Getting a pet is a major decision-it's not like getting a PlayStation or a new bike! You're adding a new member to your family who will have an effect on everyone in your household -- your parents, your sibs, even your other pets -- and not just you. Getting the right pet is really important. Figuring out which pet is best for your situation calls for you to do a little homework. Ask yourself the following questions, and be as honest as you can:
Why do I want a pet? This is a really important question. Do you want a particular pet because your best friend has one? Or because you saw one on TV? Do you feel the need to replace a pet that you lost? Do you just really want a companion who you can love, take care of, and learn from?
Do I want a pet who gives love back, or one that will just be fun to watch and play with? Are you a first-timer in the pet department and want to get "warmed up" with a lower-maintenance pet? Would you rather make that big leap to a pet that takes more commitment but has more rewards (in the form of licks, purrs, and furry cuddles)?
How mature am I? Are you ready to take care of an animal's needs? Will you hate having to get up early or come home right after school to feed your pet, and complain about it-or just not do it? Remember, animals depend on us. They can't feed themselves!
How willing am I to help out? Are you willing to be the main, or only, caretaker of your new pet? Will you help other family members take your pooch for walks or clean out your cat's litter box?
How will the pet affect the rest of my family? Is Mom allergic to dogs? Is your little brother afraid of snakes? Are you all away from home a lot, traveling or just in daily life? You need to consider your whole family's concerns when choosing a pet.
What about my siblings? You want a turtle, but your big sister wants a lizard. So how do you decide what animal to pick? Sit down and talk with your siblings about the kind of pet you want to get and do some research together. You might have to compromise, but the nice thing about having a sibling is that you can work together to a) convince your parents that your family is ready for a pet and b) share responsibilities.
What's my home like? How much space do you have for a pet? Do you live in a small apartment or a big house? Is there a backyard? Is it fenced? How will your neighbors feel about your new pet? If your parents rent, does your landlord allow pets?
Choosing the right animal
Next you need to decide which animal fits the maintenance level you and your family can handle.
Lowest Maintenance Pets don't require a lot of love or special care and include:
Your time commitment to these animals will probably be about 15 minutes a day for feeding and about an hour a week to clean tanks or cages. One thing to remember though: these animals aren't cuddly or affectionate, so while they may be fun to watch and a good way to learn about animals, they may not give you the close relationship you want.
Low Maintenance Pets are:
- Small birds, like parakeets and canaries
- Rodents, like guinea pigs, gerbils, hamsters, mice, and rats
These pets require 15 to 30 minutes a day of feeding and weekly cage or litter box cleaning.
When it comes to cats, keep in mind that different cats have different personalities! Some cats are more independent and only need a little bit of attention, while others might always want your companionship and affection (taking more time and energy).
Rabbits and rodents can also be very loving and become great friends.
Medium Maintenance Pets are dogs. Dogs require much more attention and time than cats or gerbils. They need to be exercised and fed daily, and groomed regularly. Dogs may also have to get training or obedience lessons, and need way more human interaction than other animals. Expect to spend an hour or two every day taking care of your canine pal.
High Maintenance Pets include:
- Large birds like parrots
- Exotic animals like chimpanzees, llamas, or pot-belly pigs
These animals require a lot more care, attention, time, and money. They also need a lot of space, so unless you live in a zoo or on a large farm, high maintenance pets probably aren't for you!
Love is sometimes better the "second time around"
If you want a pet like a dog or cat and are worried about how much work a puppy or kitten will be, think about getting a "teenaged" or adult animal! Here's why some people decide to do this:
- With older pets, what you see is what you get. Their personalities are developed and they know who they are, and this really helps if you want a certain type of animal. A kitten or puppy's personality is still a mystery and you don't know what type of adult they'll become.
- They've already been through the baby stage and most of the mischief, like chewing slippers or climbing the curtains. Plus, you don't have to worry about housebreaking a dog, and many grown-up dogs have already had obedience training.
- You can be sure of the pet's full size and overall appearance as an adult.
- Older pets know they've found a great new home and will be super-grateful to you for it!
Once you've figured all this out, it's time to think about Getting Permission to have a pet.