Many potential pet owners wonder ‘what pet should I get?’ And it is good they think about this before they buy an animal because pet ownership should be taken seriously and responsibly. You will be partners or buddies for the pet’s lifetime, and this could be a few decades. Many pets, like dogs and cats, live for up to 20 years. Tortoises and other reptiles can live up to 100 years! So, for this pet you have to make provisions in your will because Tommy the tortoise could quite likely outlive you.
This is because of the reptilian slow metabolism and slow growth. Contrast this with the speedy metabolisms of mice, rats and hamsters. These little guys whizz around for only two to three years which is sort of good and bad. Good if you are not the long-term commitment type or unsure if pets are for you, but bad because you may get sad…when the little guy goes.
Small pets can be good
Personally, I prefer smaller pets like these, or small dogs as you don’t need a huge yard. And they are super cute. Nor do you feel obligated to go on endless walks or get jumped all over as you enter your house. With small critters you can feel in control and it’s easier to organize a minder when you go away. Just pass the cage over or carry your small pooch in with bed under your arm and wave goodbye for a few days. Not as many people will offer to mind a great Dane or Rottweiller, unless they are into large dogs.
Dogs need company
Although dogs are one of the most popular pets, they are not the happiest if their owners are rarely home. Dogs need company, regular walks, grooming and training. Some poor dogs get none of these. They are a spur of the moment purchase and left on their own while their owners go off to work each day. This is a miserable life for a social animal who needs to bond to a pack of other dogs or humans.
So, if you elect for a canine companion, choose carefully. Pet Insurance Australia lists the most insured pets are Cavoodles, Golden Retrievers and French bulldogs. These breeds top other lists as well for suitable family dogs. The Retriever whether Labrador or Golden seems to be the all-out winner internationally for easy going, being social with other dogs and humans including children.
But it is not a small dog and does shed so you should consider this. Non shedders like Maltese and poodles are good if you want your pet to be a mostly inside companion. Non shedders mean less vacuuming and bedding washing. This may seem a minor worry when you fall in love with your puppy but little things, like dog hair on furniture, bed etc can get annoying after a while.
Pets cost money
Then there is the expense of pet ownership. Pets are not cheap to buy these days nor is pet insurance. Special breeds cost a lot as the breeders have expenses and also want a profit from their puppies. If you want a cheaper pooch, go to the Dog Pound or RSPCA (Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) where preloved or unloved pets wait for a home. There is a huge variety of breeds here and lots of mystery mixes that are just as cute.
It seems not all these refuge pups are miserable as one adopted dog, Bailey walked 10 miles back to the animal refuge. He did this in the middle of the night and even rang the doorbell of the shelter with his paw. Bailey thought this is where he belonged, but the shelter settled him, and he returned to his new family. I really hope this is where he wants to be. Dogs don’t get a choice of owners like owners get a choice of dogs. It is one way selection process in favour of the human.
Other expenses of dog ownership are not one-off start-up costs but ongoing. There is food, not cheap, especially if you opt for the designer dog foods not the supermarket variety. Even there, trays of dog food meat are a similar cost to meat for human consumption. Gone are the days in many parts of the world where dogs exist on the scraps from human meal tables.
Then consider potential vet bills. These are many, many times the cost of human doctor visits. Pet insurance, also not cheap, does not cover many issues especially if the condition claimed for is pre- existing. Start early with insurance before there are pre-existing health issues or maybe not bother at all. It can be cheaper to just pay as you go. If you are lucky, pet visits will be minimal.
What about a cat instead?
Cats can be a more fuss free and cheaper choice, especially for apartment dwellers. These animals are better by themselves as felines are more aloof. They still need the food, water, grooming and attention to toileting that dogs need but it is much easier to leave a cat overnight by itself, even in an apartment. Apartment living is sad for dogs, especially large breeds. The most popular cats are the British and domestic shorthairs and the ragdolls.
