Owning a pet is a wonderful experience, it can help manage loneliness and depression, keep us fit and active, lower our stress levels, and provide us with a loving companion for many joyful years. Whether you have a pet like a dog or cat, or something smaller like a hamster, fish, or even a turtle, we love them just as much as any other family member. However, it is often tricky to decide on what’s the best pet for you.
For first time pet owners, a lot depends on your lifestyle and activity levels. For example, if you work 12 hours a day in an office, live in a large city without a garden and don’t exercise, a border collie may not be the best pet for you. How long will you get to spend with your pet? Remember it’s a living creature and not a toy.
Here are our top 5 points to consider when picking a pet that’s right for you:
1 – Time Commitment
How long are you prepared to commit to your pet? The average dog and cat can live 10-15 years. Small animals, such as Guinea Pigs can live up to 6 years. Some reptiles can live over 50 years! Your pet will give you unconditional love for its entire life, can you offer the same?
Your pet is your responsibility, and not something you should give up when no longer convenient. If you have never owned a pet before, do some research in advance to understand what to expect from your pet during ownership. You can watch YouTube videos, browse forums, ask pet shop staff for advice, get some animal specific books and leaflets, and ask other owners (if you know any) about their experience.
2- Lifetime Cost
The cost of a pet is an important thing to consider. Not just the upfront cost of a pet, which can vary widely depending on the animal you’ve chosen, but also ongoing costs. By this we mean bedding, food, treats, training and healthcare. Vet bills can be beyond eye watering, there will be a point in your pets’ life where it will need to see vet, these bills can cost hundreds, even if you just have a hamster or rabbit.
The second biggest cost will be time. But it will be time well spent as you’ll be spending time with your new pet!
3 - Your Lifestyle
This is one of the most important areas to consider, but often the most overlooked. How much time you’ll actually spend with your new pet is important. Some pets require very little interaction, such as reptiles, and some small animals. Although often the personality of these animals may say otherwise. Your Bearded Lizard may seek human attention, but your hedgehog may ignore you. Other pets, such as dogs, are social creatures and will suffer without mental stimulation and keeping active.
Fish are probably the exception to this, however you will still need to commit time to cleaning out the tank or pond and to feed them.
When considering this, make sure you are realistic. Everyone has the best of intentions, but it is better to work out whether you have the time and attention to give to a pet before you get one rather than after you bring it home.
4 - Allergies
It may seem like an obvious point, but it is worth checking if you are allergic to an animal before bringing one home. You don’t want your first cuddle to bring you out in a rash or make you sneeze!
Again, fish are the probable exception here, assuming you’re not going to eat them…
5 – Training, learning, & reinforcement
This ties into the Lifestyle section, and again relies heavily on having time to commit to it.
The bigger your pet is, the more likely you’re going to need to train it. Dogs will obviously require training commitment, and the breed and personality of the dog will define how long this may take. Cats can also be trained to use a cat litter box, as well as to perform other tasks, although you’ll need to be very patient. Training will take months to years to learn, and a lifetime of reinforcement and repetition to ensure they don’t forget.
Small animals can also be trained should you wish. Usually this is as straight forward as getting your pet used to being handled, this however will still take time and commitment. All animals regardless of size need your attention.
What is the easiest pet to take care of?
In the 1970’s there was a pet that became very popular with almost zero upkeep. What was this pet? It was a pet rock, of course. The easiest pet to take care of as it doesn’t require feeding, cleaning, attention or training.
The truth of the matter is that even the smallest of living creature will require upkeep, care, and love.
Here is a list of pets which could be considered low maintenance:
What are the most popular pets for beginners?
The best pet for beginners is one that is low maintenance, but still requires some care as this is good experience for the future. Ease of handling is also something to consider, along with temperament.
Rodents – These animals are great for first time pet owners and children. They are easy to care for and handle, and don’t take up a huge amount of space. Guinea pigs have the advantage of a long lifespan. Rats are a very clean animal so don’t create much smell, and gerbils are the least likely to bite! They all have the advantage of being great fun to watch!
Small Birds – Small birds, or parakeets covers a range of small to medium birds that live in aviary’s. Because there is a selection of breeds to select from, you can get one to fit you and your lifestyle. Some like to sing loudly, and others are much quieter. Whilst they are a low maintenance pet, some can live up to 40 years which is something to consider when buying.
Geckos – Reptiles, such as geckos, are calm, quiet and don’t require daily feeding. This alone makes them great first time pets. They are also very easy to handle, are cute, and don’t shed fur. They can live anywhere between 10 and 20 years, which means children can grow with them.
Freshwater Fish – These are excellent starter pets and a good introduction to fish keeping. The most popular is the Goldfish which requires a simple cold water aquarium. Other freshwater fish, such as sword tails, danios, guppies and some tetras will require a heated fish tank. Each type is easy to care for, only requiring daily feeding and semi-regular tank cleaning.
Did we help you decide whether owning a pet is right for you, or what pet you should get? Let us know in the comments below if you’ve recently bought a pet and what your experience as a new pet parent has been like.