Choosing a Pet That Is Right for You and Your Family!

By: Nancy Turner, DVM

TVMA Member
Dallas, TX

Published June 2014

Congratulations, you’ve decided to adopt a pet! Pets can be a great addition to your family; however, many people do not stop to think about what type of pet would be good for their family before bringing one home. This is one reason why so many animals are surrendered to shelters or sanctuaries. By reading this, you are one step closer to choosing the perfect one for you. While you’re reading this, I also encourage you to think beyond dogs and cats as potential pets. Many other animal species can be rewarding and fun. I had a rat when I was younger, and he was an amazingly smart and fun animal. Keep an open mind when choosing as your perfect pet may surprise you!

Once you’ve had a conversation with your family about adding a pet to the household and have confirmed that everyone is on board, research is necessary to determine which animal may be a good fit.  Choosing to adopt an animal without all the facts could lead to heartache when expectations and efforts don’t align. Prior reflection and planning will help avoid surprises and frustration and set you and your pet on the path to a long, happy relationship. Below are some factors to consider.

Time Commitment

Time is, quite possibly, the most important item to consider when choosing a pet. Unfortunately, many people overestimate the amount of free time they have to devote to an animal and underestimate the amount of time a pet will need. Consider how much exercise they will need to be happy and healthy. Will the animal require any extra training? Will your pet do well if you are traveling a lot? One great exercise to determine your family’s true availability is to make a chart of each family member’s schedule. Once you know the amount of time your family has to devote to an animal, talk to a veterinarian. Being experts on animals, veterinarians can give your family a good idea of the time, effort and energy it takes to care for a variety of animal species. Also consider the lifespans of different species when selecting a pet.

Financial Commitment

Finance is another area consistently overlooked or underestimated when people think about choosing what type of pet is right for them. When considering the financial obligations of owning an animal, one should think beyond just medical expenses. Budgets should allow for food, grooming, boarding, training, toys and proper housing (crate, fencing, etc.). Create both a yearly budget and an estimated list of expenses over the course of a pet’s lifetime. Does the animal you are considering fit into your current financial landscape? Realize that it will be better for you and your potential future pet if you are honest. Again, veterinarians are a great resource to help determine what type of financial commitment an animal, whether it is a horse or a hamster, may require.

Space and Environmental Requirements

Space is another extremely important aspect to consider when picking the perfect animal companion. Do you have enough space for a pet? If so, how much space? To be honest, I probably have two cats too many in my house right now. Most cats would prefer 2,500 square feet all to themselves. How much floor space will they and their bedding, food, toys, crate and/or cage take up? Do you already have other pets that will now have to share this space? Would the animal require a secure outdoor space? Could your pet handle Texas heat? Research what your potential pet’s space requirements are and take measurements. Do you have space for the appropriate crate in the corner? Where would you put all the recommended litter boxes? Planning ahead can avoid not only a cluttered, stressed home but also the heartache of realizing you do not have room for a pet you have already grown fond of.

Where to find this perfect pet?

You’ve done your research, budgeting (both time and financial) and space planning. You’ve talked to a veterinarian and everyone in the family is on board with the type of animal you’ve decided would fit best. Now you just need to decide where to get this perfect pet. Whether you ultimately decide to adopt or buy, it is important to know that there are countless rescue organizations for many types of animals, including purebred dogs, ferrets and even lizards. Because of this, rescue organizations are a great place to start your search in choosing. And of course, your local family veterinarian is a great resource. He or she may know reputable animal organizations or breeders in the area and may also be able to put you in contact with specific state clubs or organizations that can give you more information about your desired pet. Take your time looking; the last thing you want is to rush to adopt or purchase an animal that is ill, has behavior issues or is just not the right temperament for your family.

There are countless things to consider when choosing a pet for the family, but all of this planning is worth it in the long run, for both you and the pet you choose. Also, remember that veterinarians are a wonderful resource who can support you every step of the way. They love and are very knowledgeable about animals and want to help you find the perfect one for you and your family.

Nancy Turner, DVM, is a graduate of Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine who lives in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Turner practices at CityVet White Rock.

  • Caleb Hart

    I agree that you shouldn’t overlook the financial element of having a pet. It seems like they eat a lot and consume resources. If I were to get a pet, I’d be worried about it getting sick. That’s the last thing I need to happen. Maybe I would take it in for check ups all the time. http://www.pahlincoln.com/