These cats do shed fur so for the non-shed breed look to Burmese, Siamese, Siberian and Bengal cats. There is the total hairless option, the Sphynx breed. Dogs also come in hairless varieties as well such as the Chinese Crested, Mexican Hairless and Peruvian Inca Orchid. These exotic animal breeds are great for allergy sufferers and if you want to catch attention while out dog walking.
Pets are not toys
Whichever breed you choose, it is important to keep in mind that both dogs and cats are living creatures, not accessories or toys for small children to unwittingly abuse. How would you like your ears pulled, eyes poked and tail tugged? Kids can be rough. Animals can bite back. And do dogs really like wearing clothes?
Maybe start small for a first pet or a pet that will have children around. Guinea pigs and rabbits can be better for a trial at pet ownership. Like mice and hamsters, they have a shorter life span, 5 to 8 years and can live outside rather than in the house. Wherever they live, however, they make mess. Watch out for the breeding habits. They are as prolific as rabbits. One little male can impregnate many females and then you have a herd or clutch or posse or whatever the collective noun is for many guinea pigs.
Because they are herbivores, they make a lot of poos which need to be cleaned up or the cage becomes unhygienic. Even though the child will say they will do this, you can bet they won’t. It is a rare child who will clean out litter, groom and top up food and water.
At best a child just wants to be involved in the fun parts of playing with bunny. Again, bunny or piggy may not enjoy the child play and could scratch or bite. Then there will be tears. Kids also lose interest in pets like anything and then Mum has even more chores to do. Been there done that with a family of guinea pigs, a rabbit, dog and chickens. Guess who cleaned all the cages.
The best bunny breeds are the Netherland Dwarf, Holland Lop rabbit and the Harlequin voted as most friendly and playful. You can read all about bunny types and their care here at 11 Rabbit Breeds that will become your best Pet Companion. Rabbits are lovely pets. Beatrix Potter based her children’s books on them. They are quiet, don’t bark and rarely bite. However, they do dig, and females make nests. If kept inside, they can chew your cables and that is super annoying, dig up the carpet and chomp on the furniture. Been there done that with my cheeky lop-eared bunnies. But they were fun!
Then if you don’t want a fur baby type pet you can opt for a reptile like a snake or lizard. There are many to choose from. Also crustaceans and fish can be the go. But these take more care and die more easily than you would think considering how well they do in nature. Terrariums and aquariums are poor substitutes for the real world as the conditions have to be just right for these creatures as they are totally immersed in their air/water in the tank and can’t move on to a better environment as they may in nature.
Hermit crabs are not an easy pet for anyone especially children nor are goldfish. My son, an animal lover tried to keep them for many years but something always went wrong. The one that went walkabout and was assumed lost emerged from behind the wardrobe one night, months later. He lived longer than the ones in the terrarium.
A Bit Fishy
Tropical fish are slightly hardier than goldfish but do need a heater. All fish need filtration for their tank. Goldfish fare better in an outside pond. Overfeeding is one common cause of fish deaths. Too much food raises the ammonia and nitrate levels of the water, and these chemicals are toxic to fish. My fish tend to die when someone else feeds them. Less is more with fish.
Well, this will do for an overview. I am not an animal expert but have had most pets, too many pets like the time we had 56 guinea pigs and 23 chickens. A lot of cleaning there for one busy mum.
Whichever pet you choose, I hope it becomes a happy partnership. Animals are great for stress and those who suffer depression. Depression is called the Black Dog because of the loyalty of dogs. Like the dog, depression won’t leave you alone. But animals though giving, also need love and care just like us. Please be kind to them. If you also like animals read our other animal article on the oddities of nature or amuse yourself with Wendy’s take on Groundhog Day.
Photo source dan-barrett-0EhFkzIinlk-unsplash
Joni Scott is an Australian author with three published novels: Whispers through Time and The Last Hotel and Colour Comes to Tangles. Joni also co-hosts a women’s blog; https://whisperingencouragement.com/ and has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.