Pets can be a wonderful addition to a household--they can provide entertainment, education, and companionship, and can help children learn responsibility. But the best experience with a family pet will be one undertaken responsibly and after research. Responsible pet ownership means caring for the animal appropriately, meeting its needs, and ensuring that the pet is a good fit for the family.
Dogs and cats are among the most popular household pets; according to the American Pet Products Association 2001-2012 National Pet Owners Survey, there are approximately 78.2 million dogs owned in the U.S. and approximately 86.4 million cats owned in the U.S. This survey estimates that 33 percent of U.S. households own at least one cat and 39 percent of U.S. households own at least one dog. Dogs and cats make excellent pets because they are intelligent, often social and playful, and can be loving companions. Dogs and cats have also been domesticated for thousands of years, and have been bred to carry certain characteristics. If you are looking for a cat or dog, there is certain to be a breed that matches the physical and personality characteristics you are seeking.
Exotic pets, such as birds, reptiles, monkeys, and even hedgehogs can be exciting, but also challenging household pets. In order to carry exotic pets, pet stores must have a special exotic pet license. Unfortunately, some exotic pets are traded and sold illegally, which is potentially harmful for both the animals and the households purchasing them. If you are looking for an exotic pet, make sure that you deal with a reputable breeder and that the pet was not caught in the wild and is not protected by endangered species laws. As with exotic birds, many of these species have not been long domesticated, and are more likely to revert to instinctual wild animal behaviors.
When choosing a family pet, there are several factors to consider. One of the most important is how much time, expense, and effort are you willing to dedicate to the care of the pet. Some pets are relatively low-maintenance, requiring little training or socialization--perhaps requiring only the correct environment, such as an aquarium. Other pets will require specialized diets, social interaction, exercise, and trips to a veterinarian. Some pets have a long lifespan--certain species of parrots can live more than 75 years in captivity.