How to Choose a Family Pet

There's no denying that adding an animal companion to your family can be a rewarding and enriching experience. However, when considering a new pet it's important to think about how they will fit into your family structure. Today, our Smokey Point vets offer advice on things to consider when selecting a family pet. 

Getting a New Pet

Getting a new pet is like adding a new family member; we love and care for our pets deeply.

Different types of animals come with different challenges and care requirements but they all have one thing in common: they rely on you to survive. So you must think carefully about which type of pet would fit best into your family to ensure you have all the resources you need to properly care for your new friend. 

Things to Consider

The first thing to consider when selecting a pet is if they will meet your lifestyle needs. For example, if you are often out for most of the day, a dog might not be a good choice because they require a lot of attention, walks, and bathroom breaks. Instead, you might opt for a cat that is more than capable of hanging out alone for 8-10 hours a day. Our vets at Advanced Care Animal Clinic also recommend you ask yourself the following:

  • Am I financially able to care for the pet I'm choosing? All pets come with a cost commitment, but some are more expensive than others. For example, a dog's vet bills are likely to run a higher bill than a small goldfish tank and fish food. 
  • What is a good match for my family? If your family spends lots of time outside and adventuring, a dog makes a great pet as they tend to be quite outgoing themselves. If you're the type of family that prefers quiet nights in with puzzles and board games, you might prefer the quieter companionship of a cat or rabbit. 
  • Does anyone in your family have allergies? If being around pet fur makes anyone in your family sneeze, a reptile might make a more suitable pet. 
  • Can we handle the care requirements? Each type of pet has different needs and ways to accomplish their care. Dogs require a large time commitment but cats need to have their litter boxes changed, hamsters and guinea pigs need their cages cleaned regularly, and reptiles might require a diet that makes some people squeamish (like bugs and mice). Make sure you're committed to the care requirements of whatever pet you choose and remember, while your kids might help you, in the end, it's up to you to make sure your pet is cared for. 

The most important thing is that you do your research before selecting a pet and ensure that you are fully capable of taking care of their basic and emergency needs. Here are some pets you may be considering: 


Choosing a dog starts with considering a breed that will suit your home and lifestyle. Do some research about the breed's general temperament (but remember that all animals have their own personalities as well). Some dogs are calm and content to sit at your feet all day while others can be bold and boisterous. You should also consider the size of the dog. If you live in a small apartment a small dog might be better suited for your needs. 

Things to consider when getting a dog: Registering with a license, training, taking them out on walks, and providing the proper food, grooming, and veterinarian care.


Cats can make great pets. They are often playful and affectionate - but remember, like dogs, they will each have their own distinct personality. Cats are fairly low-maintenance pets once they're fully grown. One of the biggest complaints amongst cat owners is that cats love to scratch. Be prepared to frequently trim your cat's nails, provide them with scratching posts, and deter them from furniture you do not want to be scratched. 

Things to consider when getting a cat: Changing the litter box, providing proper food and stimulation (toys, scratching posts), nail care, and veterinarian care. 


If you're thinking about getting a pet bird, choose carefully—some birds are more suited to human companions than others. Budgies are a popular choice because they can be quite affectionate and enjoy handling while cockatiels can be trained to talk and even perform tricks. You'll have to keep your bird's cage clean and replenish their food and water bowls daily. The cage should suit your birds' adult size-they need to be able to flap their wings without touching the sides of the cage.

Things to consider when getting a bird: Cleaning the cage, noise, commitment to ownership (some birds can live to be 100 years old), and veterinarian care. 


While fish are not a cuddly pet option, they can be quite beautiful to look at as they swim in their tank. They also require less care than some other pets do. Care requirements can vary depending on the species of fish but the main factor to consider when getting a fish is that you will have to keep their tank clean. Some fish are predatory towards others so if you're considering getting multiple fish be sure to do your research and speak to the pet store for more information on which types of fish get along well. 

Things to consider when getting a fish: Proper nutrition, tank size, and tank cleaning. 


Although you may not associate these characteristics with them, rabbits can be quite intelligent and affectionate. They are also social creatures and thrive when they have a companion rabbit rather than being on their own (just be sure to get two females or two males to avoid a situation where you have more pet rabbits than you'd like). Proper care for rabbits includes access to a litter box, a food bowl and water bottle, and clean bedding. Bedding should be made of non-toxic materials like recycled newspaper or aspen wood. 

Things to consider when getting a rabbit: Cleaning their cage regularly (including changing their bedding), companionship, proper nutrition, supervision at all times when they are outside of their cage. 

Hamsters or Guinea Pigs

Hamsters and guinea pigs are small animals that are great for older children, happy to be handled if they've been socialized from a young age and love to be snuggled gently. Both animals need cages and bedding with proper access to food and clean water. And like most pets, they also need toys and accessories-like wheels, chew toys, and tunnels to stimulate their minds. Guinea pigs require a larger, roomier cage than hamsters, and their cages should be cleaned daily. Other than the cleaning requirements, however, these are fairly low-maintenance pet options. 

Things to consider when getting a hamster or guinea pig: Regular cage cleaning (including clean bedding), and proper nutrition. 

Vet Care for Your New Pet

Regardless of which animal you choose, it's important to seek out a vet who knows how to care for your new pet. Regular vet visits are essential for the long-term health and wellbeing of any pet. Be sure to bring your pet in regularly for the appropriate routine and preventive care, including any vaccinations and parasite preventives they need to keep them safe. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

For more information on proper pet care, contact our Smokey Point vets today.