For many kids growing up in the ’60s, a pet were more than an animal — they represented the very essence of childhood itself. When you’re a kid, your family pet is an extension of yourself. It’s as much a part of who you are as where you live, what you eat, what kind of car you drive and even your favorite pair of jeans. You might have a reason why those blue-jeans go with sneakers better than any other color, but it doesn’t matter if they don’t match your shirt or jacket. Pets are no different. They reflect our personalities and habits, and sometimes there isn’t one single thing we all agree on when making these choices.
So how exactly does one pick a family pet? How do you narrow down from hundreds of options until there remains only one choice left standing above them all? Well, first off, think about the personality traits you want in your new friend. Do you prefer dogs over cats? Or perhaps you’d rather stay away from both altogether? Then consider the lifestyle and size of the animal you’ve chosen, since each has its own set of pros and cons. Once you have some ideas in mind, read on to learn how to find the right animal for your home!
Pets Are Like People
There are plenty of things people tend to love about their pets. One common denominator is loyalty. Dogs are loyal creatures, especially toward their owners. Cats also exhibit this trait, but usually less so because felines often take longer to warm up to strangers.
Some dogs, however, refuse to befriend anyone else except their owner, while others accept company with ease. This characteristic makes pets ideal companions for children, providing an opportunity to bond with someone other than mom or dad. In fact, studies show that having pets at home helps reduce loneliness among elderly individuals.
Another advantage of owning pets is their ability to provide comfort during stressful times. Most animals seem to understand when something troubling happens to us, whether it involves death, divorce or losing a job. By being near pets, we feel safe, secure and cared for by a member of another species. We know this phenomenon goes beyond simple affection, though. Scientists believe that certain chemicals released during interaction with pets make humans happier and healthier. These compounds include dopamine, oxytocin (a hormone responsible for inducing feelings of trust and attachment) and serotonin (an anti-depressant). Pets may simply boost happiness levels without actually doing anything, but researchers say that’s still enough to help us cope with life’s hardships.
Finally, pets offer unconditional love. Unlike parents or significant others, pets won’t ever judge us, criticize us or get angry at us. Their acceptance of us is priceless. No wonder most people would gladly give up money or material possessions to keep a beloved pet around.
With all these benefits, pets are beneficial members of society. Still, before deciding upon a particular type of pet, there are several factors worth considering. Read on to discover what they are.
Animals are capable of displaying complex emotions. While dogs bark when they see something suspicious outside, birds fly away whenever they sense danger, and fish swim towards light sources to avoid predators, cats display none of these behaviors — yet scientists found evidence suggesting they too possess sentience, meaning awareness of self and surroundings.
The Importance Of Personality
You needn’t look far to realize the importance of temperament when choosing a pet. If your dog bites every time you enter the house, he probably shouldn’t become a permanent fixture in your living room. Likewise, if a cat scratches everyone within reach, it should never move in next door. Even if you plan to train such pets later on, selecting wisely now could save you years of work trying to teach a mischievous puppy to sit or a mean kitten to play nice. Before committing to buying a pet, try visiting local shelters or rescue groups to meet potential candidates firsthand. Talk to experienced breeders, too, although beware of sales pitches aimed at convincing you to buy whatever pet catches your eye today. Remember, you’re looking for a lifelong commitment — not a quick fix solution.
Once you’ve narrowed down your search to a few pups or kittens, pay attention to their behavior. Does your furry buddy growl or snap at visitors? Is he generally aggressive or shy? Observe his interactions with others, including staff members. What kinds of noises does he make? Will he run freely outdoors, or does he require supervision? Finally, ask questions regarding training and care. All of these characteristics tell you important information concerning the future well-being of your new pal.
Now let’s discuss the role of physical attributes in determining the quality of your pet.
While the majority of research involving the emotional effects of pets was conducted on older adults, recent studies suggest younger folks benefit as well. Studies performed by University of Bristol psychologist James Rilling showed that subjects reported lower blood pressure after interacting with a therapy animal. Other studies indicate that exposure to pets reduces stress hormones and increases positive mood.
