Choosing a Pet for a Lifetime

Many young adults in their first apartment or house desire a pet. This is especially true when there was a pet in our childhood home and being out on our own can make us yearn for a cat or a dog to greet us at the end of a workday. In choosing a pet, we must be aware of several factors so that we have a lifelong friend who is as happy to be with us as we are to be with them.

First, be aware of the responsibilities of pet ownership– choosing a veterinarian, spaying/neutering, and the daily responsibilities of feeding, grooming and hygiene. Second, assess your lifestyle. Will you choose a cat, a dog, a bird or an exotic animal? A Chihuahua or a Great Dane? A purebred or a pound animal? A puppy or kitten, or a mature dog or cat? It all depends on your living accommodations, your lifestyle, and your expectations of what a pet should be.

If you live in an apartment, you probably should avoid a very rambunctious large breed dog, especially if you spend very little time at home. But that’s not to say that you should avoid all large dogs: Great Danes make very good couch potatoes! If your lifestyle keeps you away from home a lot, you may consider some reptiles and mature cats. Mature cats are usually fairly sedentary and often fit right into a household that isn’t bustling all day long. Animal Shelters are a great place to find older animals in need of a loving home. The important thing to remember with all animals is that they have social needs as well as needs for food and water and you must plan to spend time with them. Pet-proofing your home may also be necessary to keep your pet from getting into mischief or getting injured while you are away.

Other issues to consider are your activity level and personal health. If you are allergic to cats, don’t get a cat — you will suffer and the cat may lose its home and end up in a shelter. At the same time, if you have a very small yard and don’t plan on walking or jogging every day, a large breed hunting-type dog may not be for you.

Yet another consideration, and perhaps the largest, is money. The larger the animal, the more it eats, the more flea and tick products it requires, and the more medication it will need when it gets sick. Living on a tight budget doesn’t mean you should be without a companion animal, it just means that you need to choose more wisely.

Now that you have completed the planning process and are certain that you can make a commitment to a pet, this is a good time to consult a veterinarian. Veterinarians are great resources; after all, pets and their people are what veterinarians are all about. Sometimes a clinic will know of an animal in need of a home like yours. The clinic will always be able to refer you to the local animal shelter or know of a responsible breeder. Veterinarians and their staff can also assist you in making your new pet’s transition into your home a smooth one and educate you about pet food, litter boxes, leashes, crates, and training. Most importantly, they can begin your new friend on a proper health care regimen. If you’re going to have a lifetime of companionship with your animal, the animal will need a lifetime of expert medical care.

Honestly assessing your personal needs and lifestyle and the needs of each breed of animal ensures your future pet a lifelong home. Neglecting these things cause many animals to be relinquished to shelters. Our pets can give us a lot of pleasure and a lot of memories, so be sure to choose your first pet, and all of your pets, wisely. If you need a veterinarian, please visit the Find a Veterinarian page for a list of NJVMA veterinarians in your area.