Tips for picking perfect pet

Posted: Sunday, February 02, 2003

Picking the perfect companion animal can seem difficult, but with a bit of patience, a little prior research and some careful consideration, making this lifetime commitment can be quite easy.

One of the first things to consider when thinking about adding a pet to your life is your lifestyle.

What is your lifestyle? Do you have time to have a pet? If you're rarely home, travel a lot or just work long hours, a dog is probably not for you. Possibly a pet that requires little attention on a daily basis, such as a reptile, would better suit your needs.

In addition, many people who want to add a dog to their life will only consider getting a puppy, but puppies require a tremendous amount of time, patience and energy.

Be honest with yourself. If your lifestyle doesn't accommodate the constant demands of a puppy, consider adopting an adult dog.

Local animal shelters are good places to rescue adult dogs, and, as many people who have brought home these dogs will tell you, a dog's age has little to no effect on its bonding with a caregiver.

Another important aspect of lifestyle is matching a pet to your interests. If you're an athletic person who enjoys jogging or going for long walks, look for athletic or active dogs.

A person who enjoys coming home and curling up in front of the TV may be better suited to a cat.

Research breeds that are similar to your lifestyle so they can accompany you in your interests.

When making lifestyle considerations, think about other family members as well. Is anyone allergic to dander from animal fur? A pet may be surrendered to a shelter when reactions become unbearable to the sufferer despite their love for the pet. Perhaps a bird, fish or reptile would be a better option.

Be sure to factor children into the equation. Cats and some small breeds of dogs can be fragile under the rough play of young children. Other breeds may just be intolerant of tugging on their coats and tails and can get snappy -- or worse. You may want to look into breeds like retrievers, which tend to be affectionate and gentle with kids.

Another important aspect of selecting the right pet is your living situation. Eval-uate the size of your house and yard before purchasing a pet. Cats often require less space than dogs.

Small mammals like guinea pigs, hamsters and gerbils can be rewarding pets in small homes or apartments. Birds also may be ideal under these situations.

In regard to your living situation, also consider an animal's coat. Do you want long or short hair on your dog or cat? How do you feel about shedding? These are important questions to ask yourself.

Some breeds like York-shire terriers require frequent brushing at home, as well as occasional professional grooming. If you're interested in a lap dog that will require this kind of attention, this breed may be well suited to you. If you would rather have a small dog that does not require as much primping, perhaps the shorter coats of a Boston terrier or Jack Russell would better meet your needs.

A final consideration is how much you're willing to spend. Pets can be costly. Big dogs can financially eat you out of house and home. There's also veterinary bills from routine visits for vaccines to keep in mind.

Unless you have your heart set on a particular pure breed, humane societies and animal shelters can be a great way to save some money while saving an animal's life. If you are set on a purebred dog, there are several breed-specific rescue groups that can be found online. Checking newspaper classified ads also can yield pets that need homes.

Dogs and cats can live 10 to 20 years and a potential caregiver should be prepared for this type of long-term commitment. There are no guarantees as to how a pet will ultimately turn out, but with a little prior planning, it may be possible to better match a pet and owner.

In the long run, this may ensure a more fulfilling relationship for both of you.

Joseph Robertia is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion. He has worked with wildlife and domestic animals for more than 10 years as a veterinary technician, a zoo keeper and, most recently, as a zoologist for the Wildlife Conservation Society. He welcomes any pet-related questions or story ideas, but please none of a veterinary nature. Ideas and questions can be sent to his attention by e-mail at

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