You’ve been wanting to add a pet to your family for a long time, and the kids have been pestering you about it, as well—although you’re not likely to stick a pony in the backyard. Before diving into Petfinder or your local animal shelters and rescue group pages, you must ensure your entire family is on the same page about the right pet for your lifestyle. However, getting the whole family to agree on the perfect pet can be a challenge, so we’ve outlined key questions to ask at your decision-making family meeting.

Question: How much time can we devote to pet care?

Answer: One of the most important questions is how much time your family can spend training, caring, and socializing with your pet. If you have minimal free time, a fish may be the best choice, but if your family wants a constant companion, a dog may be a better option. In addition to the time spent caring for your pet, consider the time needed to clean your pet’s habitat. While a school of angelfish may not require much attention, their aquarium may need several hours per week to ensure the tank remains clean and the water quality is good. 

Q: How will pet-care responsibilities be divided?

A: Children already tend to fight over the division of chores, so create a daily pet-care chore list outlining who will be responsible for your pet’s necessities. If you have young children, your pet’s care will likely fall to the adults, but this is the perfect time to set a good example, and teach children how to properly care for pets. By doling out responsibilities, you can also avoid overmedicating or overfeeding your new pet, and ensure they receive heartworm, flea, and tick preventives on time.

Q: Do we want an active pet or a couch potato?

A: Whether you’re looking for a running buddy or a snuggle buddy, your options will vary greatly. Dogs can fall on either end of the spectrum, while most exotic pets—including snakes—are better for less active families who prefer a cuddly pet. Any species can provide the whole family with hours of entertainment and fun, but only a select few pets can join outdoor adventures.  

Q: What is the purpose of a new pet?

A: Ask each family member why they want a new pet. Are you looking for companionship or protection? Will your pet have a job, such as a livestock guardian, mouse patrol, or seizure alert? Certain species or breeds are suited for particular tasks, while any pet can serve as a companion.

Q: How much room do we have for a pet?

A: While you may dream of a giant saltwater tank filled with all sorts of exotic sea creatures, you may only have room for a betta fish. And, although cats may take up relatively little space, they can be highly territorial and demand their own personal resources, untouched by any other cat. Before packing a Great Dane into your Chihuahua-sized apartment, carefully consider how much room your new pet will require, and choose appropriately.

Q: What type of pet will fit in with our current pets?

A: Not all pets will become instant best buds with a new addition, so consider your current pet or pets’ thoughts on the matter before adding to the household. Many reptiles must be housed separately to avoid stress-related health issues, so ensure you have the required space and habitat for a new snake, lizard, or other reptile. If you’re considering a new cat or dog, many animal shelters and rescues have foster-to-adopt programs that allow you to give a potential new pet a trial run in your home, before making a permanent commitment.

Q: Who will care for our pet in an emergency or while we are on vacation?

A: If your family is set on becoming the Midwest’s most renowned sunset ball python breeder, but none of your family or friends will come near a snake, can you find someone you trust to care for your pet while you’re out of town? While dog and cat boarding is common, finding an experienced caretaker for livestock or exotic pets can be a challenge, so consider potential vacations or emergencies when choosing your new pet.

Q: Can we afford the care necessary for a pet?

Small pets can rack up big bills, by the time you add up habitat, food, supplements, enrichment, health care, training, and any expenses specific to your chosen pet. For example, a complete set-up for a Russian tortoise may cost around $500, plus the price of the tiny tortoise. Before jumping in over your head, consider the sort of pet that will fit in your budget. 

Once you’ve decided on your new pet, our Mill Creek Animal Hospital team would love to meet the latest addition to your family. Give us a call to schedule your new pal’s wellness visit, to ensure they start with a healthy foundation.