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How to choose your best friend

How do you go about choosing your new furry, feathery or scaly best friend? What factors like time and money are there to consider? We’re here to break down some simple steps that will help you choose the best pet for you and your lifestyle and to help you find a pet that you can help thrive and not just survive.

Why are we talking about pets right now? During the Easter season, bunnies have their moment. After cats and dogs, domestic rabbits are the animals most often surrendered to animal shelters. This is largely due to parents buying them as pets around the Easter holiday and not fully understanding the eight to 10-year lifespan and significant financial commitment they require. In fact, 80 percent of shelter rabbits are abandoned Easter gifts, but most of them are euthanized or don’t make it after being “set free.”

Rabbits aren’t the only reason we like to talk about why it’s important to choose the right pet. Illegal wildlife trafficking for the pet trade has a negative effect on endangered species of primates, big cats, bears, reptiles, birds and event insects and is unfortunately very common across the globe and here in the U.S. It is believed that more exotic animals live in American homes than are cared or in accredited American zoos. Unlike dogs and cats, these exotic pets often do not exist in abundance and are mostly taken from the wild, often at the expense of their mothers and ecosystem. For example, a whole tree will be cut down to retrieve a few exotic birds. Primates live with their parents and other family members in social groups that are often compromised for poachers to capture just one infant. The importation of such exotic pets is often illegal and unregulated. Sixty percent of wild-caught birds die in the capture and transport process; therefore, poachers often take four times the amount of birds they need to make up for this. There are nearly 40 million parrots kept as pets in U.S. alone.

Having exotic animals as pets can also be dangerous. Wild animals are not and cannot be domesticated and therefore have wild instincts. For example; a tiger will see you as prey, a primate will behave erratically and destructively during breeding season, and foxes are also destructive as well as having a very strong odor that can’t be removed.

Remember, we want our furry friends to thrive and not just survive. The first step when considering which pet will best suit you and your lifestyle is to consider the animal’s basic needs. Can you provide ample time for its training? Some dog breeds have considerably more energy and need a lot more attention and training than others. How much time and energy can you devote to their enrichment (toys, puzzle feeders, etc.)? If considering a bird, understand that birds need ample forms of enrichment to keep themselves occupied and entertained; otherwise, they can get stressed or eventually develop health issues.

Can you provide the correct diet to your pet? Large cats need raw meat and lots of it. Parrots needs lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Can you take this pet on walks and spend a lot of time while home with the animal, or are you looking for a more independent animal like a domestic cat or leopard gecko?

Some examples of pets for beginners include dogs, cats, some reptiles like bearded dragons and leopard geckos, rats, hamsters and guinea pigs. When you do decide on the best fit for your family, consider adopting. Per the U.S. Humane Society, an estimated 6 to 8 million cats and dogs enter shelters each year.

Looking for other ways you can help? Don’t share “cute” videos of wild animals being kept as pets on social media. These only perpetuate the pet trade and hurt wild populations. Lastly, be sure to share this information with your friends and family so we can choose the right fit for our families and homes.
Carissa Bishop
Conservation Education Initiatives Supervisor

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl