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Choosing a Pet

animal-1134504_640Pets are truly members of the American family, about 60% of the households have at least one dog, cat, bird or other companion animal. Many have more than one. We include pets into our families because they provide companionship, joy, unconditional love, a sense of safety and often a service. These are probably some of the reasons why you are thinking about getting a pet; they make us feel good.

Owning a pet can be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences of our lives, but before you acquire a pet you should take the time to consider which animal best suits you and your family and the welfare of the animal. You want to do what is best for the animal and it's quality of life. For example, if you are thinking of purchasing an iguana, you must take in the special dietary needs of the iguana, special habitat required for it, and remember that while a few inches long at purchase, this creature will eventually grow to be several feet long. Many birds live longer than we do, who will take care of your bird when you are no longer on this world. You live in an apartment and work long hours, is a Great Dane really the dog for you? If you have limited time for interaction with a dog, is it really fair to have one tied to a chain in the backyard and only interaction he gets is your feeding him once a day? The important thing is to do some research about the animal, considering it's needs and yours before you purchase it. It is important that you include the whole family, teaching children that pet ownership is a responsibility for the entire family.

Talk to your veterinarian about what animals you are thinking about adopting. Your veterinarian can help you prepare for any special financial responsibilities that your pet may require. Talk to informed animal professionals (not necessarily your neighbor or best friend). Animal professionals have lots of experience and can give you information about particular breeds and how they may fit your family lifestyle. Educate yourself via the internet about your animal of interest. Keep in mind however that some websites are biased by personal gain or emotion. Choose websites that are reliable, such as breed organizations such as AKC, etc. Don't let the playful antics of the first puppy, kitten or bird you see or the latest status-symbol pet charm you into accepting a responsibility for which you and your family are not prepared.

Carefully consider why you and/or your family want a pet. Millions of unwanted pets are put to death each year. Pet's selected on impulse, 'for the children' or as a gift during the holidays sometimes end up this way. These pets once belonged to people who fell in love and then changed their minds. A new puppy and small children suddenly became too much work for a family and the puppy is given away or arrives at a shelter. Selecting a pet should be a family project with everyone's needs, concerns, fears and medical history considered. Family members should decide together what kind of animal they want, the amount of time they anticipate spending with it and the amount of responsibility each person is willing to assume. Be realistic! Promises from some family members, especially children, may not be fulfilled. You cannot expect a child to be responsible. The responsibility will be that of the adult in the household and you will be teaching your child responsibility through your actions.

Your goal is to identify the best animal for your living space, lifestyle, and budget (there is a financial responsibility). The questions below can help you during your decision making process. Answer these questions before you acquire a pet and involve everyone in your family.

Do you have Room for a Pet? Active dogs need more space and more daily exercise. Some pets may get enough within the confines of a house or apartment. Do you have time to exercise your dog by walking twice a day? Do you have a fenced yard? Do you have a good place for litter boxes (for cats).

What activities to you enjoy? Discuss the reasons you want a pet and what you expect an pet to do with and for you. Most people keep pets as companions, whereas others enjoy them for showing, breeding, hunting, etc. Will the animal you're considering have the temperament and physical attributes to participate in your outdoor activities (hiking, hunting, camping, cycling, etc.) or in quiet pastimes in your home? If your leisure activities take you away from home, who will care for your pet during your absences? Read about the temperaments and needs of the species and breeds and identify the best match for your lifestyle.

How do you spend your day? Pets depend on people for daily affection and attention and training. Young puppies and kitten require time for housebreaking, training and feeding. Are you gone all day? Do you frequently work late? What will you do with your pet during long absences? Feeding, exercise, grooming and play are daily time commitments that must be considered in caring for a healthy, happy pet.

How much will your pet cost? The purchase price varies greatly. All pets need food and shelter and regular visits to a veterinarian for health checkups and vaccinations. Depending on the type of animal you choose, other cost considerations include emergency medical treatment, grooming, boarding, licensing, obedience training and accessories.

The American Veterinary Medical Assoc. has developed guidelines for responsible pet ownership. Take the time to read these guidelines during your decision making process. Using these guidelines can help you, your family and your future pet have a fun and happy life together.

Once your decision is made and before you bring home a new pet, be sure to have your home ready to receive it. Be prepared! Supplies, toys, food, pet crate, pet gates, etc. will help make the pet's transition safer and happier. Plan ahead for who is going to see for what needs. Include children in these plans. Make a list and keep on the refrigerator, who feeds, who walks, who cleans the litter box, etc. Make an appointment with your veterinarian within a week of purchase of your pet. Let your veterinarian help you get started in providing good health care and early training for your pet.

Having a pet in our lives can be very rewarding, but it should be as rewarding to the pet. We encourage responsible pet ownership and hope that this information helps you in your decision making process. If you have any questions about purchasing a pet please feel free to contact us.

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