Thinking about getting a new puppy or kitten? Planning ahead can make the experience a much better one for you and your family. The first step should be researching the type of pet that would work best for you. Look at your lifestyle and your home. If you are in a small apartment, a large breed dog with a lot of energy may not be the best fit. How long are you away from your home during the day? Dogs need a lot of exercise and attention. If left alone for long periods of time, they may become bored leading to destructive behavior and/or accidents inside your home. Do you have small children? A teacup breed puppy may be more prone to injury with rough play from children. Herding breeds will also tend to “herd” children just as a natural habit. Cats also need attention. While they may not need walked like a dog, they need clean litter boxes and exercise. They can also learn destructive behaviors if bored. Cats also require regular grooming. Talk to your veterinary office for some ideas, they might be able to suggest a breed or two that would work well for you.

Cost is an important factor to consider also. Buying a purebred pet from a breeder or pet store can be rather expensive. Adopting from an animal shelter helps with the over population in animal shelters and can be a much better deal (especially since most shelter animals will already have microchips, vaccines, and spay/neuter all done ahead of time). Even “free” pets can cost a lot of money. Routine veterinary care, food, grooming, training, a crate/ cat carrier, kennel costs (if you travel), etc. are all expenses to consider. You should also plan for the unexpected. What if your pet becomes ill? What if they break a bone? What if they need to go to an emergency clinic? These costs can add up quickly.

If you choose a purebred dog or cat, it is important to know not only the breed characteristics, but know the animal you are buying. Ask the breeder to meet both the parents of the puppy/kitten, if possible. If the parents of the animal have behavior issues or health issues, chances are greater for the puppy or kitten to have the same problems. A good breeder will have parents checked for health issues that are common with their breed. Testing can be done on eyes, hips and elbows, thyroid, etc. Never be afraid to ask questions. A good breeder will also have them health checked by a veterinarian and vaccinations started.

Remember the commitment you are making. Cats and dogs can live for years. Average ages depend on breeds, but most dogs can live 8+ years (small breeds living into their teens). Most cats can live into their teens too. It is always a good idea to know what you are getting into before bringing a pet home. Cats and dogs are too often taken to shelters because of an unwanted behavior, often times caused by the wrong match up with an owner. Doing your homework ahead of time can make a big difference for you and lead to a much better experience.