Buying a pet: What to consider first

Before you buy a pet, you need to consider your philosophy about living with animals:

Do you feel that it is your duty to share your space with domesticated animals who need homes?

Is your pet an outward symbol of status or style that you want to look a certain way?

Do you want your pet to be your best friend?

Do you want a pet whose presence is soothing, enlivening, or fun?

Do you want to share your entire living space with your pet?

How much time per day do you want to devote to your pet?

Are you willing to get a companion animal for your pet if they do not adjust to being an “only child”?

How much experience do you have with various types of animals?

How much time, if any, will your pet spend outside, or outside their cage or designated area?

Are you ready to care for a pet for its natural life? Should you consider a baby or an older animal?

What is your plan to pay for routine and emergency veterinary care?

Option 1: high-commitment animals

There is room in the world for a variety of pet owners, but of course many people will encourage you to adopt pets who need homes. If you are going for a high-commitment, interactive mammal, then I would encourage you to spend time around these animals first. An animal shelter is a great place to do this. If you have ethical concerns about euthanasia, there are many no-kill animal rescues and shelters. Animal shelters often have many kinds of animals: dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs.

However, if you want a certain breed of dog or cat, there is no reason to deprive yourself. You can search sites like for the exact animal you want, and still provide a home for a animal who needs it rather than paying a breeder. If you want to go with a breeder, make sure that they are reputable, and the animals are kept in clean, healthy conditions.

Pet stores are often not the best places to buy high-commitment animals, because they promote the philosophy of pets as property, and often they are not kept in the best conditions. If you want to support a pet store, consider one that sells only low-commitment animals and hosts local shelters adoption days, such as national chains like Petsmart. Also look at your locally owned pet stores.

Where ever you decide to get your cat, dog, rabbit, parrot or other long-term pet, remember to do research on the animals requirements for living a healthy, long, and fulfilled life. You need to make sure the animal is compatible with your living space and family needs.

Option 2: low-commitment animals

Although all pets are a commitment and require time for care and attention, some are more self-contained than others. Small animals that are kept in cages or tanks can be easier to fit into busy schedules or tight spaces. But don’t be deceived. A lizard or exotic fish might require a special food or environment adaptations. Veterinary care for “exotics” can be very expensive, and that includes almost anything except cats and dogs.

Even still, a hamster or a goldfish can be a good “starter pet” for a child or first-time pet owner. Of course children should always be supervised in their pet care.

Ask anyone you know who owns a pet, animals will enrich your lives. It will take some dedication for you to learn how to best enrich theirs.

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