Imagine yourself basking in the sun on a Sunday afternoon with your dog waiting for you to throw the ball only to give it back to you. Or let’s say when you come back home from work, a flurry little cat greets you with wet, slobbering kisses with absolute love and shine in its eyes meant just for you. Wouldn’t it be like the ultimate antidote to a stressful day? The companionship and belongingness which we humans yearn for in our day to day lives can be fulfilled by the presence of pets in the house.
But how to decide what pet you want becomes confusing at times. Every pet differs in terms of need for care, feeding, behavior, cost, housing, and attention. If you know what you’re getting into, it is more likely that you will have a good relationship with your pet and it is happy staying around you, and also, it will be easier to deal with the challenges that might arise because of having him around.
Before deciding your pet, one needs to answer
Why do you need a pet? Is it for companionship, for security, for a therapy, or it is just for societal pressure?
Will you be able to commit yourself to keep him happy and in good health throughout his life?
Will you be able to spend some time daily out of your busy schedule? Yes, No or Can’t decide now
The choice of pet will depend on these answers. Also, you need to understand your lifestyle and assess whether the pet will be able to adjust to it. Another critical aspect is the consent of all family members which is quite essential before starting the process of owning a pet. The important parameters to be understood about one’s lifestyle can be categorized as P-E-T-S which stand for Place, Exercise, Time, and Spends.
The choice of pet would be different for people who are living in cities to those who live in the suburbs. Similarly, if one lives in a colder region, their choice of pet would differ from those in tropical regions. Or those who are living in a rented apartment, his choice (or number) of pet(s) would also depend on the owner’s preference as well as the housing society arrangement. The size of your home, the presence of small kids, availability of caretakers are other important parameters that will decide the kind of pet one can have.
For owners with multiple pets, one needs to understand the likelihood of compatibility between the pets to maintain amicable living. Another important aspect is to understand the local laws and regulations governing animals in your place of residence.
Pets like fishes and birds do not need much human intervention to exercise while for others like dogs, some demand their runs twice a day and some prefer to sleep on the couch. Understanding their routine needs and incorporating them into one’s lifestyle is the second important factor to be considered while having a pet. Also, some buildings/housing apartments have timings/restricted areas for pets, so whether or not the pet will be able to accommodate that is also to be taken care of.
Usually, factors like pet’s age and life expectancy determine the amount of exercise required by them hence, one needs to commit the effort required for his entire life to make sure he leads a healthy life.
Depending on the availability of time, one can decide whether they want a dog or a fish and also, if they want a young pet or an adult pet. For instance, a small puppy would need more time and attention for getting trained as compared to an older dog. After bringing a pet like a cat, dog or rabbit to your home, his life would be centered around you and he would want to spend the maximum time with you while others like fishes, birds, and reptiles, they require less of your attention and can spend their time with each other since they live in flocks. So, depending on the time you can take out for spending with your pet, one needs to make the choice.
The second important factor here is how much time the pet will remain alone at home. Will there be someone who can take care of the pet in your absence. Some pets like the hyperactive terrier will probably not tolerate long stints while a sedentary cat may not mind being alone for a day or two.
Another important aspect to be considered is the budget. Based on one’s income and spending, understand your disposable income for a pet. This should be sufficient to cover pet’s diet and nutrition; vet bills for routine and emergency check-ups, medications, neutering, vaccinations; pet accessories; pet grooming, training, pet travel etc. E.g. A fish may eat only a few flakes of pellets once a day but a dog or a cat, however, will require dry or canned food a couple of times a day, which can eat up your budget quickly.
Additionally, consider the one-time initial expenses like purchasing a pet, making legal contracts for your pet, investing in your pet’s cage/house (management), litter boxes, food and water bowls, bed covers, blankets, vaccinations, etc. Exotic pets like birds & reptiles (like turtle/tortoise/iguana/snake) may have higher upfront costs and maintenance costs as compared to others.
In addition to the above lifestyle parameters, one needs to consider his/her future changes or action plans before picking a pet. Once a pet is adopted, it has to be taken care of for its life. So keep in consideration of all your planned actions related to movement, long working hours, extending your family, etc. before you decide to own a pet.
Over and above the lifestyle parameters, one also needs to understand the breed thoroughly to provide them their breed-specific environment and assess the related health and safety concerns by consulting with a veterinarian. For example, Reptiles can spread salmonella and should not be handled by young children or people with a compromised immune system or one might be allergic to animal hair, odor hence it is vital to have this discussed before bringing a pet home.
Now, let’s see what are the common pets in India and understand their different P-E-T-S needs for each of them. The most common pets include-Dogs, Cats, Rodents (Rabbits, Hamsters, Guinea Pigs, White Mice), Fishes, Exotic Birds, and Reptiles.
Puppies or dogs are one of the most demanding creatures of your time and attention and also since most of the dogs live for more than 10 years, one needs to be committed long enough to take care of them. Dogs get attached to humans quite quickly and easily and they can’t stay happy if you leave them alone in the home for long durations. They are most happy playing and roaming around you rather being tied up in chains or left in the yards.
