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Choosing the Right Pet for Your Family

dad mom and young son petting golden retrieve laying on bed

Thinking about adopting a new furry friend? Congratulations! To make sure it's a great fit all the way around, ask yourself some important questions before you head to the shelter or breeder.

  1. What's your lifestyle?

    Your answers to a few key questions will tell you a lot about the kind of pet that will fit into your household. Here are a few to start with:

    • Do you live in a 3rd-floor apartment with no outdoor space, or a big house with a backyard?
    • Do you have young children who might need to be supervised around a new pet?
    • Is someone home a lot of the time, or will there be long stretches where your cat or dog will be alone?
    • Do you have other pets, and how are they with other animals?

  2. What's your type?

    Different breeds, in both cats and dogs, have a variety of personalities and temperaments. Even if you’re ultimately looking for a mixed-breed pet, doing some research can help you narrow down the choices. For instance, dogs that are all or part “working dog” (like cattle dogs, shepherds, and border collies), may need more activity and mental stimulation than more mellow breeds. Some breeds are better with children or other pets. Check out Animal Planet’s Dog Breed Selector for a good start. If you’re looking for a feline friend, you can learn about breeds that run the gamut from quiet to vocal and easygoing to bold on the Cat Fanciers’ Association website.

  3. What else?

    Once you know what kind of temperament you’re looking for, consider a few other details:

    • Age: Puppies and kittens are adorable, but make sure you’re equipped to take on the increased attention and training they need as they grow up. An older pet can be a better fit if you’re looking for a less-excitable animal—and one who’s already potty-trained.
    • Size: You may be a big dog fan, but can you restrain him when there's a squirrel on your daily walk? Think about your physical capabilities now, and into the next 10 years. It's also a good idea to consider the size of your living space relative to how big the animal will be.
    • Coat: Dogs and cats with longer fur require more brushing and grooming to keep their coats healthy. (On the other hand, brushing can be a great way to relax and bond with your new pet.)
    • Care: Think about who's going to do what before your new pet comes home, like walking, feeding, cleaning up messes, and changing the litter box.

Ready to look?

Great! Luckily there are lots of options for finding the perfect new pet. If you have your heart set on a particular purebred, contact a responsible breeder or check out rescue organizations in your area. And be sure to check your local shelter—the Humane Society estimates that 25% of dogs in shelters are purebred. To find lots of cats and dogs who’re looking for a forever home, visit The Shelter Pet Project. The site gives you access to a network of over 16,500 animal shelters and rescues—and allows you to search by location, breed, age, sex, and size.

Category: New Pet | Comfort Zone