Your family has decided to add a four-legged member to the household. This is not simply a choice between cats or dogs. Would a bird or reptile be a better fit? Would a gerbil or rabbit better suit your family’s personality? There is a long list of possibilities, and taking the time to do the research and decide which pet would be perfect for your family is prudent. Making a choice that you later realize is not ideal leads to the painful process of returning the pet or finding them another home. You can avoid this situation by doing the proper groundwork ahead of time and considering these responsibilities of pet ownership.

#1: Adopting a pet means accepting responsibility for their wellbeing

A pet is a living, breathing creature, and not an item you buy on impulse and set aside when the newness wears off. As a pet owner, you are accountable for the animal’s quality of life, which is a serious responsibility. If you choose to bring a dog into your home, you must walk them regularly, regardless of the weather. Some bird species live to 100 years of age. Who will be responsible for your bird if they outlive you? As a pet owner, you can no longer jet off on vacation without finding someone to look after your pet while you are away. Ensure you are prepared to take on this level of commitment before adopting a pet. 

#2: Pet ownership can be expensive

From food, to supplies (e.g., crates, aquariums, blankets), to veterinary expenses, pet ownership costs can add up quickly. Being proactive with your pet’s health care with regular wellness visits can help mitigate these costs, but despite following your veterinarian’s advice and recommendations, your pet may still become sick or injured and need veterinary care. Ensure you are willing and able to provide for these pet expenditures.

#3: Do local laws cover pets’ housing?

If you are renting your home, you will need to check whether the property owner allows pets, if only certain pets are permitted, and if the number of pets is limited. If you own your home, confirm that your homeowners association makes no stipulations on pets. For example, some communities ban certain dog breeds.

#4: Pets require different amounts of attention and physical activity

Dogs, especially certain breeds such as Labrador retrievers, need plenty of exercise and demand constant attention. Cats enjoy play time and appreciate occasional petting, but tend to be independent. Birds can be noisy and require constant cage cleaning. Reptiles are usually reclusive. If you are gone from home for long periods, some pets will need more attention (e.g., doggy daycare) so that they don’t become anxious and bored, and perhaps destructive. Consider the amount of activity and attention you can provide to guide your choice of pet.

#5: Not all pets are child-friendly

If you have children, your choice of pet has extra significance. Certain dog breeds, such as Labrador and golden retrievers, and Bernese mountain dogs, are known to be more relaxed and friendly around children. You should also consider whether young children understand that animals like birds or gerbils are fragile, and that all animals deserve respect. The safety of your child and the adopted pet is an essential consideration.

#5: Some pets do not play well with others

If you already own a pet, they definitely factor into the equation. Will your new pet socialize well with your current pet? Will your current pet accept another animal on their territory? Animal fights can result in property damage and injuries to pets and people, so ensure everyone will likely be compatible.

Adopting a new animal is exciting, but you want as seamless and painless an experience as possible for your family and your new pet. So, doing your homework ahead of time, finding the pet most compatible with your family’s lifestyle, and ensuring the whole family is on board with the choice of pet, should prevent the difficult situation of being forced to return the animal.

At Airway Animal Clinic, we want you to make the right choice for a happy pet and a happy family. Contact our veterinary team if you have any questions about your circumstances that may affect your decision.