Consider needs, money, size, when choosing pet

Posted: Sunday, March 09, 2008


  Is a parakeet the right choice for you? JIM WATKINS

Is a parakeet the right choice for you?


Taking a trip to a pet store or animal shelter to look for a new pet can be overwhelming.

Cats and kittens mew and paw at passers-by through metal bars.

The sound of puppies and dogs whining and barking is deafening.

So how does one choose the right pet to fit his personality and lifestyle?

Experts say people should carefully consider each animal's needs, disposition and life span before making a final decision on a new pet.

Regardless of what type of pet a person chooses, he must remember to be responsible and kind.

It takes a lot to keep your best friend happy whether she's a poodle or a python, but it's worth it in the end.


Maintaining an aquarium is much simpler than most people believe, said Kyle Howard, president of Mr. Aquarium G.P. Inc.

All fish require are proper feeding and water changes, proper tank mates and an aquarium timer, filter and heater, he said.

Freshwater aquariums generally require about 30 minutes of maintenance each month, while people with saltwater aquariums might spend an hour a month keeping their tanks clean, Howard said.

People who do not have space in their apartment, dorm or office for an aquarium or who are on a tight monetary and time budget might consider owning a betta, which require a small container, daily feedings and minimal water changes.

People on a moderate budget might choose a small to large freshwater or saltwater aquarium.

Freshwater fish owners with a 10- to 20-gallon tank could expect to spend about $5 to $10 a month on fish food and other aquarium upkeep. Saltwater fish owners can expect to pay at least double what freshwater owners pay each month.

Saltwater aquariums are more expensive to start up and maintain because more equipment is involved and saltwater fish on average are more expensive than freshwater fish.


Canines require a lot of attention, Byrd said.

Small dogs can live 15 to 17 years, and large breeds may live more than nine years.

People with hectic lifestyles probably should not adopt a dog unless they plan on slowing down to care for their pet.

However, just because someone lives in an apartment, doesn't mean he can't own a dog. But people must choose a dog that is appropriate for their home. For example, a large-breed dog like a Great Dane probably wouldn't be happy in an apartment. A better choice would be small or medium breed like a Yorkshire terrier or pug.

No matter what breed the dog is, animals who become bored because of lack of attention or because they don't get enough exercise tend to be destructive, Byrd said.

House training or teaching obedience is challenging and takes time and patience.

Owning a pet is a financial responsibility, too. Dog owners can expect to spend $600 to $800 a year on veterinarian care, toys, treats and food for their pooch.

Choosing the right dog can be tricky, so Byrd suggests people take personality, not just looks, into consideration.


Felines are fairly small, independent animals, making them a good choice for apartment dwellers and busy people.

Although cats do not require daily walks, there is no such thing as an auto-pilot pet.

Indoor cats can live to be as old as 20 years, which means a potential cat owner must be 100 percent committed to this furry friend.

Cat owners must make sure they have enough time to clean their pet's litter box, feed and groom the cat regularly.

Byrd estimated cat owners can expect to pay about $300 to $400 a year on veterinarian care, food, toys and cat litter.

A person must decide whether he would get along with an extroverted or introverted cat. Extroverted cats tend to require more interaction than introverted cats who prefer to watch from the sidelines.


Feathered friends are intelligent, social creatures.

Birds including parrots, cockatoos and canaries need a lot of human interaction to be happy.

However, two or more love birds or finches will bond with each other if put in the same cage.

Taking a bird out of its cage every day is essential but can be messy.

Like any intelligent animal, birds can become destructive if they are not kept busy.

Birds may not be a good pet for children under 8 years old. Small children usually do not have the patience or gentleness to handle an animal as fragile as a bird.

Some birds that are given the mental stimulation and care they need can entertain their human companions by mocking, speaking and singing.

Parrots can live up to 80 years, cockatoos typically live about 40 and canaries can live for as many as 20.

Small mammals

Gerbils, ferrets, rats and rabbits are smaller than dogs and cats and live in contained habitats, but that doesn't mean they require less care.

In addition to feeding these pets, owners must thoroughly clean the animals' cages.

Small mammals also require human interaction and should be handled by their owners every day, not spend all their time locked in a cage.

Some small mammals also require exercise either in an exercise wheel or a plastic exercise ball.

If properly taken cared for, gerbils and rats can live up to three years while rabbits can live up to 10.


Owning an exotic pet isn't for everyone, said Ryan Blakey, owner of Walter's World of Pets. Nontraditional pets such as snakes, reptiles or iguanas must be set up in an enclosure that is as close to the animal's natural habitat as possible.

This often means extensive research is required before someone goes out and buys an exotic pet. Each exotic has a unique diet, and in order to provide proper nutrition, exotic-pet owners must research the animal's health requirements as well.

It is difficult to find veterinarians trained to care for reptiles and other exotic animals and can be hard to find reliable information about their care, as well.

Just like with a cat or a dog, owning an exotic pet can be a life-long commitment. Iguanas can live up to 15 years and boa constrictors up to 23 years.

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