A bad match between a pet and its owner 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

1. Do allergy problems run in your family?

If you suspect someone in your household might have pet allergies, it’s vital that you find out before you adopt any pets. Your doctor can perform the appropriate tests. However, animal breeds vary in their potential to trigger allergies, and doctors can’t test sensitivity to individual breeds. For people who know they have allergies, aim for one of the less allergenic breeds: 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.

2. Do you own your home?

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?

 Here are some things you should consider
  1. Is your house empty for more than about 9 hours a day during the week?

      
  2. How much time can you devote to feeding, grooming, training, exercising, and playing with a pet on a daily basis?

     
     
  3. Do you spend more than four nights a month away from home?

     
     
  4. When you do go out of town, can you find a responsible person to feed, play with, clean, and care for your pet daily?

     
     
  5. Are there children under the age of 3 in your household?

     
     
  6. Does your house have a yard that’s at least 600 square feet (about 25 ft. x 25 ft.) ?

     
     
  7. Can you spend up to $500 during your first year of pet ownership for vaccines and neutering of your pet?

     
     
  8. Can you spend up to $1,000 dollars or more each year for your pet’s food, annual checkups, shots, and supplies?

     
     
  9. Can you afford to pay up to $1,000 for a veterinary emergency?

Part III: Puppy or Dog – Kitten or Cat?

If considering a dog: Does the idea of housebreaking an active puppy and cleaning up accidents fill you with horror?

Yes – Get an Adult Dog

No –  You can consider a puppy.

Is the condition of your home furnishings (like carpeting, draperies, chairs, couches, and wallpaper) very important to you?

Yes – Consider only a well-trained, well-behaved adult dog or cat. (A dog should be over 3 years old.)

No – You can consider a puppy or kitten.

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. Talk to experts: veterinarians, breeders, 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.

IF YOU… 

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 Tzus, Australian Shepherds, Beagles, Boxers, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Portuguese Water Dogs, Newfoundlands, or Norfolk Terriers. Steer clear of the aggressive breeds, including Akitas, Chows, Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, Cocker Spaniels, English Springer Spaniels, and Lhasa Apsos.

Select a short-haired breed, like a Doberman, Whippet, or Labrador.

Select a short-haired breed, like a Doberman, Whippet, or Labrador. Choose a breed that sheds very little. These include Poodles, Bichon- Frises, and many terriers. 

Part V: Cat Breeds

As in dogs, mixed-breed cats (also called domestic cats) 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.

IF 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, as 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.