As veterinary professionals and animal lovers, the Wales Animal Hospital team values pets not merely as companions, but as full-fledged family members. As such, the search for your next pet should consider not only your family’s wants and needs but also those of the potential pet.  

Here are five questions that can help guide your search for the perfect pet.

#1: How much time can you give a new pet?

All pets require a certain amount of dedicated care and attention, although the actual amount can vary by species and age. If you’ve already compiled a list of potential pet breeds or species, research each one’s care requirements, which should include:

  • Daily exercise
  • Training
  • Grooming 
  • Husbandry
  • Sociability (i.e., some species desire human attention, while others are independent) 

Compare the answers with your current household schedule. Is someone available to ensure these needs are consistently met? If your pet will need grooming or training, can a family member transport them to and from these appointments and follow through with at-home sessions? Finally, look ahead—do you anticipate significant schedule or lifestyle changes (e.g., job promotion, relocation, grown children leaving home) that would alter your family’s availability to provide care?

#2: Can you afford this pet’s lifelong care needs?

Financial considerations are a common reason for pets being surrendered or rehomed, especially a pet who suffers from chronic health issues (e.g., allergies, kidney disease). Before adopting or purchasing a pet, prospective owners should calculate anticipated care costs, which takes effort and research, but can prevent unnecessary heartache. Potential costs include initial expenses (e.g., supplies, housing, adoption or purchase fees), ongoing costs (e.g., food, toys, annual veterinary care, pet health insurance, grooming, boarding, and training), and unexpected expenses (e.g., emergencies, unexpected veterinary needs). While knowing exactly how much a pet will cost during their lifetime is impossible, initial projections can provide an estimate and help you make informed decisions. 

You can start estimating your expenses with an online pet cost calculator. Then, if you have additional questions about specific species or breed-related health conditions and care needs, the Wales Animal Clinic team can help.

#3: Does everyone in the home agree on a pet?

Caring for a pet can be a great family bonding experience, but can create unnecessary tension and strife if every family member is not on board. Whether your family consists of two people or 12, each person must be receptive to living with a pet. Discuss as a family any reasons for reluctance, which commonly include:

  • Health — Your family’s health can influence the pet species or breed you select. For example, low-dander or hairless pets may be the better choice for allergy sufferers, while reptiles known for carrying salmonella should be avoided if any family member has a compromised immune system.
  • Safety — Large-breed dogs can overpower and seriously injure children and the elderly, while high prey-drive or herding breeds may be a risk for families with small children. Anyone who has compromised immunity should speak to their physician before acquiring or caring for a pet. The potential pet’s safety should also be considered. For example, small mammals (e.g., hamsters, gerbils) may be too delicate for boisterous children. 
  • Care responsibilities — Family members may be concerned about the main pet care duties, as children who are initially eager to take on the responsibility often lose interest—forcing adult household members to assume additional responsibilities. These care-related concerns must be addressed to ensure the pet’s welfare and prevent unintended neglect.  

#4: What if you or another family member cannot care for the pet?

In addition to deciding which family member performs what task, potential pet-owning families should consider the worst case scenario—what happens to the pet if you or a family member could no longer care for them? Can someone else step in and take over those duties? Can responsibilities be shared among more than one person? Is an extended family member or a friend able to take the pet? Will the breeder take the pet back?

Although we hope no such considerations are needed, imagining a “Plan B” circumstance can help your family draw honest conclusions about pets that may be unsuitable—for example, large or exotic pets with extensive or specialized care needs.

#5: What traits do you want in a pet?

Finally, define what you and your family members want from pet ownership. Are you looking for a couch companion or a reason to get off the couch? Do you want a pet to perform certain tasks (e.g., protecting your property, hunting and retrieving, decreasing stress and anxiety) or to participate in competitions (e.g., dog sports, pet shows)? Should your new pet be outgoing and social, or independent and aloof? Also, consider physical traits, including any size, breed, or species restrictions in your town, city, or housing arrangement.

Adding a pet to your family is a big decision, but proper research, careful consideration, and many roundtable discussions can help ensure you make the best decision. If you have additional questions about choosing a pet or would like us to recommend local rescue groups, shelters, and reputable breeders, the Wales Animal Clinic team will happily help. Contact us by email or phone to discuss your search. And, after you bring your pet home, request an appointment to ensure they’re happy and healthy.