Quiz: Choose the Right Pet for Your Family
By Erik Missio
Photography by Robert Przybysz © 123RF.com
Jan 12, 2017
There are lots of reasons why adding a pet to your human family can be a great idea. It might mean companionship for your kids, or a way to instil a sense of responsibility through showing them how hard and rewarding it can be to care for another living thing. Pets can be fun, comforting, fascinating to watch, challenging to train, or a way to foster a unique connection. It’s also a lot of work.
Gifting someone a pet for their birthday or a holiday is a terrible idea — you’ve just handed them years and years of responsibility and bills to pay.
People who love their animals unconditionally will still be the first to say how much labour, patience, empathy, stress and money is involved. It’s a lot like parenting. This is the reason why no one should get a pet without doing lots of research. It’s also why gifting someone a pet for their birthday or a holiday is a terrible idea — you’ve just handed them years and years of responsibility and bills to pay.
But if you are ready for a pet, how do you decide which one is the right fit for your family? We’ve got a fun quiz to give you some ideas. (If you’re serious about getting a pet, you need to do the research. This means not only reading web articles and talking to other owners, but also finding experts to answer all your questions. Certain bylaws may even make your chosen pet illegal in your city.)
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1. What are you looking for in a pet?
2. Where does your ideal pet spend most of their time?
3. Do you want something that can be picked up and handled?
4. Do you think pets should be seen and not heard?
5. What are your feelings about feeding your new pal(s)?
6. Some animals can live a long time. What kind of commitment are you looking for?
7. You were just looking for one pet, right?
8. Do you live in Alberta?
9. How do you feel about taking walks? Regularly? Even in the rain and snow? And at night when you're sick?
10. Once you've bought the initial round of stuff like housing and food, how much work are you willing to put in?
Disappointed? Don’t be. Goldfish are super-cool. They’ve gotten a terribly inaccurate reputation as being ‘disposable’ pets, but if you take the time to learn about their needs, these intelligent, beautiful creatures can live decades. There are so many different colours and breeds — some have bubble eyes, others have two tails, missing dorsal fins, or giant shields around their heads. Unlike tropical fish, they thrive in cooler water, so you can save on heating bills. However, they’re messy, need companionship, and require more room than you’d think. An aquarium for two would be 30 gallons (and never a bowl). More info: thegoldfishtank.com.
Also known as Siamese fighting fish, bettas are solitary little guys — you’ll often see them in pet stores in tiny vases or bowls. They require less work than goldfish, but still more work than you’re probably told. For example, a bigger tank is a good idea, as is a filter. But if you just want one fish, and a really eye-catching one at that, this might be a good choice.
More info: japanesefightingfish.org/betta-fish-care
Tarantulas are quiet, solitary, relatively easy-to-care-for creatures who don’t need a lot of living space. However, you shouldn’t handle them — not so much because of bites (they’re not poisonous, but it will hurt), but because it will kick its tiny hairs at you and if they reach your eyes, it’s not pretty. Keep it in its housing with a few temporary cricket companions/snacks, and you’ll be fine. Males live a few years, but a female spider could be your pal for a quarter-century. Of course, it’s a big, hairy spider, which is a deal-breaker for some. More info: tarantulaguide.com
Granted, snakes aren’t for everyone, but if you’re thinking about the serpent route, this one might be the way to go. They’re not poisonous, considered pretty docile, have beautiful coloured markings, and, in the words of Reptiles Magazine, “the size of mature corn snakes is just right: big and hardy enough to accept regular handling, yet not large enough to intimidate a novice or child.” (That size, incidentally, is two to six feet.) They’re not always the most interactive pet, though, and yes, you will have to feed them mice — usually weekly.
More info: allaboutcornsnakes.com
Originally from the Canary Islands, but bred in captivity for the last 500 years or so, canaries are colourful finches that can live solo. They’re famous for their songs (more so the males), so if you enjoy the silence, this might not be the best feathered friend. Also, they’re less likely to bond with you in comparison to, say, a parakeet. If your house is empty for long periods, that’s not necessarily a bad thing because it won’t feel lonely.
More info: canaryadvisor.com
Budgies are small, long-tailed parrots that come from Australia — they’re also one of the world’s most popular pets. They’re small, relatively inexpensive, and some can even mimic human speech or, at the very least, whistle better than most humans. They’re social birds, so a spacious cage for two would be a good way to go. They’re also smart birds, so some toys will help stave off destructive boredom. Your kids can teach them to sit on their finger or fly in and out of their cage, but you’ll definitely want to supervise — an escaped budgie probably wouldn’t last too long in the great outdoors and there may be poop to clean up on a cabinet.
More info: budgerigar.com
These little guys are on the bigger size, as hamsters go, anyway. They’re also territorial, so you can only keep one. Hamsters can be a bit aggressive and may nip — they’re not the best rodent if you want to do a lot of one-on-one handling. They’re also nocturnal, which means they nap during the day (when everyone’s at school or work) and party all night. As long as the cage isn’t right beside the bed, the hamster’s chewing or running around probably won’t keep anyone up.
