Adopting Pets 101

Adopting Pets 101

Tips for Choosing the Right Pets


Do you prefer a cuddly pet who purrs or one that growls at strangers?

Perhaps the teeny fuzzy sort that nestles in the palm of your hand sounds like the ideal, low-maintenance companion.

Then again, maybe you adore the venomous, slimy-green, or creepy-crawly variety.

There are more than 89.7 million pet dogs and 94.2 million pet cats in American homes, according to's 2017 sources. Even so, there are other creatures to consider depending on your living space, finances, schedule and pet preferences. Consider any pet carefully before buying.

Paying For Pets

Aside from the obvious (food, toys and bedding, a cage or aquarium) there are routine and emergency veterinarian visits. According to the 2017-2018 American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey, over a lifetime, a cat can cost $5,000 to $18,00 and a dog can cost $8,000 to $13,000 for care. The average veterinary cost per household was $474 for dogs, and $245 for cats according to the same pet owner survey.

Do some research online or ask a veterinarian about anticipated expenses to ensure you can cover the cost over the pet’s lifetime. Some pets may need vaccines, to be spayed or neutered, dental cleanings, routine nail clipping and, as they grow older, regular medication.

Pure breeds often have hereditary health problems that you can learn about ahead of time. Other pets might require special lighting and diets or have minimum space requirement or need regular habitat cleaning.  

You may have to decide between adopting and purchasing a pet. Pure breeds have distinct personality traits but mixed breeds have the benefit inheriting fewer bred-specific health conditions. Costs vary between the two, as well.

Assess Your Lifestyle


Think about where you live. The type of pet you choose might depend on the size of your home. Can you dedicate a corner to a bird cage or a backyard to a roaming rabbit or rambunctious puppy? Renters should also check with their landlords to make sure certain animals are allowed and if they might incur additional rent or a deposit. 

Another factor to consider is the amount of time you can dedicate to a pet. If you work more than 40 hours a week and travel regularly, you might need to hire a dog walker or kennel your pup. Cats on the other hand are pretty independent and caged animals don’t typically require walks when you arrive home from the office.

Pets to Consider

Here are some alternatives to cats and dogs to consider. You’ll get a taste for the type of care each need and learn what kind of companion they are likely to be.

Reptiles and Amphibians

Lizards, snakes, turtles and tortoises are observational pets. Some require special lighting as well as temperature and humidity controls. Many also have special diets. Geckos, for example, eat bamboo and snakes eat live mice. They can also grow to be quite large. Iguanas can grow up to six feet and King snakes can grow to a whopping seven feet.



Parakeets, cockatiels, parrots and cockatoos make good pets for those seeking feathery, affectionate companions. The rule of thumb for birds is that the larger they are, the longer they tend to live. Some species of parrots live up to 40 years. Small birds eat seeds but larger bird’s diets include pellets as well as fresh fruit and vegetables.


While rabbits are quite small, they require a minimum 24 square feet of living space. They also need grassy diets with hay, romaine, endives peapods and dandelions. Some people train their rabbits to use liter pans much like cats. The untrained sort is known for chomping through power cords and other chewable household items.

Hamsters, Rats, Mice and Gerbils

These petite creatures take up little space and are also cost efficient. Most live for about 2-6 years. You’ll find these fuzzy guys affectionate but their respective enclosures can get pretty malodorous if not cleaned on a regular basis. They are also night owls, so to speak, and should be kept outside of bedrooms unless you enjoy listening to spinning exercise wheels run throughout the night.

Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs are gentle and affectionate so they make great pets for kids. They live about 5-8 years. They require little space and eat on the cheap.

Whichever pet you decide is best for you and your family, make sure you know first how to provide a lifetime of care for your new companion.