What Type of Pet Should You or Your Family Get?
Deciding to bring a pet into your home is an exciting moment—especially if you’re a first-timer (welcome!). While there’s a lot to look forward to, there is also plenty to consider. If you’re unsure which type of pet is best for your family and lifestyle, you’ll need to start by doing some serious research.
As a new pet parent, you’ll likely be choosing among the following animals:
- Invertebrates (such as a tarantula)
- Aquatic life (including fish, coral and aquatic turtles)
- Small animals (such as hamsters, gerbils and chinchillas)
Any of these pets could be a great addition to your family, as long as you’re willing and able to give them the time and care they need and deserve. Each type of pet comes with their own special set of requirements—from grooming and habitat to food and exercise and so much more. Additional factors, like how much time you spend away from home (now and post pandemic), whether you have small children and overall expenses (for things like supplies and services), must also factor into your decision.
If you’ve never had a pet before and are looking for some guidance, the chart below may be useful. It’s not all-inclusive, but it might just help you discover your family’s perfect pet.
Types of pets to consider
The above chart can help you choose an appropriate beginner pet for your household based on your financial obligations, time commitment and how much space you have. Continue reading for more detailed information.
Your new pet’s needs will vary depending on their species. Crested geckos, bearded dragons, leopard geckos, ball pythons and corn snakes, for example, all have different requirements for nutrition and care. What they have in common, however, is that they do not require daily interaction and, in general, are considered easier options for first-time reptile parents. All reptiles require an appropriately-sized habitat as well as substrate, heating, lighting and accessories.
Some reptiles don’t mind being picked up, while others are best left alone in their homes. Since reptiles can carry diseases, it’s important to learn the best ways to prevent the transmission of those infectious diseases to humans.
Invertebrates, like tarantulas and scorpions, generally require very minimal human interaction. These animals have toxic bites, and ejected hairs can cause allergic reactions in people. For them, the less handling the better. Depending on the type of invertebrate you choose, your pet will be a carnivore (like a tarantula), insectivore (like a scorpion) or vegetarian (like a cockroach). Different invertebrates also have different habitat needs, so be sure to check with a Petco store associate to ensure you have everything you need to keep them happy before bringing them home and learn more about terrestrial invertebrate safety here.
Aquatic life (betta fish)
With thousands of different fish species in the world (not all of which make for great pets, of course), care requirements will vary. The type and number of fish you choose will factor into their overall care. Betta fish, for example, live in freshwater and require less aquarium space (think: a 1-gallon aquarium instead of 10+). Just remember that male bettas are aggressive toward other male bettas so must be kept separately. Male bettas can live in community aquariums with other nonaggressive fish, while female bettas can live with other community fish or other female bettas.
A freshwater community aquarium is usually less expensive to maintain than a saltwater aquarium, but it still requires some time and money to keep clean. Appropriate freshwater fish species for first-time aquarists include mollies, platy, gourami and tetras. Talk to a Petco aquatic specialist to help determine which species might be best suited for you.
Aquatic water quality and aquatic plant care will also need to be researched and discussed with an experienced aquarist. Once you’ve established a safe habitat for your aquatic life, it’s generally easy to maintain and care for your pet over the course of their life.
Birds (parakeets, cockatiels, conures)
If you’re looking for an entertaining pet, a bird can be a good option. Like all pets, the type of bird you get will dictate their specific needs, from habitat size to grooming, entertainment and care. A beginner bird parent may do best with a parakeet or cockatiel, both of which are generally budget-friendly. Getting one parakeet or cockatiel will be less expensive than two, obviously, but it also means that your solitary bird will require more attention. If you are prepared and excited about bringing a bird into the home but are nervous you don’t have enough free time to fully entertain a bird's big personality, consider taking home two so they can keep each other company between your interactions.
Conures are also considered good starter pet birds. When considering other species of birds, it’s important to talk to an expert to fully understand care, space and entertainment needs in addition to how loud the bird can be before bringing one home. Some species tend to like being held, for example, while others prefer to be left alone. Additionally, some birds can live for decades, so lifespan will also need to be taken into consideration.
Small animals (hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, chinchillas, ferrets)
Small animals include a myriad of pets who generally live a portion of their lives in a habitat. These include hamsters and gerbils— who are generally less expensive and easier to care for—guinea pigs—who require a moderate level of care and attention—and chinchillas, ferrets and rabbits—who tend to be the most expensive and require the most daily attention. Depending on which small pet you choose, their nutrition, grooming, exercise and sleep needs will vary. Chinchillas, for example, are nocturnal. You’ll also have to consider what size habitat your new pet will need and how much time they’ll spend in it. Ferrets, for example, do best when they’re allowed to spend a lot of time outside their enclosure. If you’re intrigued by the possibility of having a pet ferret, even more research will be required, and it's important to note that they are banned as pets in California and Washington state as well as in some cities, including New York.
Cats can be wonderful companions and tend to be less demanding pets than dogs since they don’t need to be let outside and don’t usually require as much human interaction for their exercise and entertainment. Still, cat care can become expensive when you add up veterinary care, monthly flea and tick and heartworm prevention, food, toys, grooming and other needs. Most cats are pretty flexible when it comes to living arrangements and you’ll find that the majority are just as happy in small apartments or homes as they are in larger ones. That said, you’ll want to consider your individual household makeup as you decide if a cat is right for you.
Dogs are called man’s best friend for a reason. These lovable creatures seem to have been created for human companionship, but they also have quite specific care needs. A dog is, generally speaking, the most expensive and time-consuming pet to bring home. That’s not to say they aren’t worth the effort (they are!), but you’ll want to consider all the factors that go into caring for a dog before falling in love with one.
Dogs require a lot in terms of entertainment, grooming, veterinary care, training, monthly preventives (flea, tick and heartworm) food and other needs. You’ll also want to consider the makeup of your home before picking a specific breed or size dog.
Age is another thing to consider, since puppies and older dogs have differing sets of needs. And while almost all dogs require room to run and play at home, most medium and large dogs will require more space than smaller dogs.
In the end, bringing home any pet requires a certain level of care, but exactly how much will vary greatly by species and breed. For more information about what to expect—or if you’re curious about an animal not listed here—check out Petco’s full list of animal care sheets or stop by a store to speak with a Petco associate today.