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Oklahoma State University

Getting a Family Pet

Monday, December 3, 2018

dot in santa hat with wrapped presents

Your family wants a pet – what should you get? A cat? A dog? A hamster? A pony?

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, there are several key things to consider when selecting a family pet.

Do you already have pets?
If so, will your current pet accept another animal of the same or different species? If you are not sure, ask your veterinarian.

What are your expectations for this pet?
Do you want a lap warmer, a running buddy or a pet that is easy to care for? This will affect which pet choice is best for you and your family.

Also, who will care for your pet? Consider the experience level and abilities of the pet’s caretaker as well as how much time that person will have to spend with your pet.

If you have young children, a pet that is active at night would not be as good a choice as one that will play with them during the day. While it is good to involve children in caring for a pet, a child should not be solely responsible for the pet’s care and well-being.

When your family chooses a pet, they accept responsibility for the health and welfare of another living thing. You are promising to care for your pet for his or her entire life.

Do local laws or housing arrangements limit your pet choice?
Some apartment buildings do not allow pets. Also, your apartment may not provide adequate exercise room for a large breed or very active dog. If you live in the city, owning a pony may be prohibited, while in the country, it may be perfectly fine to have a pony.

Are you able to give your pet the attention it needs?

Different species and breeds of animals have different needs for companionship and attention. They also have varying life expectancies. For example, some larger birds can live more than 100 years! Do your research to make sure you understand the commitment you are making for a particular type of pet.

Can you afford the costs of caring for Fluffy or Fido?
Pets need food, housing, socialization, exercise, grooming and veterinary care. Regular wellness visits to your veterinarian can help keep your pet healthy and happy. Some pets such as reptiles and pocket pets require special veterinary care so make sure there is a veterinarian in your area who can provide that care.

How long will you be away from your pet?
Do you work long hours or travel often for business? Some pets need more frequent feeding or exercise and may not be a good choice.

Who will care for your pet in your absence?
Consider short-term absences as well as long term. If your pet outlives you, who will care for it. OSU’s Cohn Pet Care Facility provides a long-term option for pet owners.

If you are not sure which pet would be best for your family, talk to your veterinarian. He or she can help you understand a potential pet’s needs and if it may be compatible for your family’s lifestyle.

Most species need vaccinations and parasite control. Regular visits to the veterinarian and preventive care are important for the health and happiness of your pet.

by Jeff Studer, DVM, DACVO

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