Choosing the Right Pet For Your Family

Choosing the right pet for your family

Adding a pet to your family is an exciting prospect. Animals enrich our lives in countless ways. They provide us with the emotional outlet experienced by relating closely with a pet, strong intangible memories and very tangible photo albums, and the satisfaction from watching your family and friends interact with happy and playful pets.

Pets are also a very serious responsibility in your home, family and community, and the addition of a pet should never be undertaken lightly. Acquiring a pet that does not match your family’s life style, environment, and financial circumstances can lead to an unhappy end for the pet, and feelings of guilt, sadness and anger in your family.

The first step towards acquiring a new pet is to take a realistic look at your current life situation and determine what type of creature is the best match for you. You should always keep an open mind, remembering that just because you had a dog while growing up, a dog that needs lots of exercise, training and attention might not be the right choice for your busy family right now. Think about other pets that are better suited to your current life-style. Also, look at pets that you really like; don’t be swayed by the latest “pet du jour” just because a celebrity has one, a movie came out with one in it, or your son’s best friend has one.

Questions for Discussion

Before adding a new pet to your family, discuss the following issues openly and honestly:

How will our current pets react to the addition of a new pet? If you have pets that are elderly or chronically ill, the stress of a new pet may be detrimental to them. Conversely, a healthy pet may bloom by having a playmate. You know your family members best and how they will react to a newcomer.

Who will be responsible for the pet’s care? Children cannot ultimately be responsible for the care of a pet. While they can help with many pet-related chores, there needs to be an adult willing to handle the full-time responsibility.

How will having a pet impact on plans for travel, leaving home for college, moving for a job, or adding children in the future? Is the whole family ready to make a commitment to the life of the pet? Remember that while a small mammal or fish may live only a few years, cats can live 18-20 years, and some birds can live 40 years or more.

Does anyone in the family have allergies or other health related issues that could be affected by bringing in a pet? Remember it is not fair to the pet to be “bounced back” because the family wasn’t honest with itself about the commitment to cleaning and hygiene needed to keep a furry animal in a house with someone who has allergies.

Get the Facts

Local resources for pet information include: Kitsap Regional Library, your veterinarian, Paws & Fins Pet Store and friends and family who own a similar pet. Find out about needs for food, bedding, cages, lighting, exercise and veterinary care. Learn about the habits and activities of different pets; what some owners may consider “cute” others might find very annoying.

Pets & Kids: Age Appropriate Guidelines

Use the following guidelines when choosing pets for your children, as provided by the ASPCA:

Under 3 – Focus on introducing Baby to your current pets. It’s not appropriate to bring in a new pet at this point.

3 to 5 – Guinea pigs are a good choice, as they like to be held, seldom bite and will whistle when excited or happy. Your child can help fill the water bottle or food dish.

5 to 10 – Choose shelf pets like mice, rats or fish. Kids can help clean cages with adult help, though you should always check to ensure that pets have food and water and cages are secured.

10 to 13 – Your child is now ready for the responsibility of a dog, cat or rabbit. Your child can help feed the pet, walk the dog, clean the rabbit cage and clean the cat litter, but you should always check to be sure pets have everything they need. Participation in dog training classes is an excellent learning opportunity for children.

14 to 17 – Your child may have more activities competing for his time and less time to spend with a pet. Birds or aquariums are a good choice. Remember, you will have the pet once they leave to go to college.

Time Requirements for Various Pets

Following is the approximate minimum amount of time needed to adequately care for a pet. Remember that all pets need love and attention and benefit from as much time as their family can spend with them.

  • Amphibians, reptiles, fish – 10 minutes per day, plus 3 hours every few weeks
  • Hamsters, mice, guinea pigs, and rabbits – 30 minutes per day
  • Cats and birds – 30 to 60 minutes per day
  • Dogs – More than one hour per day

Pet Resource Inventory Checklist

1. Living Situation:

  • Do you own or rent your home? If you rent, are you allowed to have pets? Does your lease specify what type of pets you may own?
  • Are you planning a move in the next few years that would affect on your choice of pet?
  • What is your style of decor? Do you have collections of art and antiques or is your furniture more “rough and tumble”?
  • Would you want a pet that is only indoors? in/out? or primarily outdoors?

