Choosing the Right Pet Benefits Everyone

by Blake Herzog

It’s hard not to idealize our pets, whichever form they take in our lives — furry, feathery, slick or scaly. They’re the sweet souls that stick by us whether we’re happy or sad, the devoted denizens of our homes who know and love us better than we do ourselves. 

We have a whole month dedicated to what they mean to us: National Pet Month in May (April in the UK.) It’s a time not only to celebrate our beloved cats, dogs, gerbils, tortoises, mini-donkeys and any other species that’s found a home with us but to revel in the love, inspiration, entertainment and comfort they give us. 

And, it’s a time to encourage anyone else who’s able to adopt a homeless animal to do so. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorse pet ownership for its benefits to human health, citing research linking pets to: 

  • Decreased blood pressure.
  • Decreased cholesterol levels.
  • Decreased triglyceride levels.
  • Decreased feelings of loneliness.
  • Increased opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities.
  • Increased opportunities for socialization.

But not every pet-parent matchup is successful, and some questions need to be answered before anyone takes the plunge — for the pet’s benefit as well as your own. Here is a basic list of questions adapted from the CDC’s website:

  • How long will this animal live?
  • What does the pet eat?
  • How much exercise does the pet need?
  • How large will it become?
  • How much will it cost for veterinary care?
  • Do I have enough time to properly care for and clean up after the pet?
  • What type of habitat does this pet need to be healthy?
  • Are pets allowed in my house, apartment or condominium?

Are there young children, older people, or people with weak immune systems who will care for or be around the pet? (These groups of people are more likely to be infected by zoonotic diseases, which are passed between humans and animals.

By celebrating National Pet Month we are committing to being as good for our animals as they are for us.

The American Veterinary Medical Association has a list of similar questions at avma.org/resources/pet-owners/petcare/selecting-pet-your-family that includes links to species-specific guidelines for choosing dogs, cats, rabbits, reptiles and other animals. 

The association points out other considerations, including the availability of veterinary care for exotic pets, who will take care of your pets when you travel, or if you’re unable to keep them due to changes in life circumstances, and their compatibility with every member of your family, including
other pets.

Both organizations emphasize it’s never a good idea to bring a wild animal inside as a pet. They have specific needs that usually can’t be met within an indoor home environment and are not domesticated with behaviors that are acceptable in a family home. 

By celebrating National Pet Month we are committing to being as good for our animals as they are for us, and making the right decisions at the start can ensure a good experience for both.