There’s a perfect family pet out there for you, no matter what your household looks like. Animals can bring a host of benefits to the home, whether you’re single and loving apartment life or have six kids and a sprawling backyard.
The key is choosing a family pet that’s the right fit for your home and lifestyle.
Where to start with picking a family pet
The first place to start is deciding what type of animal you’d like. The obvious choices are dogs and cats, but you don’t have to limit yourself.
Maybe you’d like a budgie, a rabbit, a guinea pig, or even a snake? With so many possibilities, why not have some fun with your kids by previewing them all using VR pet mode on your phone? Be sure to also read about pets for children other than cats and dogs – when it comes to choice, the world is your oyster.
Ultimately, only your household can make the decision. If you need a low maintenance pet in a small apartment, you might be better off with a hedgehog or cat than a dog. That said, certain dog breeds might still be suitable if you’re willing to make some adjustments. And you could look at adopting an older dog instead of a puppy, for instance.
Though it’s important to be practical and take your circumstances into consideration, you also want to pick a pet you know you’ll love and enjoy for years to come.
Questions to ask when choosing the right family pet
Some things to keep in mind when you’re deciding what type of pet you want include:
- Who will take care of feeding and other responsibilities? If you’ll be the main caretaker, are you going to have time for walks and playtime? Or would you prefer a pet who needs less daily care?
- How much space do you have? An energetic Labrador needs more space than a cat. And specific breeds have certain needs too. A small home could accommodate a little or lazy dog, but probably not a Great Dane or a German Shepherd.
- Are you planning on moving or changing circumstances soon? If so, how will you plan for your pets? If you’re planning on moving in with a partner, going overseas (next year… hopefully?!), changing jobs, or having kids, will you still have enough time for your pet? Will they be able to join you? These changes shouldn’t necessarily prevent you from getting a family pet, but do need to be considered and planned for.
- How much time do you spend at home versus away from the house? Some pets need more frequent exercise or feeding than others. A young puppy needs more supervision and stimulation from humans than a rabbit, for instance.
- Have you had pets before? Are you more confident with certain animals than others? Some people love the memories a family dog gave them while growing up, and really only want a dog. Others want a fish or mouse as a first pet so they don’t have to change their lifestyle too much to accommodate them.
- Do you have pets already? Homing certain dogs and cats together might not work, for instance.
And if you have kids, there are a few more things to think about too…
Kids and pets
Not everybody has to consider kids when it comes to a family pet. But if you do have children, they’re likely going to form an integral part of your planning. As they should, because children growing up with pets can experience many benefits.
If you’re childfree and your pet isn’t likely to need to interact with children (like nieces, nephews, grandkids, or kids of friends) you can happily skip over this section.
If you do have kids or your pet will be in contact with them a lot, consider the following:
- Are they the ones pushing for a family pet? Kids and dogs can grow up really well together. But this normally requires a bit more planning and supervision than kids and fish, for instance.
- If your kids are in love with the idea of a pet, what kind of animals do they naturally gravitate towards? And are they gravitating that way because they truly understand what that kind of pet will be like or because they have unrealistic expectations?
- Will your kids be responsible for caring for the family pet on some level? Teaching kids them to care for a pet can be great for independence and responsibility. However, their ages and maturity level need to be taken into consideration too.
There are no right or wrong answers as to what family pet to get for a household with kids. Just make sure you choose one which creates a harmonious household.
What to do once you’ve decided on a family pet
Ok, so you’ve decided that you want a dog, cat, rabbit, horse, or whatever other animal. What are the next steps?
Firstly, you’ll want to find a local shelter or breeder where you can meet potential pets. It’s up to you whether you adopt or buy from a breeder, but if you’re dog shopping, beware of puppy mills and puppy scams. We’d always encourage you to visit a local rescue centre or shelter first, because you can often find the perfect match and help out an animal in need at the same time.
Once you’ve identified a few places, go and meet the animals. If possible, you should meet your potential family pet more than once. After all, this is a long term commitment and you want to be sure. But most people know when they find “the one” so let your gut guide you.
When bringing the new family pet home, you’ll want to make sure you’ve prepared. Make sure you have food, bowls, toys, beds/cages, and any other essentials sorted before they arrive.
To get you started, here are a few helpful resources:
- Bringing home an adopted dog
- Dog adoption checklist
- Ready to adopt a cat?
- Pet parenting mistakes to avoid
The last step? Enjoy every moment with your new family pet! Take lots of photos, make sure to love them, and enjoy every day to the fullest. It’ll all be worth it.
While you’re busy sorting out bowls and beds, think about taking out insurance too. That way, the family pet can make visits to the vet without you worrying about the bills – because we’ll help cover it.
While we can’t insure your rabbits or reptiles at the time of writing, we do offer affordable pet insurance for both dogs and cats. Plus, you could get your first month free if you buy your pet insurance online. Bonus!