A pet can bring tremendous joy to a family. Whether its being entertained by their charming antics or the calming effects of stroking their bodies, they de-stress our lives. While pet ownership is a responsibility, a family pet should not be a burden. Careful consideration needs to be given to the pet’s expected longevity, demands for daily care and attention, and expectations of interactions with small children and other pets in the household.
Dogs and parrots tend to demand the most attention and do best when regular attention is provided. They also require at least some basic training. For dogs, coming when called and walking on a leash (owner walking dog and not dog walking owner) provides for a more enjoyable relationship. Additional training is at each person’s discretion. Since my dogs have always been unruly, my “free spirit” approach is not appreciated by some. Be prepared for scornful glares if yours is not “well behaved.” Parrots need to be trained to stand on the hand and step up onto the hand when outside of their enclosure to best engage with their owners. Most parrots will occasionally bite and owners will need to be tolerant of this. Choose one with a small beak if this is a concern.
Cats in general do fine without a daily routine and get by if a couple of days pass without attention. With that said, cat personalities and preferences for human interaction vary considerably. While some cats like to be held or sit on laps most do not. Some prefer to be appreciated from a distance. Most do what they feel like irrespective of what you want. While an occasional cat will “act like a dog” if cuddly and responding with attention on your terms is desired than a cat may not be a fit for you.
Children will always chase the kitty, tease the dog and want to pick up and hug their pets. While the kitty can run and hide, a dog needs to be tolerant of a child’s handling. Most Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers respond with their tail wagging to any attention even if their skin is being grabbed or twisted. On the other hand, a herding breed or terrier or most small breeds will not tolerate this. Choosing the appropriate breed for the household is critical. Some dogs do best in a household with older children and adults where human behaviors are better controlled.
If a dog or cat is not possible, a rat makes a great pet. They are intelligent and engaging. You want to get a young rat so that it develops a desire to be handled. Rats handled from a young age are generally more tolerant of being carried about by children than rabbits and guinea pigs.
Reptiles vary greatly in terms of pet qualities and generally require a big commitment of time and effort to provide appropriate care and habitat. Some are highly intelligent. Bearded Dragons and Tortoises can develop strong bonds and attachment to their owners.Once you have decided on a pet, it is a good idea to take it to the veterinarian for an examination before getting attached. Having a thorough examination and review of care, diet and behavior can prepare you for your new responsibility and avoid surprises and frustration. Remember that as pets age, they often need more care and attention to their health needs. You’ll be rewarded though to find that the silly puppy or kitten aged to develop a character all of their own that you’ll remember as a once in a lifetime.