Which pet is best for your lifestyle?
Owning a pet is great for your happiness. Not only does it boost your emotional well-being, it can alleviate depression, give you a purpose and sense of responsibility, and help to relieve stress - plus cuddling your pet is pretty awesome! However, owning any pet is a huge responsibility, and it's important to ensure that you choose the right pet for your lifestyle. If you live alone, work long hours in the city and are rarely at home, a dog isn't going to be the right choice for you. Likewise, if you work from home during the day, you might not want a playful kitten shredding your important work papers.
A pet is for life, and whether you are rescuing an unwanted animal from a shelter or considering a puppy or kitten, you want to make sure you have the time, money and energy to care for the pet of your choice. So here's how to work out which pet is best for your lifestyle.
How much time do you have?
Free time - most of us wish we had more of it. "There aren't enough hours in the day" is a common complaint amongst those of us who work 9 to 5 and face a long commute home from the office. Bear in mind that caring for a pet, much like having children, will eat into what free time you do have for socialising and other activities such as going to the gym. If you only have an hour free a day once you've worked, eaten, been for a workout and tidied your house, how are you going to find time to take a dog for a walk? A pet that requires less of your time is probably a good option if you're always on-the-go. Something low-maintenance such as goldfish or even pets that can be kept in a tank such as snakes or geckos are good options. Hamsters and rats are also a good choice, but you'll need to find time to clean out their cages regularly.
What do you want from a pet?
If you're considering which type of pet to get, think about your lifestyle and how a pet will fit into it. Do you want a companion for your morning run? Perhaps an energetic dog might be best for you, particularly if you lead an active, outdoor lifestyle. If you spend a lot of time indoors with your family or work from home, why not consider a smaller dog or cat? For those who prefer to have a pet to watch rather than to cuddle, a caged or tanked animal is a great choice, provided you're willing to spend time cleaning out its living quarters on a regular basis. Cats and dogs are the most popular pets but bear in mind that they will live longer and cost more than other types of pets.
Living on a budget
If you're living on a tight budget, you might want to seriously reconsider the whole pet idea until you are more financially secure. Pets can be expensive - there's not just their food to worry about, you'll also have to factor in supplies such as a bed, dishes for feeding, toys, a cage or tank (if necessary) and of course pet insurance and vets bills. Regular expenses such as flea and worming treatments for dogs and cats can also quickly add up, so it's best to have an idea of how much you could realistically afford to spend each month before you make a decision. That cute puppy at your local shelter might be adorable, but can you afford to spend hundreds of pounds if he needs emergency veterinary treatment?
Where do you live?
Thinking about where you live can help you to choose the right pets. Dogs might be great fitness buddies, but living in a tiny studio apartment in a busy city isn't the best option if you have ambitions to be a dog owner. That said, small breeds can be happy in smaller homes as they don't need as much exercise - ideally you'll still have some outside space for them to run around. Whether you own your own home, rent a flat or share with housemates will also be a consideration. If you live in a house share with others, having a pet may not be allowed, or accepted by others. Many landlords don't allow pets in rented accommodation, although you may be able to have caged pets such as rodents or pets in a tank, such as fish.
How long will your pet live?
The average lifespan of the type of pet you're considering should give you some idea about the commitment involved, both financially and otherwise. Here are some typical lifespans, which of course can vary depending on your pet's overall health and fitness levels:
- Cats - The average lifespan for a cat is 15 years - for cats that regularly go outdoors or near busy roads, this could be reduced
- Dogs - Small dogs can live to be 15-16 years old, whilst larger dogs typically can live to around 10 to 13 years on average
- Rabbits - Most people don't realise that rabbits have long lifespans - they can often live for 9 to 12 years!
- Hamsters - Syrian hamsters live for an average of 2 to 3 years, for Roborovski and dwarf breeds can live for up to 4 years on average
- Goldfish - The longest-living goldfish on record lived to be 43 years old! (1) On average, goldfish can live for several decades, provided they are well cared for
- Snakes - Snakes on average can live to be 8 years old
- Guinea pig - Most guinea pigs live until they are 4 or 5 years old
It's important to think about how much time, money and energy you have to dedicate towards any pet, particularly those with longer lifespans such as rabbits, cats and dogs. You'll also need to consider how much space you have at home, and whether you're particularly bothered about your belongings; getting a kitten or puppy could mean your possessions and home furnishings are damaged!
Pets are a great stress reliever, providing companionship and adding warmth to your home - dogs can also be excellent fitness buddies if you need someone to go running or cycling with! You could take your cat out for a run on a lead; we promise you it's not quite the same thing! With so many abandoned pets in shelters across the UK, it's vital that you don't rush into a big decision when selecting the right pet for you and your family - it's not just your happiness that's at stake, it's also the life of an animal.
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