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Which pet is right for you?

by Kim Mercer

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Did you know that 63 per cent of all U.S. households have a pet? If you’ve decided to make the commitment to an animal — and make no mistake, it is a big commitment — then you’ll want to consider which one best fits your lifestyle. All animals require food and shelter, grooming and veterinary care on different levels, so make sure that you are able to meet your pet’s needs before you bring it home.

Rabbit

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Did you know that your pet rabbit needs room to roam and hop freely around the house, much like a cat or dog would? Did you know that rabbits can be litter-trained? Did you know that rabbits are social and highly intelligent? What does all of that mean? It means that a pet rabbit might be a good fit, if you have the room and time to develop a relationship with your bun bud.

Turtle

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If you have allergies that rule out a pet of the plush persuasion, then you might be considering something reptilian. A popular choice is a turtle, a red-eared slider to be exact. Before you take the plunge, know that, despite their small size at birth, these guys can grow to almost 30 centimetres (a foot) in diameter. Another thing to consider is that turtles can carry salmonella on their outer skin and shell.

Saltwater Fish

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Of the 9.6 million saltwater fish kept as pets in the U.S., many sold in pet stores are captured in the wild, a practice that contributes, in some cases, to extinction. As with all pet purchases, you must be mindful of vendors and sourcing. Though fish may not require daily walks and cuddles, they are social animals that require the company of others and an aquarium that meets their needs.

Goldfish

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Goldfish are great starter pets, though many people don’t know that they can live up to 30 years; so, Mom and Dad had better be ready to take over care when Junior goes off to college. Goldfish also need more space than is generally thought — the largest aquarium you can afford — and a substantial upfront investment of approximately $150 to $200.

Hamster

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The lifespan of hamsters is generally from one to two years and they spend much of it on the go. Hamsters also love to explore. They’re also nocturnal, so a bedroom is not the appropriate place for Hammy’s habitat.

Chinchilla

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Best suited to a more mature household, pet chinchillas are very social, but most of their get-up-and-go time occurs during the evening and at night.

Small Dog

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If you are a dog lover with a smaller living space, then you might consider one of the many small dog breeds as a companion. Though small in stature, many of these pocket pups are large in personality. For example, Chihuahuas — one of the smallest breeds of all — are known for being sassy, and only require occasional grooming. Some small breeds are good with children, but others, such as the Pekingese, may not be great for active kids.

Big Dog

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There are an estimated 74.8 million pet dogs in the United States. Big dog breeds can be good matches for people with lots of room and energy, because most require daily exercise. Labs, for example, are a good fit for families because of their amicable personalities. The Tibetan Mastiff is more reserved with strangers but bonds with its family and acts as a guardian. It is also among the most expensive dogs in the world. It’s important to consider every facet of a breed’s character and requirements before deciding which will be best suited to your home.

Cat

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Are you the smart, sensitive type? Then you just might be a cat person. A 2014 study involving college students found that cat owners tend to be more freethinking than their canine-loving peers. Known for their tidy habits and independent character, cats can also get a little crazy at night. However, these bursts of energy can be shifted to earlier in the evening.

Lizard

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In the United States, more than 13 million reptiles are kept as pets, while in 2008, reptiles officially surpassed dogs as the most popular pet in the UK. Geckos and bearded dragons are among the more common breeds of lizard sharing their home with people who prefer a more independent, low-maintenance pet. Many lizards require five to seven meals per week. Take note, though, that reptiles are more commonly seen by vets due to issues with their care and habitat than from disease. Before you leap into lizard keeping, make sure you’re prepared.

Pot-bellied pig

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Pot-bellied pigs were introduced to North Americans in the 1980s. They can be potty-trained and offer empathetic, intelligent company to owners who are willing to make room in their lives for these porcine pets. Sadly, many people are not prepared for their potbellies to grow as big as 115 kilograms (250 pounds) and so surrender them to shelters.

Birds

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There are 16 million domesticated birds in the United States. Budgerigars and cockatiels are favoured for their smaller size and fewer challenges. They have engaging personalities and live longer than other small breeds, but keep in mind that birds do require daily care and attention. Pet seekers with allergies may want to avoid the cockatiel, however, as it produces dander.

Ferret

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The popularity of ferrets has gone up recently, thanks to famous owners like Paris Hilton and Madonna. Ferrets are active, curious animals that require room to move. Ferrets aren’t well suited as companions to small children, as they can be aggressive when startled, excited or mishandled. They are adaptive, though, and will change their sleeping habits to suit your lifestyle.

Guinea Pig

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Research suggests that guinea pigs have been kept as pets for centuries. Almost as common as hamsters, guinea pigs have been gaining popularity in the U.S. They require regular grooming, as well as the freedom to move around outside of their cage. With a lifespan of up to eight years, guinea pigs require a commitment from their owners and, in return, offer many years of entertainment and camaraderie.

Snake

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At least 75 per cent of snakes, lizards, tortoises and turtles in captivity die within 12 months. If that’s not reason enough to think twice about bringing a snake home, consider their reputation as accomplished escape artists — if there’s a way out, they’ll find it. Also, their diet may consist of recently deceased rodents that you will have to procure. Still interested? Upfront costs for their habitat can reach $650.

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