Text by Sheila Guenther
I have heard much of lifestyle pets lately. To me lifestyle pets means an animal that fits into your home, which compliments your life. But to many, a lifestyle pet means something different. To some a lifestyle pet is a disposable commodity, something you keep until you no longer have need of it. You have seen the commercials where a guy gets a dog so he can meet women. Has anyone thought of where that dog goes once he has met her or if the ploy does not work? Some stay as treasured pets and some are discarded because of the fact that they require effort and time and money to care for, it is not what the person bargained for. That is not a lifestyle pet, but a selfish act.
To determine if your lifestyle meshes with keeping a pet, you have to ask yourself a few questions:
Why do I want a pet?
How much time will I have available to spend training and caring for my pet?
What kind of pet can I afford?
Can I afford the upkeep of a pet?
Can you fit a pet into your lifestyle? This all depends on what kind of animal you want. Cats are low maintenance in regards to attention. While you are there they want your attention; when you are gone they are happy to sleep on your bed all day. They do not eat 8 cups of food a day or need to be taken for walks. You clean their litter box, pet them and cuddle them and brush them out. It is perfect for the single person.
Dogs on the other hand require more attention, training, and food. You cannot leave a dog in the house for extended periods without coming home to a mess. So this means someone either has to be home during the day or come home periodically during the day to care for it. The bottom line is a dog needs more attention. Dogs require more in regards to food as well, the bigger the dog the bigger the food bill. Some require 8 cups a day.
Fish are a wonderful pet to have, but there is not much in the way of interaction with them; you feed them and they come to the surface. They do not play with you or want to be cuddled; they are just there swimming around. It is great if you don’t have the time to devote to a pet that needs attention. But even fish are high maintenance; you have to clean their tank at the least once a week. A fishbowl requires even more effort. Fish are initially more expensive to get started with and the more money you spend on set up, the less work you have to do. If you spend the big bucks at the beginning, get a good filter and fish whose sole purpose and joy in life is to clean the rocks and glass, commonly called algae eaters, you will reduce the amount of work you have to do as your equipment will do it for you. You still must do your water change; 1/3 of your tank must be changed on a regular basis, plus add chemicals. They are really interesting to watch. I used to spend a long time just sitting and watching them. It was quite relaxing. A good rule of thumb for a fish tank is one-inch of fish for every gallon of tank, meaning a ten-gallon tank will support ten one inch fish comfortably.
Reptiles are interesting pets to have as well, but again it is expensive. Skinks, Iguanas and snakes all require a large space, preferably a large aquarium (some with or without water), so they may roam about their enclosures. Hot rocks so they can stay warm, heaters to keep the rest of the enclosure warm and branches may or not be added depending on the reptile. Hiding places should be built. They all add up to a lot of money, but the uniqueness of having a reptile pays for itself. A reptile’s diet varies with species, from eating crickets, dog food and fruit to mice, all of which are easily obtained from a pet store.
Birds are great as pets; they are fun to be with and fairly easy to train. The smaller the bird the less it costs to feed. When you start getting into parrots and other larger more exotic birds your costs go up substantially; the cage cost alone deters many from purchasing a large bird. But you can interact with a bird and many birds live long lives especially parrots which have long life spans and are often put in people’s wills as they will outlive their owners. Parrots require a lot of interaction, with three or more hours out of their cage in order for them to not develop neurotic behaviors. They need toys to amuse them, and toys that will challenge them to think. They are very smart animals and quickly figure out how to break out of their cages, thus requiring some attention on keeping them locked up safely.
You can spend as little or as much as you want when it comes to a pet; it all depends on your lifestyle and what you can afford or cannot afford. Remember you are getting something that is alive, not a throw away toy, so some honest assessment of your wants and needs will pay off in the end.