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Are you thinking about getting a pet? Owning and taking care of an animal is a huge commitment filled with responsibilities and expenses. Some pets more so than others. Although you or a family member may have a particular animal in mind, the American Veterinary Medical Association suggests you consider the following to help ensure you choose the right pet for your household and circumstances:

Do you already have a pet? If so, will your current pet accept another pet of the same or a different species? If you’re uncertain, your veterinarian can help you answer this question.

What are you looking for in a pet? Do you want a lap warmer? A running buddy? Or a pet that’s easy to care for? This will affect your pet choice.

Who will care for the pet? Consider the abilities and availability of the caretaker. If you have young children, a pet that’s active at night wouldn’t be as good a choice as one that’s active during the time your child is awake. Although it’s good to involve children in caring for pets if you have them, it’s unrealistic to expect a child to be solely responsible for any pet’s care and welfare.

Do rules limit your choice? If you rent, your landlord may restrict the type or number of pets you can have. Condominium and homeowner associations may have similar restrictions. If you live in a city, your choice of pet may be very different from your choice if you lived in the suburbs or the country. Some types of pets aren’t allowed by local ordinances. Consider also the amount of exercise your pet will need and whether your living arrangements accommodate that need.

Can you provide enough attention and a life-long commitment? Different species and breeds of animals have differing needs for companionship and attention, as well as differing life expectancies. For example, some larger birds have been known to live more than 100 years! Do your research to ensure you have a realistic understanding of the commitment you’re making when you get a particular type of pet.

Can you afford the pet? Think of the needs your pet will have for food, housing, socialization, exercise, grooming and veterinary care, and make sure you can afford and are willing and able to provide them. Some pets, such as reptiles, amphibians, pocket pets and birds, require special veterinary care, so make sure there’s a veterinarian in your area who can provide that care.

How long will you be present? Some pets need more frequent exercise or feeding and might not be a good choice for owners who spend a lot of time away from home by working long hours or traveling frequently.

A cat, dog, bird, fish, rabbit, rodent, ferret, reptile–even a horse. There are so many different types of pets to consider. If you’re still unsure which is right for you, do some research or consult a veterinarian.

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