With so many pet types, and then so many breeds and varieties of each pet to choose from, choosing a pet can be a bit overwhelming. In order to simplify things it might pay to.
Look at the reasons why you want a pet.

Have a look at your personal situation to see what kind of a pet you can cater for.

After you narrow down the TYPE of pet you are after, look for breed or variety of that pet that best suits you situation.

Some things to consider.

Who is going to look after the pet? On a day to day basis, today, next year and in 10 years’ time if it’s still alive?
An important Consideration. Using dogs as an example, your dog will need feeding, brushing, training, exercising, trips to the vet, company. Poop will need to be picked up, digging holes filled in. Some breeds pine without company so you will need to either get two, or be around for them a lot. Some breeds are better with children than others, and some breeders breed lines that are better temperamented than others.

Children love puppies, but often whilst they will give the family dog a pat, its mum and dad that are going to do all the work… especially if Fido is still alive when little Johnny becomes big Johnny and leaves home.

Don’t believe those pleas “but mum I promise to look after it if you can me a Great Dane”.

How much looking after is your pet going to need? This includes exercising your pet, grooming it, cleaning up after it, organising trips to the vet etc
Here are some general guides

    • Long haired dogs and cats need more attention that short haired.
    • Active dog breeds such as border collies need more exercise than livestock guardian dogs.
    • Older dogs need less exercise, so if you want a dog that is less active, consider going for an older, adult dog than a puppy.
    • Fish are often seen as low maintenance and cheap  in comparison to other pets – but beware this only applies to a single goldfish in a single tank, not to a large aquarium filled with exotic fish.
    • Some bird breeds will happily entertain themselves (eg finches), others will bond with their human owner (many parrot breeds) and fret if they are not available.
    • Spiders, mice, and guinea pigs make great first pets as their care requirements are comparatively low, they are relatively short lived so if it doesn’t work out, it’s not a lifetime of misery for them, you and your children.
    • Reptiles such as pythons and large lizards can make great pets, but their terrariums need to be kept clean, their environment (heat/light/humidity) kept constant…. And though you will perhaps be able to handle them they won’t run to the front door to great you.
    • Horses are expensive to maintain and require lots of room and attention.

How much room does this pet require?
As a general rule, the bigger the animal the more room you need for them. A mouse needs a small mouse cage; a horse needs several hectares of paddock and a stable.
Dog size is not much a factor as dog type. A herding dog needs room to run around, as do many terrier breeds whereas a much larger molosser dog might be happy to sit around on a couch all day.

Small mammals such as rabbits, cats as well as some types of birds will easily adapt to your home being their entire world, never needing to leave the house for exercise.

How expensive is your pet to purchase, and then to look after?
Some pets will cost several thousand to buy, and be expensive to feed and care for. Some are especially prone to health issues that are costly to manage. Don’t just budget in the cost of your pet, budget in feed, toys, bedding, vet care, training, transport etc

How long is your pet going to live for?

Some bird species can live for well over 50 years. Dog breeds will differ in average life span from 8 years for some or the large breeds, to double that for extremely hardy breeds. If you are looking at a first pet for a younger child, a shorter lived pet such as a fish or a mouse is a good starter to see how well they are going to care for it.

How young are the children of the house (if there are any now, or planned) and what kind of pet will be suitable with them in the picture?
A large Python or breeds of dog with a history of unpredictable behavior are not good pets to have if you have young children. In all cases, young children will need to be supervised with any pet(How many of you have heard a story of children taking their guinea pigs for a swim in the bath, or swinging their mice around by the tail?) Some breeds of cat and dog are especially loving and friendly and less quick to bite if they are roughly handled – seek these breeds out if you have small children.

How dependent is your pet on you for its happiness.
Some breeds of dog, cat and bird will bond with you as their life partner. They will be terribly unhappy if you leave them for any length of time. If you want this sort of pet and are in a position to provide and receive this constant companionship then go for it. Otherwise, just don’t. It tremendously cruel to the animal, and perhaps also to your neighbors as your pet will likely voice their sadness.

Veterinary Surgeon, London at Blue Cross UK | + posts

A London based Veterinary surgeon, Sanja is also an avid writer and pet advocate.