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What pet to get: How to decide if a pet is right for you

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If you’re considering what pet to get, or whether to get one at all, you are not alone. Regardless of the species, breed, or size, making the decision to get a pet is a big one. Despite its challenges, pet ownership is as popular as ever. Almost 80% of Canadian households currently include a furry or feathered family member. There is no denying the bonds between people and their beloved animals, and research suggests that having a pet can improve mental well-being

If you’re wondering, “‘What is the best pet for me?” here are some questions to ask yourself to decide whether getting a pet now is the right choice.

How much will it cost?

Often when people think of the cost of a pet, they think of up-front spending such as the price to buy or adopt, food, and accessories. However, these things make up only a fraction of the long-term costs of having a companion. 

Over the span of your pet’s life, you will pay for training, grooming, pet sitting, and veterinary bills. In 2024, the average cost of owning a dog per year in Canada is over $3,000, a 23% increase from 2021. Over the average 13-year lifespan of a dog, the total cost of ownership would be $39,000. Of course, this may be higher or lower depending on the breed and health of a dog. Find out the average yearly costs of the type of pet you want and its average lifespan, then multiply these two numbers to see whether or not you can afford that pet for the long-term. 

Do I have the time?

Spending quality time with a beloved animal companion is an extraordinary, unique bonding experience. To give your pet a healthy, happy life, you have to invest the time to not only make sure they’re clean and fed, but also that they get enough mental and physical stimulation. 

This could mean playing with them, training them, walking them several times a day, going on outings together, or simply spending time snuggling. Think about how this added family member would fit into your daily routine on weekdays and weekends, and whether you truly have enough time to offer them a good life. 

Are my lifestyle and space pet-friendly?

A pet can be a friend, a companion, and sometimes a welcome distraction. With all of the good they bring, it is easy to forget that having one is also a big responsibility. 

Different species and breeds come with different needs in terms of time, lifestyle, and space. When you’re considering a certain pet, think about how they would fit into your lifestyle. If you’re someone who likes to relax on the couch, maybe an older cat will suit you best. If you often find yourself in the great outdoors, perhaps a young dog will be a good match for your long hikes.

Also think about how much indoor and outdoor space your home has. Some pets require less space, while others like a yard to zoom around in. To learn about safe outdoor spaces for pets, check out our blog post on how to create a pet-friendly yard. In the end, the better fit your pet is to your lifestyle and space, the better your life together will be.. 

Will I be allergic?

Animals can be furry or feathery creatures, and that’s part of why we love them so much. With that comes shedding or molting, which can cause allergy flare-ups for more than 2 million Canadians with pet allergies. To determine whether you should get a particular pet, think about the members of your household, friends and family members who may visit regularly. Do any of them have known allergies to pet fur, feathers, or dandruff? If so, you may want to explore hypoallergenic pet options such as a reptile, a non-shedding dog, or a hairless cat.

How long will my pet live?

Did you know that certain cockatoo breeds can live up to 65 years? Most people don’t think of having a pet for most of their life, but it is possible with certain species when given proper care. While most people know that cats generally outlive dogs, it’s perhaps lesser known that the average life expectancy for a cat is up to 17 years, with many living over 20. So be aware that getting a pet is a relatively long-term commitment. Find out the average life expectancy for whichever species and breed you’re considering in order to prepare emotionally, mentally, and financially for your new family member. 

Am I allowed to have a pet in my home?

In an ideal world, pet-friendly homes would be commonplace. Sadly, this is not always the case. Depending which province and city you live in, there may be strict rules around which living facilities allow animal companions. This varies depending on whether you’re renting or own your home, or live in an apartment or condominium building, a co-op, or a shelter. Make sure to always check the rules for any restrictions around pet ownership where you live. Also consider whether you plan to move in the coming years, and how having an animal may impact your future living arrangements. 

Making a smart decision

In the end, the most important things you can give yourself when making this life-altering decision are time and thought. Do your research, and ask yourself questions about the considerations highlighted in this article before deciding. Remember that when you commit to an animal, it’s for their whole lifetime. Rehoming or surrendering a pet to an overcrowded shelter can have devastating consequences for an animal. Thinking this important decision through carefully is the best way to start down the path to a happy life journey with a companion animal. 

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