What type of pet is right for you?

5 February 2016
Having a pet is the best thing that you could ever possibly own. Fact. But getting a pet is a major decision – it’s not like buying a PlayStation or a new bike!

You’re adding a new member to your family who will have an effect on everyone in your household — your parents, your siblings, even your other pets. That’s why deciding on the right pet is really important. Figuring out which pet is best for your situation calls for you to do a little homework. The quality of an animal’s life is entirely dependent upon us, the owners. If our pets don’t like the way we are treating them at home they can’t just walk out and go to a friend’s place!

Ask yourself the following questions, and be as honest as you can:

Why do I want a pet?

This is a really important question. Do you want a particular pet because your best friend has one? Or because you saw one on TV? Do you feel the need to replace a pet that you lost? Do you just really want a companion who you can love, take care of, and learn from?

Do I want a pet who gives love back, or one that will just be fun to watch and play with?

Are you a first-timer in the pet department and want to get “warmed up” with a lower-maintenance pet? Or would you rather make that big leap to a pet that takes more commitment but has more rewards (in the form of licks, purrs, and furry cuddles)?

How mature am I?

Are you ready to take care of an animal’s needs? Will you hate having to get up early or come home right after school to feed your pet, and complain about it – or just not do it? Remember, animals depend on us. They can’t feed themselves!

How willing am I to help out?

Are you willing to be the main, or only, caretaker of your new pet? Will you help other family members take your pooch for walks or clean out your cat’s litter box?

How will the pet affect the rest of my family?

Is Mum allergic to dogs? Is your little brother afraid of snakes? Are you away from home a lot, traveling or just spending a lot of time at work every day? You need to consider your whole family’s concerns when choosing a pet.

What about my siblings?

You want a turtle, but your big sister wants a lizard. So how do you decide what animal to pick? Sit down and talk with your siblings about the kind of pet you want to get and do some research together. You might have to compromise, but the nice thing about having a sibling is that you can work together to convince your parents that your family is ready for a pet and to share responsibilities.

What’s my home like?

How much space do you have for a pet? Do you live in a small apartment or a big house? Is there a backyard? Is it fenced? How will your neighbours feel about your new pet? If your parents rent, does your landlord allow pets?

Choosing the right animal
Next you need to decide which animal fits the maintenance level you and your family can handle.

Lowest Maintenance Pets don’t require a lot of love or special care and include:

  • Fish
  • Snakes
  • Lizards
  • Turtles
  • Frogs

Your time commitment to these animals will probably be about 15 minutes a day for feeding and about an hour a week to clean tanks or cages. One thing to remember though: these animals aren’t cuddly or affectionate, so while they may be fun to watch and a good way to learn about animals, they may not give you the close relationship you want.

Low Maintenance Pets are:

  • Cats
  • Small birds, like budgerigars, canaries, cockatiels
  • Rabbits (not legal in Queensland but legal in all other states of Australia)
  • Rodents, like guinea pigs, ferrets, mice, and rats
  • Chooks, bantams, ducks

These pets require 15 to 30 minutes a day of feeding and weekly cage or litter box cleaning.

When it comes to cats, keep in mind that different cats have different personalities! Some cats are more independent and only need a little bit of attention, while others might always want your companionship and affection (taking more time and energy).

Rabbits and rodents can also be very loving and become great friends.

Medium Maintenance Pets are dogs.

They require much more attention and time than cats or guinea pigs. Dogs need to be exercised and fed daily, and groomed regularly. Dogs may also have to get training or obedience lessons, and need way more human interaction than other animals. Expect to spend an hour or two, or even more time every day taking care of your canine pal.

High Maintenance Pets include:

  • Horses, cattle, sheep
  • Large, and often noisy, birds like parrots, peacocks or turkeys
  • Exotic animals like alpacas, llamas, or goats

These animals require a lot more care, attention, time and money. They also need a lot of space, so unless you live on a large farm, high maintenance pets probably aren’t for you!

Love is sometimes better the “second time around”
If you want a pet like a dog or cat and are worried about how much work a puppy or kitten will be, think about getting a “teenage” or adult animal! Here’s why some people decide to do this:

  • With older pets, what you see is what you get. Their personalities are developed and they know who they are. This really helps if you want a certain type of animal. A kitten or puppy’s personality is still a mystery and you don’t know what type of adult they’ll become.
  • They’ve already been through the baby stage and most of the mischief, like chewing slippers or climbing the curtains. Plus, you don’t have to worry about toilet-training an adult dog or cat, and many grown-up dogs have already had obedience training.
  • You can be sure of the pet’s full size and overall appearance as an adult.
  • Older pets know they’ve found a great new home and will be super-grateful to you for it!

If you do decide you have room for a pet in your life and can provide it with the care and attention it deserves, then consider adopting from a RSPCA shelter first. That way you are not only giving an animal a second chance but the experienced staff at the SPCA can match you with the perfect pet for your family. Dogs and cats adopted from the SPCA are also desexed, wormed, vaccinated and microchipped.

Please remember that pets are a life-long commitment but given the chance, they will love you for life. Too often, the SPCA is left with the aftermath of impulse purchases, with more than 56,000 animals requiring help each year.

So spend the time it takes to evaluate your true situation, particularly with regard to time, activity level and facilities a pet will need before deciding which pet is right for you.

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