I Want a Pet, But What Kind Should I Get?
Every parent finds themselves being asked at some stage: “I want a pet, can I get a pet?
Kids should grow up with pets, and adults should have them too. There is published medical and other data that shows that owning a pet improves your health, gets you involved with like minded people and helps your mental health as well.
Below is a handy checklist to help you work out what kind of pet is good for you and how to get one that suits your needs.
GET A DOG IF:
you enjoy being outdoors
you can work with your pet
you are prepared to connect to your pet emotionally
you like an adult:child relationship with unconditional love
you enjoy the fact that the pet learns new things
you like to play and socialise – with your pet and with your friends
you can love your dog for 15 years (unless you get an adult dog)
Common dog myths exposed:
My yard isn’t big enough
Most dogs can be happy even in apartments if they are with you and are exercised. The answer here is to get the right breed (see separate sheet)
I work, I exercise, I socialise, I don’t have the time to spend with a dog
This is only partially a myth. Many people who “don’t have time for a dog” still go to the gym (why not jog?), spend hours in front of the TV (why not with a dog?) or visit friends (who probably love to meet the dog!). Many workplaces now also allow dogs at work.
I can’t afford a dog
Again, only partially a myth. You can spend big $$ on fancy housing, little coats and jewelled leashes, but owning a dog can be as little as $10/week, provided you can afford vet treatment when it is needed.
GET A CAT IF:
you prefer an adult:adult relationship with your pet
you prefer a “clean” pet
you spend more time indoors
you like to play, but also know when to stop
you can love your pet for around 15 years (unless you get an adult)
Common cat myths
Cats kill wildlife
Cats only kill things if they are allowed outside, and particularly at night. Recent research is proving what so many cat lovers have known for many years – cats are the perfect indoor pet
Cats cause allergies and that harms health
Cats have a substance in their saliva that can trigger allergies in some people, but while it is a nuisance it is very rarely damaging to health.
Pregnant women shouldn’t own cats
This tragic myth results in many well loved cats being turned into shelters for euthanasia. Some cats can carry a little organism called “Toxoplasmosis” in their faeces which can affect unborn children only if their mother gets the organism when she is pregnant. Most cat owning “mums-to-be” already have antibodies to Toxoplasma, and the simple act of wearing gloves when changing the litter tray and good hygiene minimises any risk.
Cats are a low maintenance pet
Cats NEED at least 20 minutes per day of “quality time” with their owner to be healthy and happy – this includes playtime. Long haired cats need grooming at least weekly, and daily is better. .
GET A PET BIRD IF:
you love colour, sound and playtime
you love to laugh at and with your pet
you are prepared to care for your bird for 5-100 years (depending on the breed)
you love attracting birds to your garden
you are prepared to spend time with your bird and enjoy the idea of training it
Common Bird Myths
You don’t need to spend much time with your bird
Almost all birds kept as pets are flock (social) creatures – being alone is not good for their physical or mental health. The more time you spend handling and interacting with your bird, the better the pet they will be. Getting out of the cage (where possible) and being with you is also good for the health and welfare of the pet bird.
You can let your bird go if you don’t want it anymore
Almost all domestic bird pets die quickly if they are released, because they were not raised to understand the dangers in the wild
Birds caught from the wild make great pets
This is just plain wrong, birds from domestic stock and particularly hand raised birds make the best pets.
Pet Birds are stupid
Many birds can be taught to talk, play basketball, ride little scooters, climb ladders, open boxes – many will train themselves to do things that make you smile.
GET A FISH:
you love the colour, calm and movement of your living tank environment
you love to see many kinds of fish in the one tank
you prefer a pet that can be left for long periods without social contact
you like the sound of water and the way the tank brightens up your room
you like to see your pets develop little personalities
you can clean the tank and manage water quality
Common Fish Myths
Fish have a 6 second memory
This is just untrue. Published papers show that fish can learn to swim though mazes and solve simple problems. Fish owners often report that their pets learn their faces and respond to different family members, and also respond to the signals of “feeding time”. Some fish owners also report their fish “telling them” when they are hungry.
Fish have no personality
New Scientist reported on personality types in Siamese Fighting Fish (Bettas) and surprisingly many fish do have a form of “personality”
Fish die easily
Fish are actually quite robust, provided their environment is kept within the acceptable range and the water clean. The Guiness Book of records notes that the oldest goldfish is 43 years!
GET A REPTILE IF:
you are passionate about learning all about your pet – its habits, it needs and its requirements
you want a lower maintenance pet
you crave variety becoming an expert in pets that other people aren’t
you are OK about cleaning cages
you prefer a pet who needs less personal attention than other pets
you prefer a “Carer” relationship with your pet
Common Reptile Myths
You can release them back into the wild if you don’t want them anymore
Most reptiles on sale are domestically bred and have no knowledge of local wild environments – so most of them die if released.
You have to feed reptiles live food
Most reptiles can live happily on frozen or killed food and companies are now developing nutritionally balanced blended foods for reptiles as well.
Reptiles are too complicated to keep as pets
They are not more complicated than any other pet – like all pets, it’s just about knowing what makes them happy.
Its cruel to keep reptiles as pets
The reptiles themselves give us the answer to this one – many captive reptiles live longer than their wild cousins because they have good food, a good environment and good care, especially when they are feeling a bit poorly.
GET A GUINEA PIG IF:
you want a small, manageable and relatively low maintenance pet
you are OK with cleaning cages
you are prepared to spend some time handling your pet
you are happy to commit for your pet’s lifespan of 5-7 years
Common Guinea Pig Myths
You only need a small cage for Guinea Pigs
Unfortunately many stores sell cages that are just too small for these active little critters. You need as much space as you can manage and ideally over more than one level, with regular “out of cage” time.
You shouldn’t have or touch guinea Pigs if you are pregnant.
While Guinea Pigs can only rarely get the Toxoplasma organism (which can cause problems to unborn babies if their mother gets Toxoplasmosis for the first time while she is pregnant), they are not known as a good source of transmission. It is easy to avoid risk by wearing gloves when cleaning out cages.
GET A RABBIT IF:
you want a pet who is a great companion and you are prepared to spend lots of time with it
you are OK with preparing fresh foods and cleaning cages daily
you are prepared to brush and groom your pet (long haired varieties)
you have the space to keep them (often not apartments) and the time to exercise them
Common Rabbit Myths
We can have just one rabbit in a cage
Rabbits are social animals who generally live in family groups. “The hutch in the back garden” just doesn’t cut it anymore, you should consider indoor hutches and plenty of human contact, or same-sex groups for optimal health.
I can let my rabbit go into the wild if I don’t want him
Like most other domesticated animals, pet rabbits released to the wild generally die a nasty death – attacked by dogs or cats, driven out of territory by wild rabbits and starving because they don’t know where to find their usual food.
Rabbits are dirty animals
Actually the reverse is true – bunnies use their instinct to “toilet” in one specific area and they can also be trained to use a litter box.
GET RATS OR MICE IF:
you want small, easy care and easy to handle pets
you are happy with a pet with a short lifespan – only 2-3 years
you prefer intelligent, social pets
you like to train your pets
you tend to interact with your pets mornings and evenings rather than during the day