What’s Your Affinity For Animals?
Your affinity for animals can affect the type of pet you select. Generally speaking, you’ll gravitate toward either large mammals like horses or small ones like mice. There are several reasons behind these preferences, but experts point mainly to instinctual differences between the two types.
Horses’ larger bodies allow them to carry heavy loads across long distances. Smaller animals, however, lack sufficient strength and stamina for prolonged travel. As a result, horseback riders enjoy greater mobility compared to smaller equine friends. However, some people opt for smaller breeds specifically due to allergies to large animals. Horses are also harder to maintain, requiring lots of space, food and water. Lastly, the high cost associated with caring for horses discourages many families from keeping them as pets.
On the flip side, rodents such as hamsters and gerbils come with fewer demands, aside from general cleanliness. Rodents are relatively inexpensive to feed and house. Also, rodent droppings aren’t nearly as messy as those produced by larger pets. Yet, despite these advantages, some people worry about rats spreading diseases through shared areas and harbor fleas that can transmit serious illnesses.
As you can see, personal preference plays a major factor in determining which type of pet suits you best. To determine your true calling, talk to professionals specializing in various kinds of pets. Visit zoos, aquariums, farms and veterinarians to gain insight into the needs of specific creature comforts. Afterward, compare your findings against the list below to decide which category fits your lifestyle best.
Rodent lovers may want to check out rats, guinea pigs and prairie dogs. Rats and guinea pigs are fairly low maintenance, whereas prairie dogs thrive under human care. There are many non-typical family pets for you to consider.
Another option is a bird. Birds are popular pets for beginners thanks to their friendly nature. Many households keep parrots, cockatiels, finches and budgies, all of which require little upkeep and discipline. Although exotic, some varieties of birds can produce loud squawking sounds that disturb neighbors.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, cuddly critters like kitties, bunnies, turtles and hedgehogs are popular pets for young children. Since their fur requires regular grooming, caretakers must spend extra time brushing and combing them daily.
If cuddly is not right for you, maybe a reptile suits your need. They are easy to care for and low maintenance. Most reptiles, like bearded dragons (or beardies) and geckos, require only a few small accessories to make them happy.
The feline variety of pet is also popular. Cats are highly interactive and require longer periods of grooming/tending than other pets. Cats also produce a “come hither” stare that people initially find irresistible; however, this can cause serious psychological issues in the future.
Next, we’ll explore the final piece of the puzzle: size.
Although bigger animals typically require more effort and resources, they also bring additional joy to our lives. Watching a herd of elephants wander past your window as morning dew glistens on their massive ears is breathtaking. Similarly, seeing giraffes towering over trees provides hours of fun viewing. Bigger animals also serve as excellent hunting grounds for wild prey.
Consider The Lifestyle And Size
Size matters when choosing a pet, particularly if you live in apartments or townhouses. Large animals can create problems indoors, where space is limited. Consider adopting a miniature version of a full-grown pet. Miniatures are great for apartment dwellers who don’t want to deal with constant cleaning. Miniature versions of medium-sized animals are also available, but these may prove difficult to handle if adopted alone. Therefore, it’s advisable to obtain a companion mini along with its adult counterpart.
If you live in a rural area, big animals are a necessity. Think carefully, however, before bringing home a horse or cow. First, estimate how big your land truly is. Compare that number to the size of your proposed animal. Don’t forget to account for fences, fencing materials and watering facilities necessary to properly care for such animals. Next, calculate roughly how much pastureland your animal will consume annually. Last, figure out how willing you are to build barns and stables to accommodate animals like cows and horses. Just remember to leave room for expansion.
If you are limited on space small animals such as gerbils, hamsters or even crested geckos may be perfect for you. These creatures can fit anywhere, require little time or effort for cleanings, are low on maintenance and come with small price tags.
If you’re new to animal ownership, it may take a little longer to determine the type of pet that will suit your lifestyle best. It’s possible your needs shift over time as you gain experience with different animals. Visit pet stores near you to test out various species before making a final choice.