So, you are interested in obtaining a new pet for your household. Pets help us feel loved, needed, and accepted. They can help relieve loneliness, stress, and make us laugh. Before making the decision to get a pet, spend some time to determine why you want one and what type of pet would be best for your family.
First, you need to figure out why you want a pet. Are you seeking a companion, some prestige, an exercise buddy, a hobby, for the kids, to make money, for security, to show, or something else? A pet should not be obtained for something to do. This needs to be a well-thought out decision – remember, some pets can live 10-20 years!
Really look at your lifestyle: How physically active are you? Do you want your pet to be a part of an active lifestyle? A couch potato? Somewhere in-between? Do you and any household member have allergies to pets? How settled is your life? Are you expecting major lifestyle changes over next several years? A pet that fits into your life today needs to also fit in tomorrow.
Other considerations are time, space, and money. Do you have a lot of free time now? How much time do you have every day to spend taking care of a pet? Time is precious, and adding a pet will take more of your time. Some animals require more time than others (dogs, cats, etc). Also, all pets need to live indoors and be part of the family. Do you have enough space for the type of pet you are thinking about? How safe is it for your pet? Do you have an effective and humane way of confinement? Do you plan to move or relocate in the next few years? Do you own or rent? Are you willing to spend the time looking for a place that will take an animal if you have to move?
Finally, how much money are you willing to spend for the original cost and set-up of the animal? Some things to consider are housing, licenses, food, spaying/neutering, initial vet expenses, toys, and collar/leash. This is not a comprehensive list. Other things that may come up during the year are: emergency care, replacement housing, yearly vet expenses, boarding/pet-sitting, and grooming.
After you have thought about these questions, it is time to research your pet of choice. If you have narrowed down a specific breed, do more research! Investigation is important to confirm that that particular pet/breed will indeed fit into your life. Look at expected temperament, size, grooming needs, diet and health concerns, exercise and space requirements, etc. All this information will give you more detail in making a decision. You can find more information at libraries, the vet, book stores, dog and cat shows, friends and neighbors, dog trainers, animal shelters, and other computer online services.
Once you have researched your specific pet/breed, you can set your selection criteria. Do you want a purebred or mixed breed? Male or female? Adult or infant? There are advantages and disadvantages to each one. Please see pg 6 of “Choosing a Pet”: http://www.seattlehumane.org/~shsshs/files/images/Choosingapet.pdf
Have you completed your investigation? You may be ready to start looking! Other things to do prior to beginning your real search: resolve any conflicts that stop you from making a lifetime commitment, obtain all the necessary equipment, take time off of work to help animal adjust, make time to take animal to vet within first week, and understand that you may not find the right animal for you the first time you look. Avoid impulse selection, selection by what the animal looks like (would you buy a car based only on color?), selection as a gift for another person, and selection out of misguided pity.
Pondering and researching your decision is very important because when an animal is right in front of you, it is human nature to throw common sense to the wind and take it home. By utilizing your list of needs, you will ensure picking the appropriate pet for your lifestyle.
More resources can be found online - just search "How to Pick a Pet."