Also, most puppies (mostly males) need to take a leak more frequently than females do, so it is a huge responsibility in terms of time and hygiene maintenance. Young dogs are often required to be trained professionally or in a house with basic training like -’Sit’, ‘Down’, ‘No’, ‘Out’, ‘Stay’ etc., for them to be able to understand human-interactions and co-exist peacefully.
The breeds popular in India include- Labrador, Golden Retriever, Pug, Beagles, Shih Tzu, Lhasa Apso, and Non-descriptive(mixed) breeds.
Cats are another beautiful species, which require good care but less of your time in comparison to dogs and are equally sociable. They live for more than 10-15 years, and are more of a disciplined and clean creatures in terms of their litter box habits as they like to keep it fresh and clean.
Unlike dogs, each cat might have a different personality and social behavior – some would be desperate about your attention while others would prefer to stay aloof. Most of the cats can be made indoor pets if provided with their necessities like cat house, scratch posts, litter box, toys, etc.
The breeds popular in India include- Persian (doll-faced/punched face), non-descriptive (mixed) breed, Bengal Cat, Mixed Persians and Himalayan Cat.
Rabbits are one of the intelligent animal species, suitable for a quiet environment. Rabbits are excellent learners who can be taught to use a litter box or hide in a burrow and hence, they can be kept indoors as well as outdoors. These are required to be cared for and monitored by a vet regularly since they are masters at hiding illness. The average lifespan of bunnies is about 7-10 years and they have sensitive digestion and, special care in terms of nutrients is also required.
Other smaller rodents like Guinea Pigs, White Mice and Hamsters require lesser maintenance and have shorter lifespans (around 1 to 2 years), hence the commitment required is lesser. These make good pets for kids and for those, who seek to have pets for the short-term.
If one is looking for a pet to enhance the aesthetics of his surroundings and create a sense of tranquility, fishes make an excellent pet. In terms of maintenance, they are available from low keeps to high. The ideal tank size of a fish depends on its size- larger (or multiple) fishes require a bigger size. Research about the tank size or consult a vet before you decide to buy fishes to understand their compatibility while staying in a tank because some fishes might do just fine if the tank water is not changed for a while but others like Goldfish might develop white spots if a specific pH range is not maintained. Their lifespan differs for each type but the ideal range is from 3-20 years.
The commonly petted fishes include-Goldfish, Guppies, Common Molly, Barb, Parrot Fish, Siamese Fighter Fish, Angelfish, Rainbow Sharks, Tiger Barbs, Neon Tetras, Sailfin Mollies, Swordtails, etc.
5. Exotic Birds:
Birds are another colorful creature and a trending market which make quite an intelligent and social pets. They are habitual of roaming around freely in the air hence, some of them are ill-suited to be kept in cages. Birds seem quite fascinating and they prefer to stay in pairs but most of them are quite messy when it comes to maintaining their cages until trained properly. They are one of the high cost and high-maintenance pets because of their inability to express their happiness or grief, which might incur costs for multiple trips to a vet. The lifetime of birds may range from 2 to 50 years depending on the species.
The birds popular in India include- African Grey Parrots, Parakeets, Pigeons, Doves, Budgies, Cockatiels, Flinches, Love Birds, Cockatoos, Macaw, and Sun Conure.
6. Exotic Reptiles:
The domestication of animals for companionship in human societies probably exists for more than 10,000 years. In affluent countries or states, pet ownership is increasing not only of dogs and cats, but also of exotic pets, which comprises an emerging crowd of chelonian species (like turtles or tortoises). These are known to have extended life expectancies; are comparatively easy to maintain and require very little attention.
Present lack of knowledge on management practices for these pets amongst the prospective pet owners and the sellers have kept the penetration of these pets to only a lesser population. Some can be more difficult to manage than others like Iguana, which is not a great choice for beginners. Due to their size, tendency to become aggressive at maturity, and specific dietary and environmental needs, they are not ideal pets. Hence, one can contact the nearest exotic pet veterinarian who can give you the details on the process of adoption and guide you about the initial care. The life expectancy in Turtles varies from 10 to 80 years; in iguanas, it is about 20 years, in snakes, it varies from 15 to 30 years.
Some of the common species are-Red Eared Slider, Pond turtles, Red-Footed Tortoise, and Green Iguana.
Do remember that most of these traits indicate a generic behavior while an individual pet might show his specific behavior. The more time you spend with your pet, the better you will be able to understand his behavior and bond with him/her. To put it all in a nutshell, to choose your pet, one needs to understand his/her lifestyle; assess the kind of pet that will be more aligned to him and his family, and then decide to bring the pet to his house.
Although it is a personal choice, just to put statistics in the picture- around 3 million dogs and cats are killed every year for not being able to get a place in shelter homes or adopted. Hence, when you are bringing a pet into your house, treat them as family and make sure you give them a life worthwhile.