How to decide if your family is ready for a pet

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How to decide if your family is ready for a pet

Pets do a good job of bringing families closer together and can enrich the lives of their owners in so many ways. People who have a pet (or two, or a menagerie) tend to be happier and healthier than those without.

But each year, humane societies and pet shelters across Canada take in thousands of unwanted pets that are surrendered by their families. According to the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA), one of the most common reasons why a pet is given up for adoption is because its family has not spent enough time training and playing with the animal.

If you're considering giving a pet as a gift, the OSPCA urges that you give a pet bed or a cute pet accessory instead, and let the recipient make the final decision.

It's important to get the whole family on the same page when thinking about getting a pet. Get together and go over the four pet-related articles below. You'll find five questions to test your pet-readiness, a guide to adopting a new pet, the true price of a pet, as well as the tale of one family's transition from pet-free to responsible pet owners.

Are you ready for a pet?
Ask yourself these five questions to find out.

Pet? Nyet ? Or just not yet? The decision to adopt a pet, especially a cat or dog, is a major one. Adorable as they are, it's better to approach the issue with your head more than your heart. Are you ready for the responsibility? Are you in it for the long haul? "Consider what your future lifestyle will be, since many dogs can live for 16 or more years and cats, 20 or more years," says Dr. Miki Shibata, a small animal specialist veterinarian at Ottawa's Greenback and Rideau Animal Hospitals.

Guide to adopting a pet
What to know and where to go when you're looking for a new furry family member.

You've talked it over and your family is ready to welcome a pet into your home. Once you've decided what type of pet to get – a dog, cat, bunny, the list goes on – figuring out where to get your pet will be the biggest decision you face. Whether you choose to go to a shelter, breeder, pet store or adopt a kitten from the litter next door, there are pros and cons to consider. We've got you covered with a guide that spells out what you need to know to start your foray into pet ownership on the right foot.

How a pet can bring your family closer together
Caring for a pet can be hard work, but it can also make your family closer. Find out how.

"Don't do it," other mothers anxiously advised me before our family of four made the leap to become a family of five. They, like me, had husbands and children begging for a four-legged pet. "If you get a dog," moaned my friends, "then we'll have to get one, too."

Pricing pets: The true cost of dogs, cats, rabbits, birds and other critters
Learn about the costs involved in keeping pets, from start-up gear to regular expenses.

My neighbour and I have a great deal going. He lends us his dog, Max, for half an hour every day and my kids walk Max. We get the benefits of having a dog without the cost and my neighbour gets his dog walked for 50 cents a day – a quarter to each boy. Unfortunately not everybody has such obliging neighbours and not all the prices associated with pet ownership are so reasonable.

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How to decide if your family is ready for a pet