5 Rules for Picking a Pet

Choosing a pet is a big decision, and one that needs a lot of careful thought. So if you're thinking about adopting an animal, consider these ground rules and guidelines - and ensure that your furry friend is nothing less than the perfect fit for you and your family.

Don't adopt on a whim. Adding a pet a part to your family isn't something to take lightly. And while puppy eyes, twitching whiskers and tiny paws can be incredibly convincing, do your best not to give in to an impromptu adoption. Take the time to think about the kind of pet that's right for you. Do your research, and make sure you know the pros and cons of adding a four-legged family member to your household.

Honestly evaluate your lifestyle. Every pet has his own personality, and you need to make sure that it's compatible with yours - and with the life you lead. If you're often away from home, you need to choose a pet that's ok on it's own for certain stretches of time. If you like to be lazy, a high-energy pet probably isn't the best choice. If you have children, you need a furry buddy that's family friendly. Think about how your new pet might fit in to the different parts of your day - and your life as a whole.

Consider your living space. Renting? Think about a pet that's well-suited for apartment life. Looking at a pet that loves to run? Make sure your yard can accommodate his energy. Your home is going to be your pet's new living area, and you need to make sure the space can accommodate his needs.

Take the timing into account. Ask yourself honestly if it's the right time in your life for a pet. Do you have the time to devote to its care? Are you considering a move or another big change in the next few years? If you're going through a lot of ups and downs, you might want to hold off on adding a pet to the mix - or consider adding a more low-maintenance animal to your home.

Don't forget about the costs. In terms of vet bills, food and necessities, different pets' needs vary widely. Some pets are low-maintenance. Others require a little more attention, including frequent visits to the groomer, extra trips to the vet or even bigger - and more expensive - bags of food. Make sure your bank account can keep up.

How did you know that your pet was a perfect fit for you? What steps did you follow to evaluate your addition? Share your thoughts with other readers by leaving a comment below.