Choosing the right pet for your family can be an overwhelming decision with a ton of options and factors to be taken into consideration. Are you a dog lover? Cat lover? Maybe you are more of a small critter family? Some people prefer the ease of care of a turtle or fish.
Assuming you are looking for a domestic pet, we’ll focus on the popular domestic animals, rather than “alternative” ones such as skunks.
Dogs – “man’s best friend” – are considered one of the most popular domestic pets. Dog lovers will attest to this, but we also recognize that there are a lot of reasons that people don’t choose dogs as a domestic pet some of which are they can be expensive, require a lot of dedication and work or they are allergic to them. Low-maintenance and dog are rarely associated with one another. If you are considering a dog as a pet, we recommend viewing our article on “Choosing the Right Dog” and doing extensive research and evaluation in choosing the right dog breed for you lifestyle. With over 150 dog breeds to choose from (not including the oh-so-lovable mutts available) can be exciting in itself. Before you start buying your dog bowls and collars, it’s important to know what you are getting into.
The other very popular domestic pets are cats. There are over 50 different breeds of cats with various coat patterns and lengths, as well as personality and characteristics. Calico, Himalayan, Persian, Tabby, Siamese and Birman are some of the more popular breeds available. Cats lovers will definitely argue, cats are full of “viewing entertainment” by their agility, climbing ability, hunting and balancing. Some cats are considered “lap-cats” while others decide when and where they will show their love. Male cats and female cats can have totally different personality traits. Researching cat breeds and male/female traits should play a big part in choosing the right cat for you and your family. Some general rules to follow when choosing a cat is to look at its coat to make sure it doesn’t have any large dark spots (to check for skin issues and/or fleas), check that it has clear eyes and ears, check for staining under the tail (to be sure it doesn’t have intestinal issues) and have a veterinarian give it a check-up to be sure it’s healthy. Be sure you are getting the right kitten or cat and that it’s going to be healthy for a long and happy life.
Small critters such as hamsters, gerbils, and mice are also very popular domestic pets. Considered lower maintenance than a cat or a dog, people choose them (amongst other things) because they love furry critters, but allergies or lifestyle keep them from having a dog or a cat. Gerbils are one of the easiest pets to care for which plays a large role in their popularity and they tend to be frightened less easily than most other rodents such as hamsters or guinea pigs. The key to most of these rodents is to keep their cages clean and since rodents teeth are constantly growing, it’s important to provide them with things to chew on such as wood chips to keep their teeth from overgrowing. Also, since most rodent type pets are good climbers and jumpers, it’s important to keep whatever enclosure you decide to use secure to keep them in their home. If they escape or get scared, speed is on their side and it may be tough to find them. In addition, they like to burrow, so providing them with enough wood shavings is important, so that they can completely cover themselves.
Rabbits, while considered small critters, require more work than a gerbil or hamster. Rabbits need their nails and teeth regularly groomed. In addition, like rodents, their teeth never really stop growing, so they too need to be provided wood chips or the like to help keep their teeth shorter and, even then, they usually need to be clipped. It’s also crucial to clean a rabbit’s cage at least once a week in order to keep their wood shavings or fresh hay clean and to keep fleas and parasites away which thrive on rabbits. Keeping a rabbit healthy and free of disease is an important aspect of caring for them. Both rodents and rabbits are very susceptible to heat stroke, so it’s also important to keep a close eye on the conditions in which they live especially during the summer months.
Lizards are another popular choice for pets. Virtually allergen free and extremely low-maintenance, they vary greatly in size, shape and color. Each type of lizard has adapted to its environment and climate which plays a key role in the way they behave or look. Owning a lizard comes with a new set of terms and vocabulary such as basking (when they lie in the sun or bask in a light), chemosensory (a lizards smell sense, which is extremely strong) and thermoregulation (its ability to control its body temperature). Most lizards eat crickets, but a variety in its diet including plants and supplements is also important and depends on whether it is a herbivorous or omnivorous lizard. Always refer to your particular species of lizard when feeding it. Lizards can have a variety of health issues such as egg binding, cuts, skin problems and nutritional issues. Since lizards are particularly good at hiding their illness, it’s important to keep a keen eye on them and watch them for problems. Some more common pet lizards are anole, geckos and iguanas.
Snakes are another popular reptile found as pets. Snakes can vary from inches to feet in length. Caring for each species of snake can differ greatly, so it’s important to read about your snake in order to provide optimal feeding, water, temperature, humidity, light and housing – all of which are critical for the health of a snake. Most snakes eat prey larger than themselves, which means they also don’t have to eat very often and that can be very appealing characteristic for a pet. Prey can vary greatly (depending on size) from mealworms and crickets to frogs and small fish to mice and rats. Housing size, environment (branches/places to hide) and temperature are critical in providing a healthy and thriving home for a snake.
Millions of people in the world also turn to birds as pets. Most birds are highly intelligent and are loyal family members. Some birds absolutely should not be pets such as falcons or eagles, but parrots, parakeets, cockatiels and cockatoos (to name a few) make wonderful pets. Some birds have the ability to speak and others have amazing signing abilities. Depending upon what you expect from your bird, birds may or may not be the right choice for you. Birds require a lot of attention and care, so they would definitely not be considered “low-maintenance”. While some birds can be loud and rowdy, others are non-obtrusive and quiet, so take into consideration your home, your lifestyle and other pets you may have. Like any pet, choosing to have a bird as a pet is a big responsibility and not to be taken lightly. Many birds also have a very long life span and can become traumatized by being “transferred” from home to home – be ready to make the commitment to the bird before choosing them as a pet.
We can’t depart without acknowledging the fish. There are tons of species of fish and all of them require specific care, so it’s important to address feeding, water temperature and tank size by type. Fish tanks whether it’s just a fish bowl or a tank require maintenance and cleaning. Fish can be beautiful visual entertainment for a home and great alternative for someone who doesn’t have the time to take a dog for a daily walk or provide the attention and care that other pets require.
With over a million skunk and pig owners – we realize that there are a ton of pets we didn’t mention in this article, but we hope you found some useful information in choosing the right pet for you and your family. Good luck in your decision!