More info: thehamsterhouse.com
Illegal in Alberta and derided as vermin by many, rats are super-smart, affectionate, and far more happy being handled than hamsters, gerbils, bunnies, or pretty much any pet that isn’t a dog. (It’s important to keep in mind these are fancy rats, bred domestically — they don’t have the same temperament or disease-carrying possibilities as their wild cousins.) Keeping at least two is a good idea because they’re social creatures. They’re quiet, they’ll clean themselves, will learn tricks, and, according to rat owners, will come when you call them by name. More info: petrats.org
Red-Eared Slider Turtle
Maybe, just maybe, red-eared sliders (or another type of turtle) is for you. Turtles and tortoises are cool animals — everyone likes them — and they can live for decades. However, you really, really need to do your research. They’ll need far more room than you probably think — especially if you end up opting for one of those bigger species of tortoise. (Upside? You could be this guy.) Aquatic turtles are also super-dirty poop machines and regular cleanings are a must. However, there can be salmonella concerns, so you’ll need to ensure your kids know it’s a must they always clean their hands. If you think you’re up to it, maybe you could adopt or foster? More info: redearslider.com
Look, if you can’t get a pet capybara (and you really can’t), then maybe GPs are the next best thing. Unlike hamsters, they’re sociable and prefer to be in at least pairs. Cavies (their actual name) also live longer than rats and most other rodents. Some are furry and long-haired (allergies could be an issue), others bred to be hairless (i.e. house hippos or skinny pigs). They also do something called “popcorning,” which is pretty ridiculously cute. More info: petguineapigcare.com
Your family could be a good fit for a dog! Dogs are a lot of work, and require a lot of money and time (think: training, vet bills, carpet cleaning, daily walks, grooming, food, toys, blueberry facials), but dog-lovers will tell you the rewards are all worth it. Of course, needs vary greatly depending on the breed and size (and some breeds do better with young kids than others) so please do a lot of research before you make the leap. And make sure you visit a reputable breeder or your local shelter to pick your pup—there are lots of unwanted dogs who need a loving home.
More info: dogtime.com
As any cat owner knows, a feline can be a sweet little cuddle-monster, a force of destruction, an invisible ninja, needy, independent, a joy, a jerk, or all of these things whenever it feels like (and at the worst possible moment). Cats generally don’t take quite as much work or lifestyle-changing as do dogs, but they still need a lot of love and care (and vet bills). If you’re heart-set on a breed, find a reputable person. Otherwise, shelters across this country are sadly full of great cats—consider a full-grown one rather than a kitten.
More info: mustlovecats.net
Domesticated cousins of weasels, ferrets are intelligent, potentially charismatic creatures that can live solo or with a pal. For such little guys, they require a lot of work, though. They’re also carnivores (and wilder than your average cat)—those pointy little teeth means you’ll need to train then and your kids to coexist peacefully. If you’re unconvinced it’s worth the effort to ferret-proof your home for these guys, maybe check out some videos to see why others have fallen in love with them. More info: ferrets.ca
We know. We know. But. There’s a quiet renaissance going on in the ant-keeping world. Having a glass formicarium (the fancy word for ‘ant farm’) can provide your family with a window onto a fascinating world few have seen. Ants are social animals, but not in the way you’ll feel guilty if you don’t hang out with them every day (assuming, of course, you’re meeting all the basic feeding and care requirements). They’re quiet, hypoallergenic, relatively low-maintenance, and unlikely to need to go for a walk at midnight like a cocker spaniel would. It’s an incredible educational opportunity for yourself and your kids, but you’ll want to do your homework first.
More info: antscanada.com
Are you SURE a pet is a good idea right now?
Not every family should add a pet to their home. Animals are a lot of added work and responsibility for parents; the initial costs can be pricey, and then you’ll still need to be continually buying food or other items as it lives in your house. If the timing just isn’t right, you can always find other ways to show your kids animals in close quarters, whether than means a birdbath or feeder in the backyard, volunteering at a local animal shelter, or even hanging out with friends who do have pets. (Cleaning the neighbour’s hamster cage every two weeks is a good way of making certain your kids really do want their own.) And there’s always a wide variety of virtual, digital pets you can keep on your phone or tablet…
Looks like you're not a match with any of our 14 pets: goldfish; betta; tarantula; corn snake; canary; budgie; hamster; rat; red-eared slider turtle; guinea pigs; dog; cat; ferret or ants. Change your selections and try again, or wait for a while until the time is optimal to welcome a new pet into your family. If the timing just isn’t right, you can always find other ways to show your kids animals in close quarters, whether than means a birdbath or feeder in the backyard, volunteering at a local animal shelter, or even hanging out with friends who do have pets. (Cleaning the neighbour’s hamster cage every two weeks is a good way of making certain your kids really do want their own.)
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