Wednesday, April 21, 2010

WMN.Ph article: The Right Pet for Where You Live

Surprisingly, I found out that living in a house full of shih-tzus and having had my experience with Murray, the apartment cat, has pretty much given me a lot of experience in terms of pets. I still think that I won't make a good pet owner, but my sympathy for the pet as well as the owner gave me a rather unique insight.

Article originally published in WMN.Ph.

The Right Pet for Where You Live

Before you buy a pet, answer this question: will it like your home? Read on if your living space and your pet are a perfect match!

Text and photos By Richie Ramos
Living Space
You should consider the size of your place before you choose your pet - it would be cruel to have a big outdoor dog like a Retriever or German Shepherd in a studio apartment.

Apartments and townhouses
The best pets for smaller apartments are fish. Some "no pets" condominiums will allow fish, given the basic passivity of such a pet. Just remember that fish require a lot of maintenance: you have to clean the aquarium regularly and feed the fish on time.

Birds can also be good pets for smaller apartments and townhouses, but cleaning the birdcage regularly is required.

When it comes to larger apartments and townhouse-style rows, the landlord may allow dogs and cats. Dogs certainly need attention, and you should have people in the house at all times, as a dog may become destructive (particularly toward items of clothing or shoes with your scent) once it feels insecure without you around. You will also have to toilet-train them to minimize messy situations inside and outside your apartment.

Dogs up to the size of a Beagle or a Shih Tzu are suitable for larger apartments and townhouses.
Cats are a different thing altogether. They're more independent and harder to train. They are easier to take care of in the sense that they aren't as needy of attention. But they can be just as destructive as dogs, and while a cat can be very affectionate if it wants to be, a cat bite can be more dangerous than one from a dog, since cat fangs are sharper and more needle-like, making the wound more prone to infection.

If you have a house that has a decent backyard, then you can probably afford to get a big dog, similar in size to a German Shepherd. But remember that larger dogs require a ton of food and training.
You should also take into account children or visiting children when you choose a pet. In general, dogs are a good match for kids, if properly trained. The following should be done if you have youngsters around:

Make sure the pets have been vaccinated.
Children can and will play rough with pets, so better take precaution and have the pets vaccinated (Even without kids at home, you should still do this, for your own safety). You should be careful with cats in particular, since they tend to be touchier with rough handling, and will bite even with what looks like a little provocation. For dogs, the breed and upbringing play a major part on how they react to rough play, so make sure that they are properly socialized and trained if they will be around children. Keep the number of a doctor who specializes in animal bites handy.

Check for allergies.
Find out if the children have particular allergies (while you're at it, make sure you aren't allergic to your pet). Some are allergic to particles from bird feathers, others from cat hair or dog hair. (Trivia: Based on experience, Shih Tzus tend to be a good choice for kids who are allergic to dog hair, since they don't really shed that much). If possible, always keep medicine handy. Don't worry about fish - the only time a child might get an allergy is if they help in cleaning the aquarium.

Keep a cage ready for the pets.
In the case of birds and some types of fish, it's more of having a proper cage or aquarium, or simply teaching the children that such pets are to be looked at, not played with. If you own a cat or a small dog, then you should have a pet carrier ready just in case. You may need a holding cage for larger dogs in your garage or backyard. Don't keep cats and dogs in cages for too long - it brings out their more aggressive side once they get out.

A leash can also be useful.
But remember, a leash cannot protect against bites. And cats hate leashes, in general.
Other pointers
The size of your family matters.
Particularly in the case of dogs, socializing matters a lot. Choose a breed that matches the "social level" of your family. The larger and more interactive your family is, the better it is for dogs like Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds. Make sure that someone is always in the house.

If the pet isn't just a pet, choose and train it well.
For most, dogs are bought for security in the home. But for a guard dog to be effective, you have to train it well, too. A guard dog should be trained not to accept food or treats from strangers, and they should know a command word so they won't bite, or will back off. Even medium-sized dogs can be trained for this. Toy dogs like Chihuahuas should be left as toy dogs.

Pets are not a fad.
Do remember that house pets are dependent on you. Take good care of them, and if you feel you cannot anymore, find someone who can.

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