Choosing A New Pet – Written By. Dr. Patricia Ainsworth
Choosing a New Pet – By Dr. Patricia Ainsworth
Regardless whether you are a current, previous or first-time pet owner, a little advance planning can make the entire experience more rewarding. Since Falls Road Veterinary Hospital sees only dogs and cats, I’ll confine my discussion to these species. I love to get calls from prospective pet owners before the decision is made. I’d rather set the record straight in advance than deal with “buyer’s remorse” if the choice is ill-conceived.
One of the most important considerations in pet selection is your own resources of time, space and money. A cat or small dog may be a better choice for your family when resources are more limited. Cats and small dogs eat less than larger dogs. Cost of boarding, grooming and some veterinary services are proportionally less for smaller pets. A cat or small dog may find plenty of space to run and play in an apartment, where a larger dog requires either more space to run or more time spent walking for exercise. If you are a renter, you may be limited to a certain size of pet (if your landlord permits them at all-ask first!). Home owners generally have more latitude in this regard. If you travel frequently, you may find it easier to travel with a smaller pet.
The age of your future pet may be another consideration. By adopting a puppy or kitten, you start from scratch with everything, which may give you the most flexibility if producing the pet you want to own. However, babies of any species are time consuming. Training needs tend to be more intensive for puppies than for kittens, but both can be mischievous and destructive without the proper supervision. If you would prefer to skip ahead a bit, selecting an older pet might suit your lifestyle better.
Once you have a general idea of the type of pet you would like to own, you can get more specific with your search. In broad terms, your next decision may involve whether to acquire a pure-bred or a mixed breed pet. If you are interested in a pure-bred animal, sources include (but are not limited to) private breeders or pet stores. The former may be able to provide more specific background information about the pet you select. You are likely to meet one or both parents, to judge their temperament and appearance for yourself. Many people with allergies favor pure-bred, non-shedding breeds to minimize the chances of allergic reactions. However, searching for a private breeder usually requires more research on your part. There is also the matter of delayed gratification, as puppy production is not a predictable science! The latter choice can provide both convenience and a wider selection of breeds, which can be helpful if you are undecided in choosing a specific breed of dog.
Another great option in your search is the local humane society or rescue organization. These wonderful organizations offer by far the widest choice of pets: adults and juveniles, pure-bred and mixed breeds, dogs and cats. For a nominal fee, you can find your new family member and often save a life in the process.
Pure-bred pets may have some advantages in terms of predictability. By selecting a pure-bred pet, you have a better sense of size, temperament and genetic problems. Mixed breeds might offer “hybrid vigor” and fewer problems, but mixed parentage is never a guarantee of perfect health. Generally, the up-front purchase price of a pure-bred pet is far greater than that of a mixed breed. The exception to this is the recent trend for “designer dogs,” a cross between two (or more) pure-bred breeds with catchy names.
Don’t forget the purchase or adoption price of your pet is NOT all-inclusive! Besides supplies such as food, leashes, collars with tags, beds, toys, litter, and scratching posts (all depending upon whether a dog or cat lives with you), you need to plan for routine medical care costs as well. If your pet has ongoing medical problems, regular checkups, medications and tests may be required. Those pure-bred dogs which do not shed need to have regular grooming care. Dog training may be part of the big picture, especially if you adopt a puppy. Travel or boarding costs may also be a factor, unless you have a wide circle of animal-loving friends with whom you can trade babysitting services! By evaluating different scenarios, you may revise your expectations as to what type of pet best suits your circumstances.
If you already have a pet at home, you want to consider compatibility issues as well. This may be the hardest thing to predict. After all, who really knows what goes on their little pea brains? It is great to have an opportunity for your current and future pets to meet before living together, but this isn’t always possible. You can usually expect several days or weeks of adjustment upon introducing a new pet (sometimes it is the owner, rather than the new pet, getting the cold shoulder!). Hopefully once that time has elapsed, you will find owning a dog or cat to be a source of joy, companionship and love for many years to come.