I’ve loved animals since I was a little girl. I’ve told you a lot about my dog Rex – and how much I love him. He’s such a great part of my life and my family – I can’t imagine not having him around. A lot of families have pets, and your family might be considering getting one. It’s important that you choose the right pet for you as it is a big commitment. Because I’ve volunteered a lot with animal rescue organizations, I’ve learned a lot about the different kinds of pets people have and how they picked the right pet for them. I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned:
Pets are a commitment. I know I said that already but it’s worth repeating. Pretty much any kind of pet you have, from fish to lizards to rodents to dogs and cats, will need care every day. They need to be fed, you need to make sure they have access to clean fresh water and they need a way to be exercised. Pets live a long time, so you need to make sure you have time for them in your lives, not just now but years into the future. Here are the average lifespans of some common family pets:
- Hamsters/gerbils: 2 – 4 years
- Gecko lizards: 8 – 12 years
- Rabbits: 8 – 12 years
- Snakes: 10 – 15 years
- Dogs: 6 – 15 years (depends a lot on the breed and size of the dog)
- Cats: 10 – 15 years
- Cockatoo (bird): 30 – 40 years
- Fish: 1 – 10 years
Space. Obviously some pets need more space than others. Hamsters, mice and other small rodents live in smaller cages and don’t take up a lot of room. Fish also don’t take up a lot of space, although some families end up getting very large aquariums with many fish. Because pets like cats and dogs aren’t normally caged, they need more space to wander. Larger dogs really should have access to a back yard and may not be the best idea if your family lives in an apartment. When considering a pet, you also should think about how many pets your family has/wants to have. Obviously the more you have the more space you will need, and some pets, like birds and rabbits are sensitive to stress and need a quiet place to relax. They might not do well if they are sharing a smaller home with more active, vocal pets like cats and dogs.
Lifestyle. Does your family travel a lot? You’ll need to think about who will care for your animals when you are gone or if you can take them with you. Some pets like fish and cats can be left alone overnight while others, like dogs, can’t. Is your family active? You might be well suited for a larger, more energetic dog who would love to go walking, camping and hiking with you. But if your family isn’t as active, you should consider a less active pet like a cat that doesn’t have the daily exercise needs that dogs do.
Getting a pet is a wonderful thing to do. You should always talk about it as a family first and make sure you all agree on things like who is responsible for walking the pet, feeding the pet and cleaning up after the pet. Be sure to think about not just your needs, but what the pet will need to be happy and healthy now and for years to come!