It’s often said that a pet isn’t just an animal, but a member of the family. Both anecdotal and scientific evidence suggests that pets help their owners enjoy longer, healthier, happier lives. Of course, with the wonderful rewards of pet ownership comes great responsibility. The Internet is a useful source of advice and assistance to keep coats glistening and tails wagging—if you know where to look. We’ve herded some of the Web’s best pet-care resources into this guide so you can spend less time researching and more time with your animal.
Whatever your degree of experience with animals, do some research if you’re thinking of inviting one into your home. Many animal owners who don’t end up overwhelmed by the commitment. Use this section of the guide to determine what kind of animal is right for you, understand what special care each type of pet requires, and learn about specific breeds or species. You’ll find out what to do if you suffer from allergies or health concerns but still want to get a pet, and you’ll learn how to adopt a pet from an animal shelter. You can even visit an interactive site that allows you to “customize” your pet.
- Think carefully about compatibility in every instance. Is every member of your household as keen as you are on this addition to the family? Will your lifestyle permit you to have the animal you want? Certain breeds of dog require a lot of exercise, for example. Would you be able to provide, say, an hour-long walk every day?
- Talk to a vet or the manager of a rescue center, preferably someone who comes recommended by a relative or friend. Such professionals may spot factors in your lifestyle––ones you haven’t considered––that preclude or are conducive to certain animals. These people are a great source of reliable, unbiased advice.
- As you research online, be sure that the sites you’re reading are objective. Many of the opinions you’ll find come from pet owners already enamored with their choice. Keep this in mind as you read about different animals and breeds.
- If you are looking for animals that are bred privately, use the Internet to find reputable breeders instead of visiting a pet store. You can find out whether a breeder is trustworthy by visiting the breed association online.
- Web sites that offer interactive discussions about animals or breed types may provide you with unanticipated but valuable advice, and you can also ask questions.
- In this guide, you’ll find specific sections for dogs and cats. This is because they are the most popular domestic pets, and also because they tend to require more immediate and interactive care than fish, rodents, reptiles, or birds.
For a general introduction to pet ownership …
The American Veterinary Medical Association
provides online brochures on buying and caring for five specific types of animals: dogs, cats, horses, rodents, and birds. The literature details all the basics you should consider regarding compatibility and health care. For information about specific breeds, look elsewhere, but this is a good source of general advice on pet selection.
introduces readers to the idea of a “zoofamily”: a unit that incorporates a pet as a family member. The center’s questionnaire helps prospective owners decide whether they’re ready for the time commitment and emotional responsibility it takes to transform from a human-centric family to a zoofamily.
The American Animal Hospital Association
publishes research about the factors associated with abandonment in an article that brings home the challenges of animal companionship. In addition to this study on why many people cannot commit to pets, you’ll find FAQ sections and articles about caring for dogs, cats, and exotic pets. Read these sections before you commit to an animal so you’ll know what to expect and won’t feel overwhelmed once you’ve acquired a pet.
offers lots of information on all types of pets. You’ll learn about the environment required to care for each kind of animal and receive information on different species, nutrition, behavior, possible health issues, travel issues, and requisites for ownership. Visit the FAQ section
to see if a question you have has already been answered.
The American Pet Association
introduces you to the most important matters to consider when you’re thinking of incorporating a dog or cat into your home. Visit the links provided for each species to read articles discussing basic care and animal needs.
For people with pet-related human health concerns …
The Humane Society of the United States
writes that 15 percent of the population is allergic to dogs or cats. The Humane Society has a page of advice for allergy sufferers who are considering a pet anyway (for example, you’ll learn what breeds are less likely to provoke an allergic reaction) and for those who discovered their allergy after getting a pet. Visit any of the links under “Pet Care” for information on caring for your pet—no matter what type of animal it may be. There’s even a section on helping “neighborhood critters in need
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
offers help to anyone worried about the health risks that pets might pose. By and large, medical professionals stress the benefits of ownership, but some people (pregnant women, people with HIV/AIDS) may need to exercise caution when deciding whether to live with certain animals.
For people considering adopting a homeless animal …
is an extensive nationwide service for animal adoption. Here you’ll learn where to look for a homeless animal, how to choose the right pet, and what health issues to be aware of. In addition, there’s a searchable database of sheltered animals around the United States. Be warned: there are pictures of waifs and strays here that can be difficult to look at.
The Humane Society of the United States
recommends that potential adopters consider adopting homeless animals from their local shelters. Shelters have all kinds of domestic animals—dogs, cats, rabbits, and even hamsters—and they screen for good health and behavior. There’s also a section that’ll help you find a local animal shelter
provides contact information for canine rescue centers. In addition to working to find homes for rescued dogs, these facilities frequently offer educational materials and advice for people looking to adopt.
For help selecting a dog breed …
Canis Major Publications
is the publisher of Dog Owner’s Guide
. Its online manual for matching owners with breeds is informative and includes an overview of the seven dog groups: sporting dogs, hounds, working breeds, terriers, toy breeds, nonsporting dogs, and herding dogs.
The American Kennel Club
covers the essentials of buying a dog. A lot of the information on this Web site is repeated from the American Veterinary Medical Association brochure, but anyone serious about buying a dog is sure to benefit from repeated exposure to this vital advice. Visit the site’s database of breeds
to learn about important factors like size, appearance, temperament, and exercise requirements.
The Animal Planet
Web site has a breed selector to help match lifestyles with appropriate dogs. Be sure to cross-reference your results with another source to make sure you’re heading toward the right kind of canine.
a pet identification and retrieval service, here posts an article from the Kansas City Star that discusses the importance of breed selection. “You don’t buy a dog the way you buy a new suit,” says a Kansas City dog breeder quoted in the article. “You need to consider the dog’s needs and wants.”
If you’re thinking of getting a cat …
discusses certain essentials to ponder before getting a feline friend, including cost, its longevity, and its need for stimulation and attention. The site states, for example, “Cats are the most intelligent of all our domestic animals and they need a stimulating environment in which to thrive.”
The Cat Connection
recommends a number of ways to assess the health and temperament of a cat you’re thinking of buying. It also features a useful discussion of the health matters most pertinent during a cat’s early stages of acclimatization to a new home.
The Cat Fanciers’ Association
is a resource geared toward cat show attendees and enthusiasts, but their Web site also carries information helpful to anyone researching a breed.
For potential fish owners …
offers sound advice for setting up a fish aquarium, on topics from choosing the size of the aquarium you want to populating it with your favorite fish. You’ll also learn how to find the fish that will get along with each other in their new living space.
I Do Dog Tricks
has employed a little technical wizardry to create a virtual Yorkshire terrier to ease the heartache of the frustrated would-be dog owner. This spirited little guy will do his best to obey your every command and become a surrogate for the pooch of your dreams.
presents research conducted by Cats Protection, Britain’s oldest feline welfare charity, showing that 51% of women cat owners surveyed said that they enjoyed a better night’s sleep with their cats than with their spouses.
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