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Are You Ready to Get a Pet?

What you need to consider before you get a pet.
By
WebMD Pet Health Feature
Reviewed by Audrey Cook, BVM&S

There’s nothing like the unconditional love of a pet.

Almost 60% of homes in America have at least one pet, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. About half of those owners say they consider their pet a member of the family.

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Having a critter companion can be good for your health, too. Studies have shown being around an animal can ease depression, lower blood pressure and stress, and keep you active. Heart attack patients who have a dog can live longer than those who don’t.

But caring for an animal is a commitment that requires much more than just bringing home a lovable little fur ball from the pet store. Do you have what it takes to be a pet owner? Here’s what you should be thinking about.

Pets Need Your Time and Energy

Knowing how much attention you can devote to a furry friend will help you decide if you’re ready to own one. It also makes it easier to pick what kind of pet is best for you.

“If you are too busy or not at home enough, it’s not appropriate to bring a pet into the mix,” says Bernardine Cruz, DVM, one of the veterinarians in WebMD’s pet health community.

Dogs probably need the most TLC, compared to other pets. They have to be taken outdoors at least three times a day to relieve themselves. Puppies need to be fed two to four times a day, depending on their age. Older dogs need to be fed once or twice a day.

Most dogs also need to play. A canine that doesn’t get enough active time can become bored or anxious and end up destroying the sofa or your favorite sneakers. So if you travel a lot, man’s best friend may not be a great choice unless you have a dependable and affordable way to ensure your dog will get ample exercise and play time.

Certain dog breeds require more exercise than others. For example, a Jack Russell Terrier is going to need a lot of time running around outside. If your heart is set on a hound, learn ahead of time about day-to-day needs of the breeds you like.

Cats are a bit easier on time demands. Kittens have to be fed three to four times daily, and adults need one to three meals.

An indoor cat means cleaning the litter box every day to avoid messes around the house. It’s best for cats to stay indoors to be safe from diseases, car accidents, or fights, Cruz tells WebMD.

Unlike dogs, cats don’t need to be walked. So it’s possible to leave a cat alone for a couple of days as long as someone can stop by once daily to check that your kitty is OK, replenish food and water, and clean the litter boxes.

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