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  • Writer's pictureDexter Miksch

Guest Article by Jessica Brody: How to Choose the Right Pet for You

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According to a 2017-2018 survey, 68 percent of U.S. households own a pet. Maybe you’ve been thinking about joining the ranks yourself? With so many pets to choose from -- dogs to horses and everything in between -- how do you decide what’s best for you? Here are some questions to help:

1. What are your reasons for wanting a pet? For cuddling on the couch, going on daily runs together, or perhaps both?

2. What’s your financial situation? You will need the financial resources for food, accessories, grooming, routine vet care, occasional emergency vet care and boarding when you travel.

3. What are your (pun intended!) pet peeves? How do you feel about pet hair all over your furniture and clothes? The smell of kitty litter? Scooping up after a dog? Cleaning out a birdcage every day?

4. Do you or any family members have allergies to certain pets?

5. If you are renting, does your landlord allow pets?

6. How much time can you devote to a pet? Dogs need daily walks and are not happy left alone for long periods of time. Veterinarians recommend that adult dogs go no more than 6-8 hours between trips outdoors. If your work schedule prevents that, will you be able to hire a dog walker? Dogs also need adequate training. As dog experts say, “There are no bad dogs; only bad owners who did not properly train their dog.”

7. How much space can you provide a pet?

8.Can you commit to the life expectancy of the pet? Most dogs live 10 years or more; cats, 15; rabbits, 5-8 years, and some exotic birds such as Amazon parrots live 40-60 years.

If you’re still unsure which pet is right for you, maybe this quiz will shed more light for you.

The kind of pet you choose will determine how to prepare for his arrival. All pets will need food, preferably the food they’re used to. (Talk with your vet about slowly transitioning to the food you want to feed your pet). They’ll also need bowls, bedding and the phone number of your veterinarian on hand. For dogs or cats, you’ll want to pet-proof your house and yard, and the more you can keep to a consistent routine with your pet, the better.

The level of bonding you’ll have with your pet is dependent upon the type of pet you choose too. Bonding typically takes place quickly with puppies, but it can take longer with older dogs and rescue pets that may be fearful at first. It’s important to establish trust, provide praise, and spend plenty of quality time with your new pet in both training and play.

Welcoming an older dog or any elderly pet into your home calls for a different set of rules. The best gift you can provide is a calm and quiet environment. Give your new companion a tour of your house and yard, and introduce him to any other pets one at a time. For dogs, a short walk in your neighborhood would be a good thing, but that’s it.

The next activity on the docket should be rest! Show your new family member his comfy bed (or crate if he’s crate trained). While it’s good to have his bed in a quiet corner, do not separate it from you and your family. The goal is for him to feel like part of the family. Just chill and let the bonding begin. This is not the time to bathe him or take him to the vet (unless you absolutely must). Keep an eye out for any signs of anxiety.

If your elderly dog or cat has arthritis, you may need to buy or build a ramp or shallow stairs so they can have access to couches, beds, cars, etc. Your pet might also need special bedding such as an orthopedic bed.

No matter what pet you decide on, remember that his life depends upon you. In return, you will receive more than you ever imagined. As novelist Anatole France once said, “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” Get ready to fall in love and become “awakened” as you make your house a home for some lucky creature.

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