By Max Mervis

Most of us would agree that bringing a new pet into your home enriches your life in many ways. If you are seriously considering adding a new member to your household, the first step is to become familiar with the specific needs of different types of pets to find one that will fit your lifestyle. Each pet is different when it comes to cost, care, housing, and demands on your time; so arm yourself with information first. That way, once you are ready to make the final selection, you will be able to make an informed decision that will lead to a long, happy relationship for both you and your pet.

A good starting point is to ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you able to fully commit to a regular schedule of walking and feeding?
  • Are you able to handle pet hair or a litter box?
  • Do you have someone else available to take care of pet responsibilities when you travel?
  • Are there children in the home? Different types of breeds react differently, and some are more appropriate for homes with children than others.
  • How much space do you have available inside and outside of your home? Do you have a fenced yard? Do you have a balcony?
  • How much quality time can you spend with your pet?

The last question is where to find your pet. Of all the choices out there, I highly recommended adopting. There are many wonderful dogs, cats, rabbits and other animals at local shelters, as well as rescue organizations for many specific dogs breeds and other types of pets. If you are set on getting a purebred, you can still adopt from your local shelter as nearly a quarter of dogs any many cats at shelters are purebreds.

To help decide which species of pet is right for you, the following is a short breakdown of some basic requirements for the three most common types: dogs, cats and rabbits.

Dogs

Dogs are extremely social animals that are miserable if left outside or stuck in a condo all day. If you are thinking about getting a dog, make sure you can devote several hours each day to spending time with your companion. If you are single and lead a busy lifestyle outside the home, a dog may not be the best choice for you; however, if you are intent upon getting a dog, there are some really wonderful professional dog walking services and dog daycare facilities available to care for your pet while you are at work.

If you lead a quiet lifestyle or work within the home, consider adopting an older, more sedate dog. Regarding activity levels, keep in mind that not all small dogs are less active than large ones, and some smaller breeds require even more exercise than larger breeds. Be sure to check out the activity requirements of the dog you are considering to make sure you are compatible.

Whichever kind you choose, don’t forget that you are making a long-term commitment since most dogs live ten years or longer. Your dog will need constant attention, love and respect from you, and needs to be part of the family.

Cats

In most cases, cats are social animals that crave attention. Although cats generally require less attention than dogs, they still crave play time and petting on a daily basis. Quality time with your cat can make the difference between a happy cat or a bored cat. Leaving a cat bored is not only unfair to the animal, but can lead to some highly undesirable habits.

The requirements for a happy cat generally are more than that for dogs. Cats are extremely fastidious about their litter box, so it is essential to keep the box clean and fresh on a daily basis. Cats need to scratch, so a sturdy scratching post is necessary or you stand a risk of shredded upholstery. Scratching is a natural trait and not a sign of a “bad cat.” You can learn to trim your cat’s nails to prevent damage to furniture, or take your cat to one of the many cat salons around town for a day of luxury and nail care.

Indoor or outdoor: most cat adoption organizations will not adopt cats out as outdoor pets because of the risk of disease or injury, and it has been found that indoor cats live longer, healthier lives than outdoor cats. Whether indoor or outdoor, overall cats can be wonderful companions, but be sure you’re in it for the long-haul as most cats live anywhere from 15-24 years.

Rabbits

Rabbits are incredibly intelligent, social animals that make wonderful pets when given the chance to interact with their human family. In fact, purely by accident a friend of mine found a baby rabbit on a golf course which became a dearly loved member of her family for more than 12 years.

Ideal as indoor pets, rabbits prefer a relatively quiet environment, so a busy family life or the presence of other pets may not make for a good fit. Bunnies are fastidious animals that can be easily taught to use a litter box once spayed or neutered, and shed very little (if at all). However, one important consideration is that rabbits have a delicate digestive system and require a specific, varied diet. Make sure you have the time and resources available to keep your rabbit healthy.

All in all rabbits are ideal pets, particularly for the one or two person household. Keep in mind that rabbits can live anywhere from 7 to 10 years (or longer, as was the case with my friend), so be prepared for the long term commitment.