When you are choosing the right pet for your family, you need to keep a few things in mind. After all, your new companion may be part of your family for the next 15 years or more, which is a huge commitment. Consider this fully before jumping into adopting the first pet you see. When selecting the right pet for your family, think about not only whether you’re dog or cat people, but also which pet will best fit your lifestyle. Here are seven factors to consider when choosing the right pet for your family.

#1: Species: Cats, dog, or other?

As you browse your local animal shelter’s adoptable pets page, or scroll through Petfinder, you will likely see mostly cats and dogs. But are you interested in a different species? All sorts of pets can be your ideal family companion, depending on your available time, lifestyle, space, and budget. Consider a fish, bird, reptile, rabbit, or small rodent, which all have unique characteristics that make them a perfect pet for some families. 

#2: Activity levels: A pet who hikes or a couch potato?

In general, dogs are more active than most other pets, and require plenty of daily exercise to stay happy and healthy. If family members are not home enough to exercise a pet each day for a solid amount of time, a dog may not be the best choice. Instead, consider a cat or exotic pet who doesn’t require outdoor activity. Most pets, except dogs, require only short interactive sessions each day to satisfy their exercise and socialization needs. For some species, such as reptiles or rodents, long periods of activity or interaction can be stressful. Cats exercise best in brief bursts, so they need only quick play sessions morning and night. 

If you are considering adding a dog to your family, ensure your activity levels match the breed you choose. Because a breed is small does not mean they’re not active. For example, a Jack Russell terrier needs much more exercise than an Irish wolfhound, and that is an important consideration. 

#3: Existing pets: Friend or foe?

If you’re wanting to introduce a new “sibling” to your current pet, ensure your pet will accept and get along with a housemate. Like people, not all pets get along. Some pets are meant to be the sole household pet, while others are delighted with a new companion. In many cases, you can take your current pet to a meet-and-greet at an animal shelter to see how the two pets interact. Your current pet may choose your family’s new pet for you.

#4: Temperament: Gentle or rambunctious?

A pet’s temperament is critical for families with small children, who can naturally behave erratically, make loud noises, and interact inappropriately with pets. Look for a mild-mannered pet if you have young children. Also if you have children, take care if you decide on a small pet, who may be fragile and easily harmed by a child’s inadvertent rough handling. However, large pets can accidentally knock children and unknowingly be too rough when playing. Carefully consider the temperament and ages of your children and the pet, to ensure a safe match. 

#5: Allergies: Does your pet make you sneeze?

If you’ve never owned a particular pet before, you may not realize you’re allergic to that species or breed. Before welcoming home a new pet, ensure every family member has interacted with that specific species during the past few months. This will help prevent a new pet being surrendered because family members have unknown allergies. 

#6: Space: Back yard or fish bowl?

Living in a cramped apartment doesn’t allow a lot of space for a large, energetic pet, so ensure your pet choice matches your living arrangements. If your home is better suited for a goldfish bowl, do not bring home a 100-pound Labrador retriever. 

#7: Budget: Pennies or dollars?

The adage, “Big pets come with big bills,” is certainly true when it comes to food costs. A Great Dane can easily consume 10 cups of food a day, while a cat may need only half a cup. In addition to food, consider your pet’s other needs, which may include training classes, a carrier or crate, toys, treats, and litter, depending on the species. You will also need to budget for regular veterinary exams, vaccinations, and parasite prevention. Some breeds are predisposed to certain diseases and conditions, and may require more frequent veterinary visits. Factor all these expenses for a pet into your budget, to ensure you can provide them with a happy, healthy home without financial stress.

Choosing the right pet for your family can be a difficult decision, but the perfect pet can be a wonderful addition. We’d love to meet your new family member, although we hope they stay out of our emergency animal hospital.  However, should they find themselves in trouble, our Pet Emergency Clinic and Referral Center team is always available. Give us a call for help.