How to Pick the Best Pet for Your Lifestyle

BreakingModern — So you’ve moved out of your parents’ house, got yourself a job, maybe found yourself a significant other. You’re starting to feel genuinely adult-ish. You have a home, a life — but something’s missing. You might start to yearn for a furry (or feathered or scaly) companion. Who couldn’t use a little unconditional love when they come home, right?

But you’re a pragmatic person — do you have the means and ability to give this animal a good life? And what kind of pet would fit best in your life? A dog? A cat? A hamster? A bird? Or should you just stick to fish? Here are a few questions to ask yourself before starting a little inter-species family of your own.


Can You Afford a Pet?

First of all, you need to be able to afford your animal. A dog can cost you between $500 and $1,570 per year, depending on its health and size — and that’s not counting the adoption fees. Cats cost a little less, requiring about $375 to $750 a year. That may sound like a lot, but if you have no children and a steady, fairly well-paying job, you can probably swing it. It may just mean taking fewer girls’ weekends to the beach, or eating out a little less often. But that’s okay — you had to be home to take care of your pet anyway.

If you don’t have that kind of money, never fear. Hamsters only cost about $260 a year, while birds, especially smaller ones, soak up around $200. Of course, both animals need expensive homes and toys, but those should last your pets a lifetime. If that still sounds too costly, better opt for a fish (about $20 a year).

However, no matter what animal you choose, you should keep an emergency fund for surprise vet visits. Don’t get stuck with vet fees you can’t afford.


Do You Have Time to Spend with Your Animal?

Though a lot depends on the breed of your dog and the expanse of your yard, you’ll probably need to walk your canine at least once a day (less if you have a large play area with a lot of stimulating toys and smells). Whether you walk her or not, she’ll need companionship — dogs are pack animals and suffer when left alone for long periods of time. Cats, on the other hand, need less interaction, but you still need to be there to give her food and, if she lets you, affection. If you don’t come home every night, a cat might not be the pet for you.

Also consider that baby animals need much more love and care than adults. If you can’t take a week or more to train and care for your baby animal, consider adopting an adult instead.

If you have a rodent or bird, you’ll still need to take the time to clean its cage and, hopefully, give it a little love and attention. Even fish require a clean tank every once in a while. Make sure you can take several hours a week to clean up and handle your animal.

Additionally, if you’re seeking companionship, make sure you can interact with your animal on its own schedule — for instance, hamsters are nocturnal, while birds are not. If you won’t be around/awake when your animal’s awake, your relationship might suffer.

Of course, if you work far from home or travel frequently, you can still be a good dog or cat owner, but it’ll cost you — caretakers and dog walkers can charge up to $30 a day.


Will Your Life Dramatically Change In the Next Few Years?

Okay, some harsh truth here — animals can make life changes difficult. Sometimes you meet a prospective lover with a crazy cat allergy, or you get a job offer in New York where your border collie would go nuts. Many dogs and cats end up in shelters or on the street because their owners experienced a major lifestyle shift. No dog or cat deserves to be abandoned. If your future seems uncertain, as morbid as it sounds, you might want to opt for a pet with a shorter lifespan, like a hamster (about 2.5 years).

However, if you’re happy in your current situation (and hope to keep it as-is for a while), the long lifespan of a dog (about 13 years) or a cat (about 15 years) or even a bird (anywhere from five to 60 years, depending on the breed) is probably more appealing — after all, you want as much time with your pet as possible.

Are you ready to make someone else your biggest priority?

Not to sound like a finger-wagging parent, but taking care of an animal is a huge responsibility — even bigger now that Mom and Dad can’t pick up the slack.

In the end, your animal is utterly helpless without you. You feed her, you make sure she’s healthy and well exercised and you teach her how to interact with people and other animals. Are you ready for that much responsibility?

If you have a dog, this might mean cutting drink nights short so you can let her out to pee, or getting a house with a yard instead of an apartment in the vibrant city center. For a cat, this might mean decorating your house with expensive climbing trees and cleaning up surprisingly large piles of poop in the litter box. For any animal, it will mean making sure your critter is always (always!) fed, providing a stimulating yet secure environment and generally understanding all its nuances and needs. And you should be prepared for surprises — you might need to take off work for a surprise vet visit if you find your animal just ate all your frozen bagel bites.

So whether you have fond childhood memories of your own favorite pet or you never had your animal of choice because Mom and Dad were totally unfair, you should carefully evaluate whether you’re in the position to take care of another living thing. After all, you want to make sure you’re the best pet parent an animal could ever ask for!

For BMod, I’m .

Featured Image: Beagle. Wikipedia Commons 

Image Credits: Four Kittens, Wikipedia CommonsRussian Hamster, Wikipedia Commons

Alison Maney

Author: Alison Maney

Based in NYC, Alison Maney covers lifestyle, trends and movies for BreakingModern. Follow her @sheepandcake on Twitter.

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