A bad match is one of the leading causes of failed human-animal relationships, while a thoughtful match can produce a long-lasting and deeply rewarding attachment. This questionnaire will help you decide whether you can afford the time and money a pet requires—and select the pet that’s best for your lifestyle.

Part I: Two Very Important Questions

If you suspect someone in your household might have pet allergies, it’s vital that you find out before you adopt anything. Your doctor can perform the appropriate tests. But animal breeds vary in their potential to trigger allergies, and doctors can’t test sensitivity to individual breeds. So I tell people who know they have allergies to aim for one of the less allergenic: Rex cats, Sphynx cats, Poodles, Bichon Frises, Shih Tsus, Lhasa Apsos, and some terriers. Visit an animal of that breed for at least a couple of hours, and see if it gives you problems. Don’t adopt until you’re certain.
If you’re a renter, don’t assume pets are allowed. Check with your landlord first. Landlords who do not allow dogs or cats might allow pet birds, reptiles, or small mammals.

Part II: Canine, Feline or Something Smaller?

Answer a few simple questions to find out what type of pet is best for your lifestyle. The points are added up and recommendations are found at the end of the quiz.

Part III: Puppy or Dog – Kitten or Cat?

Hover over your answer to each question to reveal our pet suggestions.

If considering a dog: Does the idea of housebreaking an active puppy and cleaning up ‘accidents’ fill you with horror?
Is the condition of your home furnishings (like carpeting, draperies, chairs, couches and wallpaper) very important to you?

If you’re fastidious about your home environment, a well-behaved adult is the smart choice. The downside: Some adults are available for adoption because they have serious behavior problems, which may not surface until you get them home. It’s important to get as complete a history as possible from the owner or shelter, and observe and interact with the animal before you bring it home. Ask if you can return the animal if things don’t work out after a couple of weeks.

Part IV: Dog Breeds

If you’re interested in a purebred, do a lot of homework. Careless breeding has led to a slew of inherited troubles in many breeds, like eye disease and hip dysplasia. Books are a good starting point (see below). Talk to experts: veterinarians, breeders, and handlers and judges at dog shows. The recommendations below may help you match your needs to some of the more popular breeds.

If you want a cute, healthy, good-tempered animal:
Consider a mixed breed. Commonly found in shelters, they can make the best pets. Check as much as you can about family history and behavior, but in general, mixes have fewer medical problems. For more information or examples of breeds, consult one of the many dog breed books available.

Consider a breed that demands plenty of exercise every day. Examples include: Hunting dogs, like Labradors or Golden Retrievers; and herding dogs, like Australian Shepherds or Shelties.
Consider a toy breed, like a Pug, Yorkshire Terrier, or Papillon. They also don’t mind a small apartment or yard. If you have a larger property, you may consider one of the giant breeds that don’t need much exercise, like Newfoundlands or Great Danes.
There are no guarantees, but consider: Pugs, Whippets, Labrador Retrievers, Shih Tzsu’s, Australian Shepherds, Beagles, Boxers, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Portuguese Water Dogs, Newfoundlands, or Norfolk Terriers. Steer clear of the aggressive breeds: Akitas, Chows, Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, Cocker Spaniels, English Springer Spaniels, and Lhasa Apso’s.
Select a short-haired breed, like a Doberman, Whippet, or Labrador.
Choose a breed that sheds very little. These include Poodles, Bichon- Frise’s, and many terriers.

Part V: Cat Breeds

As in dogs, mixed-breed cats (also called “Domestic”) tend to be the healthiest. If you’re interested in a purebred, it’s critical to research different breeds as well as the particular litter and the individual that interests you.

Consider short-haired breeds: Domestic Shorthairs, or, among the purebreds, Siamese or Burmese.
All cats shed! The most common breed that sheds the least is the Rex.
The most affectionate breeds are Persians, Himalayans, and Burmese. Avoid Siamese: Some are quite aggressive, especially with less restrained children.
Persians are a good choice. Avoid Abyssinians and Maine Coon Cats. They tend to be very active, and like more space.
Every cat needs at least 15 minutes of devoted play every day. Cats that are satisfied with the minimum include Persians, which are notoriously nonathletic. Getting a second cat as a companion is also a good way to fulfill its needs if you’re not around much.