If you are in the market for a new pet pal, congratulations! Pets make incredible companions, and are said to provide their pet parents with countless health benefits, such as lower blood pressure and cholesterol. But, before you take a trip to the nearest adoption facility, you should consider what type of new pet you can realistically care for, as some pets are more high maintenance or expensive, or require more attention than others. An objective assessment of your lifestyle and abilities before you adopt a pet pal can make for a more seamless transition when adding this new family member to your home.
Christine Case, an anthrozoology instructor at Beacon College in Leesburg, Florida, says the first step in pet pal adoption is to research the requirements of the animal you are interested in. “Think critically about what their lifestyle entails and what [you] are willing to change or sacrifice for that animal if needed,” she says.
For those looking to add a new pet companion to their life, we’ve compiled a quick reference sheet so you can get a good idea of which pet is ideal for your lifestyle, budget and personality:
“Fish are typically thought of as good, low-maintenance, ‘starter’ type of animals and have been shown to lower blood-pressure levels when watched,” says Case. Some low-maintenance fish for beginners include Bettas, Platies, Black Molly and Goldfish. Saltwater tanks are considered more advanced; although pretty to look at, maintaining a saltwater tank is “typically pricey and high maintenance,” says Case.
Personality: Calm, introverted, organized, funny and happy
Interests: Reading, baking, swimming and working
Commitment Level: Pet care requirements are generally low, unless opting for a saltwater tank
Budget: Beginner aquarium supplies and fish care are affordable
“Birds typically require more attention than more ‘traditional’ pets, depending on the species of bird,” says Case. Parrots can live up to 80 years and have the intelligence of a small child, so they have especially unique pet care needs that a traditional pet parent may struggle to fulfill. “Birds are also very fragile, so extra care in handling needs to be considered,” Case points out.
Personality: Outgoing, sociable, colorful and creative
Interests: Traveling, going to parties and painting
Commitment Level: Moderate to high
Budget: Large, exotic birds can be expensive to maintain, while small birds are relatively affordable
Compared to dogs, cats require less attention and can typically be left alone for long hours during the day (within reason). Cats are ideal for small living situations and are generally clean animals to live with.
Personality: Open, sympathetic, dependable, anxious, sensitive and non-conforming
Interests: Going on adventures, eating, people watching, lying out in the sun and holding interesting conversations
Commitment Level: Moderate
Budget: Cats can be costly, but not out of reach
“Dogs typically require more ‘work’ due to needing to be walked, as well as need for exercise and play,” says Case. “Dogs have been domesticated, hence their reliance on humans.” Unlike cats, dogs need to be groomed, walked daily and taken out for play and exercise. “Some breeds of dogs require frequent grooming, which can become expensive quickly,” says Case. Despite the extra care that dogs sometimes require, caring for one can be an incredibly exciting and rewarding experience, as dogs make excellent companions (and best friends!).
Personality: Extroverted, agreeable, conscientious, fun, active and sociable
Interests: Exercising, going to the beach, hiking, surfing and dining out
Commitment Level: Anticipate an above-average commitment level when caring for a dog
Budget: Dogs are less expensive than caring for a child, but more expensive than caring for your standard fish
The mere size of a horse should give you some sort of indication of the level of pet care required to own one. Case says that horse care may require a traveling veterinarian, a farrier for foot hygiene, a housing facility for shelter and exercise, grooming and riding accessories, among other expenses. “Horses are also larger than ‘traditional’ pets, so safety is paramount to both the horse and the owner for a successful relationship,” says Case.
Personality: Friendly, sensible, stubborn, observant, capable, free-spirited and strong
Interests: Nature walks, team sports, dancing and traveling to touristy destinations
Commitment Level: High
When weighing out your options for potential new pet companions, make sure you take your time and do your research so you can be sure you are making the right decision. “[You] should also think critically about why [you] are wanting an animal, as animals are a lifetime commitment and should not be thought of as temporary novelties or Band-Aids for certain situations,” says Case.