Pets can add companionship, love, and laughter to a family and fill a void. But, to ensure a successful and mutually beneficial relationship, would-be pet owners must carefully consider the family’s needs, resources, and desires, and those of the prospective pet.

Here are eight important considerations for a family trying to determine which pet will best fit their lifestyle and household.

#1: Estimate the financial commitment for each potential pet species or breed

Whether your family is considering a hamster or a harlequin Great Dane, estimating the pet’s initial, ongoing, and unexpected costs and ensuring your budget can accommodate such expenses is most important. Costs may include:

  • Initial:
    • Adoption or purchase fee
    • Housing (e.g., aquarium, cage, crate, fenced yard)
    • Husbandry supplies
    • Initial veterinary exam and care (e.g., deworming, vaccines, microchip)
    • Spay or neuter surgery
    • Training
  • Ongoing:
    • Food or diet
    • Grooming
    • Daycare or dog walking services
    • Toys and treats
    • Annual veterinary wellness (i.e., preventive) care
    • Pet insurance
    • Parasite preventives (i.e., flea, tick, and heartworm medications)
    • Rent fees or pet deposits
  • Unexpected:
    • Illness and injury
    • Medications
    • Emergencies

Online pet cost calculators can help you determine an average range for the pet species or breed you are considering. 

#2: Research the pet’s average lifespan

Ideally, pets are a lifetime commitment, so understanding your potential pet’s expected lifespan and ensuring that matches your family’s vision for the future and your practical ability to provide care for that length of time is crucial. While small pocket pets such as rats and gerbils live only three to four years, popular birds such as parakeets can live as long as 20 years with proper care. Prevent unnecessary rehoming or unexpected heartbreak by doing your research before adopting or purchasing a pet.

#3: Consider how much time you can give to a pet

Like money, time is a limited resource—especially for busy families. Take a look at your typical family schedule and consider where and how a pet will fit. How often will the pet be home alone? Do you and your family travel frequently to places where you cannot take a pet? Can you provide daily exercise, social interactions, and complete necessary care tasks (e.g., cleaning out a litter box or cage)? Consider your answers to each pet’s physical activity and care requirements and typical energy level. 

#4: Family health restrictions

Allergies, certain skin conditions, and immune-compromising health disorders can influence the pet species and breeds that are safe for your family. Ensure a safe and suitable match by talking to your family physician before you adopt or purchase a pet.

#5: Familiarize yourself with local pet ownership restrictions 

Some municipalities prohibit citizens from owning specific pet breeds or species, or have size or weight restrictions, while other potential pet owners may be limited by their rental or homeowner association (HOA) agreement. Understanding these restrictions can prevent the unnecessary heartache of rehoming a beloved pet, paying costly fees and fines, and jeopardizing your living situation (e.g., eviction).

#6: Consider your current pet’s needs and preferences

If you already have a pet, think about the impact of a new arrival. Are the species compatible? If you have a dog or cat, are they tolerant of others—including puppies and kittens? Will you need to install protective barriers or set up a secure, safe space to protect pets from each other (e.g., predator and prey, such as a cat and small rodents)? Do you have enough space for multiple pets to peacefully coexist?

#7: Understand the pet’s care needs and who will be responsible for the care

Families often adopt or purchase pets to instill responsibility and maturity in their children. However, the Greenfield Veterinary Clinic team strongly discourages appointing minors as a pet’s sole caregiver. Instead, think of pet care as a team effort. List your prospective pet’s daily and long-term needs (e.g., walks and physical exercise, feeding, attention, grooming, training) and decide—as a family—who will take on each role or task. This collaborative approach ensures the pet’s needs are always met. If the family’s interest or availability is lacking for a specific pet or breed’s care needs, consider a lower maintenance pet.

#8: Map out what you want from pet ownership

Finally, write out a list of traits, interactions, and experiences each family member desires from pet ownership. This could include snuggling on the couch, long days exploring the great outdoors, personal protection, a reason to be more active, opportunities to observe and learn from another species, or the satisfaction that comes from caregiving. Another list may include physical attributes, such as cuddly fur, a soft expression, small or large size, or a powerful and impressive build. After each family member has weighed in, evaluate their responses, along with their answers about expenses and time requirements. By reviewing your pet selection criteria in this order, you will avoid basing your decision on a pet’s looks or initial impression, and make more thoughtful and successful decisions that work for every family member, and your future pet.

Do you have additional questions about pet selection and ownership? Contact our Greenfield Veterinary Clinic team for practical and professional advice and recommendations about the best places for adopting or purchasing a healthy, happy pet.