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Select Suitable Pets For Your Family Life
By Allison Powe
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Pets are an invaluable part of many American families, but the key to this happy relationship is a proper matching of pets and owners.
About 45 percent of Mississippians own pets, according to a recent survey conducted for the Mississippi Veterinary Medical Association. Dr. Richard Hopper, extension leader of veterinary medicine at Mississippi State University, said many factors should be considered before commiting to care for an animal.
"One important thing to determine before getting a pet is the reason you want one. Think about whether your new pet's purpose will be companionship or something else, such as hunting," Hopper said.
"Do some research, especially if you have never owned a pet before, to learn which breeds you are interested in. Consider the advantages of owning a purebred animal or a mixed breed," he suggested.
Hopper said purebred animals offer some predictability about their behavior and the size they will reach as they mature. However, selecting a pet from an animal shelter offers those animals the chance to have a good home.
Think about the space various pets need to be comfortable and to get enough exercise. Do not get a pet that requires moer room than is available.
The activities the owner enjoys also can play a part in the decision about which pet to get.
"Active people who enjoy walking, hiking or hunting will want an animal that has the capacity to participate in those activities. Less active owners should choose a pet that doesn't require as much physical activity," Hopper said.
Some pets need more attention and require more time than others. Puppies and kittens need time for house-breaking, training and feeding, so they may not be ideal for people who are gone all day.
Also consider expenses and be sure the budget can afford an animal.
"Cost is definitely a factor that needs to be well thought-out before someone takes on the responsibility of a pet. Expenses of grooming, feeding, boarding, vaccinations, health checkups and unexpected health problems can add up, so be sure you are financially prepared to own a pet," Hopper said.
Hopper warned against owning wild animals, which usually doesn't work out well for either the owner or the animal.
"Snakes, other reptiles and wild animals are not good pets for most people. They can become unexpectedly aggressive and dangerous, especially as they mature," Hopper said.
Wild animals often do not adapt well to a captive habitat and therefore are not happy. In Mississippi, it is illegal to own any wild game or fur-bearing animal.
"Don't get a pet on a whim. Talk to veterinarians and people who have owned certain kinds of pets to determine what kind will be most suitable for your family. Veterinarians often can direct you to good local breeders or help you find the pet you're looking for," Hopper said.
Make preparations for a new pet before bringing it home. Fix a spot for the animal to sleep, and have a fence or pen ready for a pet that is to stay outside.
Hopper suggested providing a pet box which gives animals a good "indoor house." Place animals in these boxes for a few hours a day so they will become accustomed to them. These pet boxes are good places to keep animals when guests visit.
"Animals can be wonderful additions to families who want to care for them, but pets should be acquired only after careful consideration of the responsibilities that come with them," Hopper said.