Choosing a Pet

Different species of pets require different amounts of care and interaction. Some require special housing and diets, some need a lot of affection from their owners. This will be a basic rundown of what different types of pets need if you decide to bring one into your home. Click the links to learn more.


Though each species may have a different need, reptiles have some general needs you will have to meet to keep them. Reptiles could be turtles, snakes, or lizards. Reptiles need to be kept warm because they are cold-blooded and many may need special UV lighting. Most enjoy basking in a warm light, as well. Most reptiles should be handled in order to stay comfortable with you in case you ever need to bring them out of their enclosures. Some may need to come out for exercise or to switch cages for feeding. However, they may not make the most cuddly pet either. These pets require rather large enclosures. Many reptiles need live foods. This could be insects, fish, or even mice and larger animals for their particular diet. The majority of reptiles are rather long-lived, even having lifespans of many decades. Check out my article on Turtles, Tortoises, and Terrapins and watch for other reptile articles to come! Click Reptiles to go to the main reptile page where all related articles will be posted.


Similar to reptiles but with their own requirements, amphibians are creatures such as frogs, salamanders, and newts. They generally need their regular day and night cycle maintained. Many are actually used to cooler temps and don’t fare well in heat. These creatures also require humidity and a lot more water. They absorb much through their skin, including water. Some are even aquatic. They are much more sensitive to things in their environment and should not be handled too often. When handled you need clean hands. Many also require live foods, mostly of the insect variety. They often have shorter lives than reptiles, but still can live for several years.


Though there are a large number of bird species in a wide variety of sizes, the vast majority of birds have similar needs. Smaller finch type birds are mainly seed eaters and often are not tamed for handling. They are lovely to watch but, generally, just require a cage that is longer than tall. They need plenty of room to fly but are content in cages. They are fed a mainly seed diet, with occasional foods given such as mashed hard boiled egg, vegetables, and in some cases insects depending on species. As long as they have a clean cage, food, and water, they are happy. Most do prefer at least one companion. Birds of the hookbill variety, ranging from budgie up to very large birds like macaws, need out of cage time and attention. They are intelligent and also like toys. They require diets mainly of fruits, vegetables, and pellets, with only some seed. They often need larger cages and if ignored, may start making a lot more noise. Lifespans can range anywhere from around 10 years to several decades depending on species. Check out my article on Choosing a Bird to learn more about the common species kept and what they need as pets. Click Birds to go to the main bird page.


One of the most commonly kept pets, dogs require more attention than many other species. Exercise, vet care, good food, training, grooming, and a lot of attention are needed. There is a range of sizes and space requirements depending on breed. Most breeds do best with a fenced yard or even having land in the country to run. Because of their varying activity and mental stimulation needs, you have to research care of each breed. If not properly trained they can become destructive. Socializing is important, as is affection from the owner. Thankfully, most commercial diets can meet their food needs. You may need a kennel, leash, collar, toys, food and water dishes, and even a bed. Smaller dogs you may want a pet carrier for vet visits. Lifespans can range from only 7 years for extra-large breeds, and up to nearly 20 depending on the breed and how well they are cared for. I have an article I wrote that is an Overview of Dog Care that may help you decide if you can give a dog all they need. If you just click on Dogs above you can go to the main dog page with other articles.


Among one of the most popular pets, cats can be a nice mix of affectionate and independent. They often are less work than dogs in some ways. Cats can just go to the bathroom in a litter box and not need to be taken out. However, that means you have to clean the litter box. If it’s not kept clean, some may soil elsewhere. They can be picky about what kind of litter they prefer, and many cats don’t like sharing litter boxes. Cats do require exercise, though generally in the form of playing with toys, chasing, jumping, and climbing. Cats also like to claw items and will need a scratching post of some type. Declawing is NOT recommended as that can cause many other issues and is a form of amputation. Cats can have their nails clipped to help keep them down. While most cats keep themselves well groomed, brushing is still needed and can help prevent hairballs. Long haired cats will likely need some help staying mat free. Most commercial diets are just fine for a cats dietary needs. Cats need a litter box, a collar that can break away if caught on something, food and water dishes, and possibly a cat carrier for vet visits. They do need vet care and parasite preventatives just like dogs, even if kept only indoors. Many cats have been known to live over 20 years.


Other commonly kept pets are the many species of fish. You may need anything from a 5-gallon tank, up to a few hundred or even a pond depending on the species you keep. They may increase your water bill if you have a large tank. Despite the popular belief that fish are easy to care for, they may actually require more care of their tank than many other pets. Keeping the good bacteria balance is a must. Filters are required to help with bacteria balance, as well as keeping the tank itself cleaner. A proper setup, allowing for hiding places, proper lighting, algae maintenance, and even the substrate put on the floor of the tank, are all needed. Some fish may need sand, while others can have rock or gravel. Some fish prefer live plants while others will destroy them. Certain species may need live foods that can range from other insects, worms, and other fish, to even pinky mice. Some also require harder water while others need soft water. As you can see, a lot of research is needed before getting fish. Lifespans can even range from a few years to a few decades. Check out my first fish article here: Basic Fish Care.

Furry Caged Pets

Though each species is different, I will put these under one section. Small rodents like mice, gerbils, and hamsters all require a cage with enough room to run around quite a bit. They like to burrow, hide for sleeping, and require a diet consisting of seed, pellets, and even some fresh foods. They need a water bottle and things to chew. They should be handled on a regular basis. Bigger rodents like guinea pigs and chinchillas, require much bigger cages and also out of cage time. Guinea pigs need cages that are long since they aren’t much for climbing, while you will find chinchillas need tall cages with many levels. Both still need to chew and be handled. They need a good quality pelleted food and hay. Guinea pigs also need to be given Vitamin C since they can’t produce it themselves, and that can be in the form of fresh vegetables. Click on Rodents to find the rodents page and click to see my Small Rodents as Pets article.

Rabbits can be lumped in here despite not being rodents, but require a decent sized cage they can run around, as well as plenty of out of cage time running and interacting with you. They can eat a pelleted diet with loads of hay and some fresh veggies occasionally. Small rodents may require less attention than larger caged critters but still need attention. Small rodents may live only a couple of years while guinea pigs are closer to 5 years. Chinchillas can live 15 to possibly 20 years, while rabbits generally can live about 10 or 15.

As always, be sure to consider different scenarios when you decide to bring a pet into your home. If a baby is in your future and you don’t think you can handle the attention a pet needs, don’t get the pet. If you may have to move soon, are going to college soon, or like to travel all the time, can you take your pet with you? There are many situations that can arise, so please try to think about different situations. In most cases, pets should not be rehomed if it can absolutely be helped. They should get to have a steady environment. If you are interested in reading more about different pets, keep an eye out for all my articles!

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