Pets are SO cute and cuddly and in my opinion they just make life better. I don’t know what I would do without having pets. Around the holidays I see so many articles that just about scream “DON’T BUY PETS FOR CHRISTMAS” – and although I can understand the sentiment of receiving an unwanted pet I DO think getting a family pet at Christmas is OK as long as you know what you are getting yourself into! Instead of writing informative articles on the ups & downs of each type of pet more people are willing to jump on the bandwagon of not buying pets at all. Although I don’t think giving someone a pet as a present is necessarily the right thing to do (unless it’s to your kids!) as most people want to choose their own pet.
We have owned MANY pets over the years and researched adopting many other pets that we never followed through with. If you’re thinking of buying a family pet or giving a pet for Christmas please make sure you read the pros & cons for each type of pet below!
I have to say that cats are one of the easiest pets to take care of in my opinion. We will always have at least one cat around because they are so easy to care for and typically are pretty sociable but not needy. They are great to have around and pet once in a while but are not always super cuddly as cats like to have their own space to run and play. Kittens are VERY playful so if the idea of being woken up in the middle of the night to a cat attacking your hair or trying to bite your toes does not appeal to you, consider looking for a cat that is at least a year old! I love kittens and they are incredibly cute but ours have been a bit of a pain since they always want to play and we also have young children who don’t like to be woken up in the middle of the night from their furry friends! I always like adopting at least 2 cats so that they have another furry friend to play with when we are busy. Leaving town is also much easier when you have a cat. We can leave for the weekend or even up to a week as long as you leave PLENTY of water, food, and clean litter boxes out for your feline and have someone check in on them. It doesn’t hurt to have someone come in & check on them but they are one of the least needy animals in the way of care.
Initial Cost: Cost of cat, any shots needed, flea treatment(s), litter box and litter (if inside), food, dishes, spay/neuter
Continuing cost: Food, litter (if inside), flea treatment, shots/vet
Pros: low maintenance, great companion
Cons: personalities are sometimes tough to tell at first glance, litter box inside of house, not always soft & cuddly (they like their space), shedding
Although I had dogs growing up we have just recently adopted our first dog as a family. And let me tell you they are a lot of work! We LOVE our dog (she is 1 year old pictured above) and we love taking care of her – but she also costs a lot more, requires more attention, and is more difficult to deal with when planning a vacation! Dogs, if they live inside, need to be taken outside frequently for potty breaks and exercise. Puppies especially as they will also need to be potty trained. Typically you need to feed them twice a day (as opposed to leaving food out all the time as we do with our cats). If you have a younger dog it’s a good possibility he will like digging in your yard or chewing on things in the house. Vet bills tend to be higher because dogs are usually bigger and tend to have more health problems as they get older. However a dog will be your best friend and love you no matter what. They are not as finicky as cats and always want attention. If you are up for a more high maintenance animal that will love you unconditionally a dog is the way to go!
Initial Cost: Cost of dog, flea treatment, food, heart worm meds, dishes, collar, leash, dog house (if outside), shots, spay/neuter, fence
Continuing Cost: Food, Flea treatment, Heartworm, shots
Pros: best friend, loyal, fun
Cons: poop in your yard, shedding, need baths/smelly, constant care/attention
I have to say that I’ve never had a bird as a pet so I cannot speak from experience. Birds are fun to have in a cage but be prepared for lots of messes and loud noises from your little feathered friend!
Having farm animals as pets is becoming an increasingly popular trend in our culture! Because they are not your “typical” household pets finding information on keeping them as pets can sometimes be difficult. In my opinion it’s always best to talk to someone who has had firsthand experience with the animal you are interested in adopting and it is a MUST to do your research. We love farm animals and barnyard friends and have researched many different types as well as owned quite a few. You not only need to find out what they eat, the cost of their food, but also the habitat they need, fencing, and a local vet that will care for them when they are sick. It’s not as easy as you would think! We just adopted a pot belly pig and I have to drive 20 minutes to the next town just to buy her food even though we live in a farming community. So here is a quick synopsis on a few different types of barnyard friends you may be looking at.
