So you have decided to get a pet for your family – excellent! After reading PART 1 of this series, you have now figured out how much money you can budget for your new pet, who is going to take care of all of your new pet’s needs, and the reasons why you really want a pet for your family.
It’s time to decide what kind of pet would be perfect for your family!
There are many factors to consider before choosing your newest family member:
- Space – How much do you have available for your new pet? Do you have an outdoor space available? Is your home ready for a messy animal?
- Time – How much time will you have to dedicate to your new pet’s care? Can you find a pet that will match your family’s lifestyle?
- Age – If you have children, are they old enough to understand how to treat a pet and care for he/she properly? Will they also understand when the pet eventually passes away?
- Allergies – Is anyone in the home allergic to any types of animals? If so, is the family alright with not having that type of animal as a pet?
Once you have answered all of the above questions, you can look to the types of pets below and match them to your family’s wants and needs.
Let’s start with one of our favorite (and most common) pets out there: Dogs!
Dogs are excellent pets but they require quite a bit of space, time, and attention. Dogs are great for active families who have lots of time to spend playing with them and taking care of their physical needs such as going on long walks twice a day. Depending on the breed, dogs can be excellent family pets but you will want to make sure to explain how to properly interact with a dog to your children before bringing a new pup into your home.
Dogs can be fantastic companions for the entire family so let’s take a look at their stats:
Space: Dogs need lots of space, a backyard is preferable or areas in which you can take them for nice long walks.
Time: Having a dog will require a lot of your time and attention. They need to be fed twice a day, taken outside to do their business, given time to get exercise and play, as well as begin behavior training.
Age: Dogs have a life-span that can vary among breeds with some living only 8-10 years and others living 14-17 years. Research the breeds your family is interested in to see how long their live and what health issues those breeds may have.
Allergies: Some people are allergic to all dogs and some to just a few breeds. Have your family tested for allergies before bringing home a new pooch.
Next on the list, another one of our favorites: Cats!
Cats are much more independent pets and require a bit less of your personal time however they do need a lot of space to roam around. You may not have to take your cat on a walk but you will have to clean their litter every day and provide fresh food and water. Cats are an excellent choice for families who work most of the day and have children who are involved in lots of school activities. Cats, though more independent, will still want attention, play time, and exercise – they might just want it on their own schedule.
Let’s check the stats:
Space: Cats need lots of space to roam around – inside of a house is perfect as long as you have made sure that your house is as ‘cat-proof’ as possible.
Time: Cats need a bit less of your personal time but they will want attention and to have their needs taken care of. Cats are great for people who have to work late but want a companion to pay attention to when they get home.
Age: Cats can live quite a long time, depending on the breed, with some living past 20 years! Research the different breeds of cats that your family is interested in to see the lifespan of those particular cats.
Allergies: Cats have a higher percentage of people allergic to them compared to dogs. Cat allergies can range from incredibly severe (can’t be in a room that a cat has walked into) to minor (can be around cats but can’t pet them). Check for cat allergies in your family before bringing home a new kitty family member.
Well, we’ve covered dogs and cats but how about… Small Mammals!
There are so many different types of small mammals out there for your family to consider adopting. Some of those include: Guinea Pigs, Rabbits, Gerbils, Hamsters, Mice, Fancy Rats, Ferrets, and Chinchillas.
Let’s divide these little fuzzballs into two categories based on levels of care – beginner experience and intermediate experience.
Beginner Experience – You and/or your children have never had a pet before but want to start with a small mammal that is easy to take care of. These would include gerbils, hamsters, and mice.
All of these particular small mammals need fresh food and water on a daily basis as well as a (small mammal appropriate) cage with fresh bedding. You and your family will want to interact with these little guys every day but not too much as they can frighten easily. You will need to teach your children how to properly hold them and to not squeeze them too hard as they are very fragile.
Stats for our small mammal beginner experience group:
Space: They need a small cage that has fresh bedding. Their cage can usually fit on top of a dresser or small table. They do not require a lot of space but you definitely want to make sure they are away from any other pets in the house that might want to turn them into a squeaky toy.
Time: These small mammals do not need a whole bunch of your personal time other than feeding, giving fresh water, and cleaning the cage. You will want to give them some species-appropriate toys and/or a wheel that can help them get some exercise during the day or night.
Age: One of the drawbacks of having the beginner experience small mammals is that their lifespans are pretty short with most living only 1-3 years.
Allergies: While allergies to gerbils, hamsters, and mice are not unheard of, they are very uncommon and these pets would be great for children who are allergic to cats or dogs.
Intermediate Experience – You and/or your children have either taken care of a pet previously or are willing to spend more time with these animals as they have more specialized care instructions. This category includes guinea pigs, rabbits, fancy rats, ferrets, and chinchillas.
Possibly magical ferrets?
These small mammals are more social and will need more interaction as well as more specialized care. Each has their own special diet that is a bit outside of just ‘opening the bag and pour’ and can include fresh veggies or fresh hay depending on the species. Their cage requirements are also a bit more complicated – for example, chinchillas need a taller cage with lots of ledges to jump around on. The key to these small mammals is RESEARCH! If you would like to adopt a guinea pig, make sure to read about their nutritional requirements, cage requirements, needs for social interactions, etc…
Let’s check the stats!
Space: While they do not require as much space as a dog or cat, you will need to research to see just how big their cage and/or hutch will need to be. Make sure to see what you need to provide to keep your intermediate small mammal happy and healthy.
Time: Again, these larger fuzzballs will need a bit more of your time as they are more social than your beginner small mammals. Guinea pigs love interacting with you and like to be played with (as long as you are still gentle!).
Age: There is a really wide range of how long each of these small mammals will live with rats living between 4-6 years, rabbits 6-13 years, chinchillas 10-14 years, ferrets 6-8 years, and guinea pigs 5-8 years.
Allergies: Just like the beginner experience small mammals, these small mammals have a low allergen rating however some people have been known to be allergic to rabbit fur. Get tested before buying to make sure your family is safe.
Now you have a much better idea of what sorts of needs each of these categories of animals has! You can sit down and discuss with your family just what sort of pet would fit in to your home.
We hope that you will consider adopting your next pet instead of purchasing from a breeder – there are so many cats, dogs, and small mammals out there that need a second chance at life that your family can give them!
Where can you find these wonderfully adoptable animals? The Houston SPCA of course! Come on down and check out our animals or take a look at our website to find the purrfect furry friend for your family!
On this Friday I will leave you with one of my favorite small mammal videos: