Picking a Pet: Things to Think About

The greatest pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him, and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself too. – Samuel Butler

As a kid, it seemed so simple – picking a pet, that is. Go to the animal shelter with Grandma and find one you like. Bring it home. Love it. What could be easier?

Years later, when my own kids wanted a family pet, I suddenly understood what Grandma must have been thinking before she even mentioned going to “the dog pound,” as it was called back in the day. Deciding to share years of your life, time, money and energy with another completely dependent being is a big decision. Impulsively getting a pet can spell disaster for both you and the animal.

When thinking about getting a family pet, consider the pet’s lifespan, the time requirements and the initial and annual costs of its care.

Pet Lifespans

A particularly important thing to consider when trying to decide what kind of pet to get for our families is the length of time particular pets live. Some pets live upwards of 70 years and could potentially outlive us. If we choose a pet with a very long lifespan, we must make sure to have a plan in place just in case it does outlive us. Not everyone wants such a lengthy commitment.

Let’s take a look at how long some different pets live, on average.

    Pet Average Lifespan
    Cats 14 years or more
    Dogs 10 years or more
    Goldfish 2 years or more
    Birds 7 to 80 years
    Guinea Pigs, Hamsters, Mice 2 to 10 years
    Reptiles 2 to 20 years

Time Requirements

Before getting a pet, we need to ask ourselves how much time we can realistically spend caring for it. It takes time to walk and exercise dogs, shop for food, buy puppy pads in bulk for house training, grooming and vet visits.

A Closer Look at the Costs of Common Pets

We can count on spending money – probably more than anticipated. The overall initial and average yearly cost of some common pets might be a real eye-opener. I know it was for me. In fact, it’s a little scary to think about – considering that I have two dogs and three cats. I knew it added up, but seeing it in black and white really puts it into perspective!

    Pet Initial Cost Average Yearly Cost
    Cats $75 to $500+ $300 to $400
    Dogs $80 to $500+ $225 to $1200
    Fish $25 to $150+ $150 to $200
    Birds $90 to $1,000+ $40 to $50
    Pocket Pets $50 to $100 $30 to $50
    Reptiles $100 to $400+ $90 to $700

Typical expenses for some common pets are shown in the chart below

    Pet Items
    Cats Litter, litter box, health insurance, toys, treats, food, recurring medical, spay/neuter, scratching post, carrier, grooming tools, pet sitter.
    Dogs Collar, leash, health insurance, toys, dog dental care products, treats, food, recurring medical, spay/neuter, crate, grooming, training class, daycare, boarding, license
    Fish Aquarium equipment and stand.
    Birds Bird cage, litter, health insurance, toys, treats, food, recurring medical, carrier, pet sitter.
    Pocket Pets Cage, disposable bedding, health insurance, toys, treats, food, recurring medical, spay/neuter, carrier, grooming tools, pet sitter, collar, harness, leash, litter box (rabbits).
    Reptiles Enclosure, heat lamp, treats, food, recurring medical, carrier, pet sitter

Making the Decision

Adding a pet to our families is no simple matter; however, with careful consideration and a realistic look at our lifestyle and resources, we can make a good decision about whether or not to do so. Animals can bring us a lot of joy, humor and love into our lives for years to come. If the time is not right at the moment, but your heart is set on having a furry, feathered or scaly friend, try not to despair. Re-evaluate the situation in a few months and remember the reason you are being so careful in making this choice is so both you and the pet will have the best possible lives.

Pet advocate and writer, Jane Warren, spends her time helping other pet lovers learn how to best care for their furry, scaly or feathered friends, and money-saving tips for their care. She also enjoys international travel, spending time on the ocean and scuba diving.

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