Guide to Adopting: What animal is right for you?

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Yay! You’re about to adopt a new family member. Obviously, the most important decision is to decide on the kind of animal you want. To figure out which type of animal is for you, follow these tips.

  1. Determine how much time you have to devote to your new pet every day. Cats are usually lower maintenance than dogs. And small animals like gerbils, guinea pigs, and hamsters can require even less work. But remember, even the littlest guys require daily care. If you can’t commit to providing fresh water, food, cleaning, and love every day, you might not be ready for a pet.
  1. Figure out how much you can spend on your pet yearly without going over your budget. Dogs and cats are likely to be more expensive because they require yearly vet visits, vaccinations, heartworm and flea protection, and lots of food. A hamster eats less and doesn’t usually require vaccinations.
  1. How long a commitment can you make to the pet? Cats can live to be upwards of 20 years old. And if you’re adopting a puppy, be prepared to care for him for at least the next 15 years. Hamsters and guinea pigs live shorter lives. And rabbits are somewhere in between with lifespans of nine to 12 years. If you’re thinking about adopting a bird, do lots of research. While a parakeet lives to be between eight and 12 years old, a parrot can live to be 80!
  1. How much time and energy do you have to spend on exercising your pet? If you prefer snuggling up on the couch watching movies all weekend, a couch potato dog might be a good fit. Even better, a cat or small animal like a gerbil won’t require any outdoor exercise. But remember, some cats have high energy levels, too! While you don’t need to take your cat for a run, you might need to spend at least thirty minutes a day playing.
  1. What’s your lifestyle like? Cats are great options for people who work long hours. They don’t need to be let out to use the bathroom. Same thing with gerbils, hamsters, and guinea pigs. If you travel a lot though, you can’t leave any pet alone for more than a day. Cats like a clean litterbox and fresh water. And gerbils and hamsters need clean cages.
  1. Who lives in your house already? Do you have young children or other pets? It’s important to adopt an animal that will fit in with everyone else. Boisterous, playful dogs might not be a good match for a household with toddlers. And hamsters, though they don’t require a lot of energy, might not be safe in a house with young children who don’t understand how delicate the little guys are.
  1. Think about the future. Some animals roll with changes better than others. Will you move in the next five years? Planning on adding to the family? You don’t have to be psychic to know if want to get married or have children in the future. A hamster doesn’t care if he’s in an apartment or a mansion. And he might not notice if there’s a new baby. A small, couch potato dog probably won’t notice the difference between a one bedroom and five bedroom house. But a dog with lots energy probably needs a big fenced backyard or someone dedicated to exercising him. Before you adopt a special-needs dog, like one who has behavioral issues, make sure you can commit to him forever.
  2. How clean do you like your home? And how much time are you willing to spend getting it that way? Animals that live in cages like guinea pigs will obviously have the smallest impact on your house. But cats and dogs will be more noticeable. And a dog that doesn’t slobber or shed might have even less of an impact than a long-haired cat who sheds a lot.
  1. Use experts. Some shelters have specialized adoption coordinators who will speak with you about your lifestyle and housing situation to help match you up with the best pet. But most shelter employees will be able to tell you about an individual animal’s personality and habits.
  1. Adopt! Most people know that buying a cat or dog from the pet store isn’t a good idea. But the small animal retail industry (like rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, and guinea pigs) is also cruel. Check out this undercover investigation into the breeders that supply large chain stores with small pets. Most shelters offer more animals than just cats and dogs. It’s simple to adopt hamsters, gerbils, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, and even reptiles locally.

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