How to pick the right pet

Discovery Place Nature


Thinking of adding a pet to your family? Most people enjoy the company of pets. For others, the companionship that a pet can provide is necessary.

There’s a lot to consider when choosing your perfect pet. Whether you’re a family of one or many, here are the top five factors to consider when trying to decide which pet is best for you:

1. Commitment - How much time do you have? Big animals like dogs need to go on walks and should have exercise several times a day. Animals like gerbils, fish, and guinea pigs need less of a commitment and might be a better alternative. But well-adjusted gerbils and guinea pigs still need attention and handling every day.

2. Temperament - Many animals that require less commitment may have a disposition that is not suitable for your household. Gerbils and hamsters don’t live as long as other pets, and they can be sensitive, even prone to biting when handled incorrectly. These animals may not be appropriate for children under 8 years old without adult supervision. Hamsters, for example, are nocturnal and become active just as you might be going to sleep. Waking them up during the day usually upsets them -- for good reason!

When considering larger animals, keep in mind their temperament as well as the personality of your household. Many animals inherit the temperament of their parents. Different breeds of dogs and cats were developed for various uses. Matching the correct breed to your lifestyle is important for the happiness of your family and the animal. If you're considering a dog, take this fun quiz from Animal Planet and select a breed that's right for you.

3. Expenses - Can you afford an animal? Pet ownership is generally accompanied by a large price tag. Dogs and cats can quickly burn a hole in your pocket. According to a reference guide published by the ASPCA, a small dog in the first year will cost its owner over $1,400 and a cat over $1,000. Smaller animals like gerbils, guinea pigs and fish cost less upfront and much less per year.

4. Longevity - Suppose you have the time to commit and the money to spend, and you have found an animal with the right personality. It is just as important to consider how long a pet may live before you decide to take one home. Many species of turtles and birds can live over 50 years and may even outlive you! Also keep in mind that most reptiles and fish are sold very early in their lives and quickly grow much larger than they appear. Other reptiles, like snakes, can live up to 30 years in captivity. Even some small dog breeds can live up to 20 years.

5. Consider Animal Rescues - The vast majority of animals sold in pet shops come from large scale commercial breeders. Often, they are more stressed and prone to health problems. With a little research, you can locate a licensed, responsible hobby breeder or rescue organization for almost every popular pet that exists. Even exotic animals like rabbits and goldfish often end up for adoption at our county shelters. Adopting a rescued animal is a great start to your relationship with that pet!

These are just some things to consider before getting a pet.

Every animal is unique and will need different amounts of food, healthcare, exercise, attention and space. With research and consideration, you can add a wonderful new member to your family, and enjoy their beauty, companionship and antics for years to come.

Want to learn more about responsible pet ownership and meet some rescued and exotic pets? Join us for Petapalooza this Saturday, January 20, from 9:00 a.m. - noon at Discovery Place Nature.

Meeting rescued dogs available for adoption at Discovery Place Nature

Please leave your pet friends at home for this event. Creature Features are supported by The Guild of Discovery Place and Discovery Place Nature. Programming includes crafts, games and live animal encounters.

  • Written by
  • Alden Picard