2. Time:

  • Do you have an active schedule that limits your at-home time?
  • Do you like to travel frequently? Or do you go on extended trips?
  • Is there a family member that is at-home most of the time? Is this person willing to be the pet’s primary caregiver?

3. Family Dynamics

  • Does everyone in the family want the pet?
  • What are the ages of family members? How does this fit in with the life expectancy of your pet?
  • Is your family currently going through a stressful emotional time- divorce, moving, death or illness, job change?

4. Finances

  • Do you have the funds to purchase the pet and all of the equipment needed to provide a safe and appropriate living situation for the pet?
  • Do you have the funds to provide for the ongoing needs of the pet- food, licensing, vet bills, supplies, toys, medications, etc.?
  • Can you handle a medical emergency should it arise?

Pet Care Financial Estimates

Caring for a family pet requires an ongoing financial commitment for food, adequate housing and veterinary care.

Basic Costs: Initial purchase of supplies (does not include cost of the pet itself):

  • Small Mammals (mice, gerbils, hamsters, rats): $40-$50
  • Birds: $60- $150 depending on type of bird (not including parrots or other large birds)
  • Rabbits / Guinea Pigs: $80-$90
  • Fish: $80 for basic 10 gallon set-up


  • Veterinary Care/Laboratory Tests – $50 to $125
  • Immunizations – $70 to $135
  • Internal/External Parasite Treatment and Control – $50 to $100
  • Spay/Neuter – $40 to $200. The cost may depend on the cat’s size and age.
  • Food – $150 to $200
  • Miscellaneous (toys, beds, bowls, litter, etc.) – $100 to $125

Total: $485 to $810


  • 9 week puppy shots $35 – $50, depending on vet
  • 12 week puppy shots $35 – $50, depending on vet
  • 16 weeks rabies shot $7 – $40, depending on vet
  • Heartworm preventative $40 – $100 per year depending on size of dog & type of preventative
  • Collar $5 – $20
  • Leash $5 – $20
  • Toys (puppies and dogs need a variety) $8 – $17
  • Various chews $2 – $10 each
  • Crate $25 – $150
  • Food $30 – $50 (per bag for good, premium food – cost per year will vary based on dog) $200- $750 per year
  • Puppy Classes $45 – $125 per session
  • Basic Obedience Classes $45 – $125 per session
  • Spay/Neuter $75 – $150 based on gender and size of dog

Puppy Total: $525 to $1600

Ongoing Costs: Average yearly costs of pet ownership

  • Small Mammals (mice, gerbils, hamsters, rats): $30- $40
  • Birds: $30-$40 depending on type of bird (not including parrots or other large birds)
  • Rabbits / Guinea Pigs: $50- $60
  • Fish: $40 for basic 10 gallon set-up


  • Veterinary Care/Laboratory Tests: $50 to $125
  • Immunizations: $60
  • Internal/External Parasite Treatment and Control: $50 to $100
  • Food: $150 to $200
  • Miscellaneous (toys, beds, bowls, litter, etc.): $100 to $125

Cat Total: $325 to $550


  • Heartworm preventative: $40 – $100 per year depending on size of dog & type of preventative
  • Internal/External Parasite Treatment and Control: $50 to $100
  • Various chews: $2 – $10 each
  • Food: $30 – $50 (per bag for good, premium food – cost per year will vary based on dog) $200- $750 per year
  • Boarding: $70 – $200 for one week of boarding
  • Grooming: $40 – $200
  • Veterinary Care/Laboratory Tests: $50 to $125
  • Immunizations: $60

Dog Total: $525 to $1500