What is the best family pet?

Big or small, hairy or scaly, noisy or quiet, indoors or out – there are some big decisions to be made when thinking about which pet best suits your family.

Pets – as their owners would say – quickly become another member of the family. For many kids, the family pet is their best friend – a companion who not only provides unconditional love, but who also teaches them about friendship, responsibility, loyalty and empathy. But before you jump off the deep end and add a pet member to your family, you need to consider what kind of animal will best fit in with you. Here are some things to weigh up:

1) Who is looking after the pet?
Is one particular child pushing for a family pet? If so, are they old enough and responsible enough to look after a pet, or will you – the parent – end up having to take over?

2) How much will it cost?
The purchase price is just the beginning – there will be ongoing upkeep such as food, litter, and vet bills. The type of pet you choose will determine the cost.

3) Your living situation
How much space you have may determine the type of pet you can get. A dog, for example, needs plenty of running space, and a fully-fenced and secure section. A fish does not.

Next you need to decide which animal fits the maintenance level you and your family can handle.

1) Lowest maintenance pets
These are pets like fish, lizards and turtles. Your time commitment to these animals will probably be about 15 minutes a day for feeding and about an hour a week to clean tanks or cages. One thing to remember though: these animals aren’t cuddly or affectionate, so while they may be fun to watch and a good way to learn about animals, they may not give you the close relationship you want.

2) Low maintenance pets
This category includes many family-favourite pets such as cats, small birds, rabbits and rodents (i.e. guinea pigs, gerbils hamsters, mice and rats.) These pets require 15 to 30 minutes a day of feeding and weekly cage or litter box cleaning.

3) Medium maintenance pets
A medium maintenance family pet is a dog. Dogs require much more attention and time than cats or gerbils. They need to be exercised and fed daily, and groomed regularly. Dogs may also have to get training or obedience lessons, and need way more human interaction than other animals. Expect to spend an hour or two every day taking care of your canine pal.

4) High maintenance pets
Think horses, large birds like parrots, and exotic animals like llamas or pigs. These animals require a lot more care, attention, time, and money. They also need a lot of space, so unless you live in a zoo or on a large farm, high maintenance pets probably aren’t for you!

Once you’ve weighed up your options, all that’s left to do is to choose a fitting name for your new family pet.