Pets 101

Match Point

How to have the perfect pet (even if you don’t think you have the time)

By Katie Marsico

It’s one thing to ooh and aah over your next-door neighbor’s new puppy or curl up with a kitty at your aunt’s house. But when it comes time to adopting one of your very own, thoughts like, “Do I have time for this?” “Is it expensive?” and “What if I move?” may have you reconsidering.

Luckily, there’s an ideal opportunity out there for just about anyone who has the room in her heart. Even given individual time constraints, living environments, and personal preferences, prospective guardians all have the potential to find a match made in heaven. Use this handy guide to help find the pet perfect for your lifestyle.

My wife and I are very busy people. Time will always be of the essence, but our schedules are flexible enough so that someone can almost always be home. Any suggestions?

“I would recommend older dogs or cats for guardians seeking a pet [who] doesn’t require much exercise or training,” explains Sheila Choi, president and founder of Fuzzy Dog and Cat Rescue, Inc., a nonprofit, no-kill animal-rescue group based out of Long Beach, California. “Older dogs and cats are frequently [euthanized] in shelters, so if you are able to lend a helping hand to an animal in her golden years, you would truly be saving a life.”

Choi adds that professional assistance is yet another option for those who want a pet but are worried about spending too much time outside the home. “If guardians can afford it, I would suggest adopting a pound puppy and pampering him with doggie daycare, dog walkers, and dog sitters. The dog will love it, and this way you don’t have to leave the house feeling guilty that your pooch is alone.”

I’m a high-energy kind of person and have always wanted a pet who could act as a de facto running partner and all-around playmate. What kind of pet do you suggest?

“If you love working out, I would highly recommend adopting a Labrador Retriever or a Pit Bull Terrier/American Staffordshire Terrier,” remarks Choi. “Pit Bulls are great exercise partners. In addition, people who have lots of time and energy are better equipped to handle this type of physically strong breed. There are so many loving, darling Bully babies patiently awaiting adoption [who] would make great companions and workout buddies.”

I would love a pet, but I’m a single person working two jobs. What can I do?

Stephanie Shain, director of outreach (companion animals) of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in Washington, D.C., urges adopters with hectic schedules to keep their hearts open to species besides dogs and cats. “Someone who works long hours during the day could be an ideal guardian for a nocturnal animal like a hamster, [who] doesn’t require outdoor walks and exercise. These little critters can absolutely form bonds with their [guardians], and there are loads of them in shelters and rescue groups [who] are in need of homes.”

I’ve always loved animals, but my allergy to cats drives me crazy, and I just don’t have enough time and energy for a dog. Do birds make good pets?

“Research, research, research,” advises Northwest Indiana Bird Association, Inc. (NWIBA) Founder Lisa Pajkos. “One of the options that the NWIBA offers is a bird-education course. We encourage people to research the breed [or species] they’re thinking about and to remember to ask themselves if this type of animal is going to fit into their lifestyle. You cannot change breed character traits. Birds won’t be able to go with you on your outdoor jog, but if you have an indoor treadmill, it’s great to put them on their play stand next to your equipment and have a workout buddy!”

I want a pet, but am in graduate school at the moment. There’s no telling where my life will take me in the next couple of years. What should I do?

“If you are desperate for a pet but aren’t sure you can make this kind of commitment, volunteering with a shelter or rescue group may be a perfect option for you,” says Shain. “Whether you walk dogs for a few hours on Saturdays or assist with cat grooming and cage cleaning every week, you can still get your ‘fur fix’ and give some deserving animals lots of love in the process.”

“Many shelters also have foster-care programs that need individuals or families who can make short-term commitments to care for pets in their homes until they can be adopted,” says Shain.

In reality, fostering can prove a pivotal gateway experience that convinces guardians that they do indeed have the necessary resources for a long-term promise of love and care. And there are, in fact, those individuals who know right from the start that they are in possession of excess time and energy that they’d like to lavish on a furry friend.

I am an apartment dweller, so I probably shouldn’t have a dog, right?

Cats and dogs love to have plenty of wide open space in which to roam. That’s not to say that those who live in apartments or condos should save their dreams of having a pooch or pussy cat for the day when they purchase a 10-acre farm. “As long as the property owner or manager allows pets and as long as they aren’t too noisy, almost any kind of dog or cat can be a great apartment dweller,” emphasizes Shain. “The thought that only small dogs are apartment dogs is just plain wrong. The key is ensuring you have plenty of time to fulfill the mental and physical exercise needs of the individual animal you are considering adopting. A Great Dane can live comfortably and happily in an apartment so long as he or she gets enough time walking and playing outside every day.”

For More Information

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals—Meet Your Match ProgramASPCA.org

Fuzzy Dog and Cat RescueFuzzyRescue.org

Humane Society of the United StatesHSUS.org

The Northwest Indiana Bird Association, Inc.NWIBA.net

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