagers? Cats make great family pet options in that case. Hamsters and guinea pigs are great for teaching older kids how to care for pets. If you just want a pet that you can look at but not touch, fish work too!
- Be wary of allergies. Allergies to cats and dogs are fairly common, but you can also be allergic to other types of pets. Before you invest in a family pet and all the gear that comes along with one, spend time holding your potential choice to make sure there are no allergy issues. Nothing is more heartbreaking than having to give up a new family pet because you can’t stop sneezing.
- Take a pet for a test spin. Before you commit to any choice, it’s a good idea to visit a friend or family member with pets and see how your family interacts with them. Maybe you always thought you wanted a small dog, but discover that your great aunt’s Chihuahua’s bark drives you batty. Perhaps you’re thinking a parrot would be cool until you hear just how loud they can squawk! Make sure you’re ready to love your cat or dog before you get one!
- Research overall costs. When I got my guinea pigs, I assumed that they would be super inexpensive animals. I mean, how much could shredded paper bedding, pellets and hay cost per month? Well, I had no idea they also need fresh fruit every day, or that they pooped like once a second. My “inexpensive” idea for a pet now costs me more than my dogs and cats combined! I also spend quite a bit on the best cat food and dog food every month because I want my animals to have the best possible nutrition.
The most important tip for choosing the right family pet is to make sure that you’re positive about your choice. It’s not fair to give an animal a home, and then change your mind. It’s traumatic to both your family and the animal. Be sure that you’re ready to make the commitment. Cats and dogs can live longer than ten years. I have a cat that is almost 18 and two dogs that will be 13 this year. Parrots live even longer. My African grey will outlive me! Have a family pet is a long commitment. If you don’t think you can care for them that long, please just get a fish.