Our family LOVES pigs. NOT HOGS! Yes, there IS a difference! If you’re looking for a “pet” pig, unless you have a huge area that you want a 500 pound hog in, I highly recommend that you look at a “mini” pot belly pig. But know that a “mini” pot belly pigs will get to be a good 200 pounds! We have owned 2 pigs now – both being quite different from the other. If you are adopting a pig you must be prepared for the possibility that your pig will need to stay outside. Pigs are VERY smart and can be litter box trained, but some pigs are a little more stubborn than others as ours is and needs an outside area to spend most of the day. If you have an outside-only pig you must have a safe area that it can escape from predators and stay warm/cool enough at nights. The start-up cost for acquiring a pig varies but expect typically to pay a few hundred dollars for the pig itself. Don’t forget that pigs need to be spayed/neutered, and of course the cost for food, any outside fencing/shelter, dishes that they can’t turn over, and a large litter box indoors (very large) if it is in the house. Additional things would be crates to sleep in or be transported in, harnesses and collars. You also have to think about transporting a large pig if it needs vet care. Going away on vacation is difficult with a pig if you don’t have someone that can come to your home to feed them twice a day. You can NOT leave a big pot of food out and expect a pig to pace itself in eating – they will gorge. And obviously typical shelters do not care for pigs while you travel.
Our family also LOVES chickens! We plan on getting some more in the spring now that things are settling down in our new house. Raising chickens might sound a bit complicated but to be honest aside from cats our chickens are VERY easy to care for. As long as they constantly have fresh food and water – they are pretty much fine by themselves if you head out for the weekend. (read more about how we started out with chickens) If you are interested in raising chickens there is a bit of a start-up cost but the continuing cost is pretty minimal. To start you will need to purchase poultry feeders and water dishes, and appropriate housing for your chickens. There are many different ways to house your birds including free-range, chicken coops, tractor runs, etc. Make sure you do your research and see what you have room for. Chickens WILL eat your garden veggies, can dig holes in your yard and will pretty much wreck your grass if they are in a smaller enclosed area. BUT they also provide delicious fresh eggs and are extremely easy to care for.
GOATS & SHEEP
Over the years we have talked back and forth about getting a goat but always end up deciding against it. You need very sturdy fencing for a goat and places for them to climb on. They poop everywhere and will chew on everything! But they do make great pets if you are prepared for them.
There is a LOT of cost that goes behind having a horse as they are not only expensive to buy but also very expensive to keep. You will need sturdy fencing, LOTS of room to run and LOTS of food! I do not recommend owning a horse or pony for a first pet unless you are very familiar with horses!
Fish are fun pets although personally I do not care to keep them in my house. I have NO luck with keeping fish and neither do my kids. If you are going to have a fish for a pet you need to have a good filtering system – don’t cheap out and think just changing the water will do it (unless you have a beta of course). The cost for fish can range pretty widely depending on how big of an aquarium you want, what type of fish you want, etc. I quickly found that I did not have the time to keep a fish tank clean.
Initial Cost: aquarium, filter system, food, fish
Continuing Cost: food, filters
Pros: no allergy issues, hands-off, pretty to watch
Cons: cleaning aquarium, can easily die
Cute cuddly hamsters, guinea pigs, mice, gerbils, and rats can make great first pets. We had numerous hamsters over the years as I was growing up. The biggest hassle with rodents is really just keeping their cage clean as it can get smelly and fast! Of course be prepared for the occasional escape and having a loose rodent in the house as well! I LOVED having rodents for pets as a kid because I could pick them up and play with them at will – they are so fun to watch run around! However most of the time they are not a “stay with you all the time” cuddly pet! They are great for kids that want to have a pet to come back to throughout the day but don’t require a lot of attention. Depending on the animal they last only a few years.
Initial Cost: animal, cage, food/water dish, food, litter
Continuing Cost: food, litter
Pros: furry, not needy, confined to a cage
Cons: cleaning habitat, smell, biting
Reptiles and Amphibians
Over the years we have also had numerous types of reptiles and amphibians in our household. Most of these are VERY low maintenance animals and very inexpensive – my favorite kind! These may include animals such as snakes, frogs, toads, turtles, geckos, lizards, tortoises, etc. Most of these make great first pets! The absolutely EASIEST animal we have ever owned to take care of is a toad. Throw a few worms or crickets in once a week, make sure they have water – you’re good to go! Although these are not typically super social animals for kids they are easy to care for and each animal provides different pros to owning. I personally love frogs as they are my favorite, toads because they are SO easy, and tortoises because they are so fun to watch. Prices vary of course with tortoises being typically the most expensive to purchase. Make sure that you have a local pet store that carries the type of food that you need for each of these animals.
A note about exotics:
Do your homework! Check videos on youtube on the animal you are looking at, read about their habitat, their eating habits, social habits, etc. Some animals are nocturnal and are loud at night. Some animals NEED to have two together. Some animals need VERY tall cages. Know exactly what you’re getting into before you adopt an exotic pet, and then commit to keeping the pet even if it isn’t exactly what you thought it would be like!