Owning or not owning pets seems to be, oddly enough, a controversial topic. Some people believe that it's cruel to have pets, and others believe that you're heartless if you don't want any. I'm the type of person who believes that some people are right for pets, and others aren't. I feel as if owning a pet can make your life 100x better or 100x worse depending on the personality of not only yourself, but your pet as well. I'm hoping that this list of things to do/know before getting a pet will help out the prospective pet owner. I'll be using a lot of examples as I've owned a lot of pets, and I'll put the examples in ~ ~ so you can skip them if you don't care about reading my own experiences.
First things first...
Every single pet that you get will require some sort of effort. Let me repeat that for the people in the back: EVERY SINGLE PET THAT YOU GET WILL REQUIRE SOME SORT OF EFFORT. From a Saint Bernard to a hermit crab, any creature that you obtain will need to be properly cared for and cleaned up after. Even the most resilient little crab will suffer to death if you don't make sure to keep it's habitat clean and natural-habitat-friendly, keep it fed and watered, and be sure not to neglect it. You can NOT buy any animal without expecting to dedicate some fraction of your time, energy, and money to it's care.
Yes, you have to clean your fish tank regularly. Yes, you have to feed your dog daily. Yes, you have to keep your long-haired cat brushed in order to avoid matted or tangled fur. Yes, you have to clean your hamster cage and kitty litter boxes each week, and possibly even every couple of days. When you get an animal, you are officially in charge of that creature. You are all that creature has. Without you, that creature will surely die or live a life of misery. You have to be responsible for caring for that animal as if it is your own family member and cannot care for itself. A pet is more than an object. It is family.
Do your research and choose the pet that is right for you
If the idea that you'll essentially be in charge of the entire life of another creature hasn't scared you away, you can start researching. Look up the typical personalities and needs of the animal you have in mind. You need to find a proper diet for them and look at pet food reviews (because some brands have been known to actually be bad for the pet that they claim to be made for).You should also check out how much space and attention the animal needs, and if they're typically a pack animal or a lone ranger. Often times people find that the pet they dreamed of is no where near good for them.
~Example: I was obsessed with the idea of getting a prairie dog. My uncle had already offered to buy one for me, and I was saving money for supplies like food, bedding, toys, and a cage of some sort. I did some research and found out that there was no possible way that I could provide care for that type of animal. They need a lot of space to roam (and I have a very small bedroom), they need constant attention (and I have to go to school), they prefer companions (which would mean I'd have to get a second prairie dog, and they aren't cheap!), they prefer warm climates (and I prefer the cold, so my AC is always set to 65 degrees), and they can be very energetic and need a lot of work to remain happy. I abandoned the idea of getting a prairie dog because I knew that none of them would be happy with what I could provide.~
You need to remember that your decisions will affect the creature just as much, if not more, than it affects you. Don't keep an animal in misery simply because you didn't thoroughly research the creature's needs and preferences.
Choose the pet that is right for you: Part 2
Too many people buy a pet that they just can't handle. They normally buy that pet because it's cute or because their kids wanted it. That's not how you decide what pet you want. I remember hearing about a family that just abandoned their Saint Bernard simply because it got too big for their home. They had bought it as a pup as a gift for their children, but eventually their kids got bored of it. It turned into a burden on the parents, and when it began to grow and grow and grow, they abandoned the poor little thing. If that's how you're going to go, then buy a plushy. The looks of the creature you're buying needs to be the third priority. The first should be animal is good for you, the second is the personality of the individual you've found, and third should be how cute the individual animal is.
Be aware of the animal's personality
All creatures are different. One species of animal can be classified as holding a certain personality trait, and then you could find an animal that doesn't fit it at all.
~Example: Most people believe that beta fish can never be kept with other fish. That's true for the majority of fish (and it can be very dangerous to assume it isn't true, so be very careful when testing.) I had a sucker fish in his own tank, but my young cousin threw a rock into the tank to make it "prettier". It cracked the bottom of his tank, and the water drained out quickly. I had to think fast, so I plopped him into my beta tank. My beta, Franklin, was always a shy little man. He wouldn't flare at anything unless he saw his own reflection, and he usually just chilled in his little flower pot.
I watched the two very closely, and I noticed that Franklin would follow the sucker fish around the tank for several days. He would just slowly swim along behind the sucker fish, and at one point her nosed right up to him and booped him on the back. After a week or so had passed, Franklin just stopped caring. The sucker fish stayed in his own zone near the bottom of the tank, which let Franklin enjoy his own half. They were room mates!~
You can find a skittish cat who hates kids, or an energetic cat who loves kids but requires a ton of energy to keep up with. You could find a hamster that likes to be held and pet, or one that hates being touched. You can also find animals with picky tastes and you need to be aware of what it will and won't eat.
~Example: I had a hamster named Roses who hated dried bananas, but my other hamster, Guns, loved them. She also hated the brown food pellets in her dish and wouldn't eat anything if she saw them in her food, but Guns would nibble them.~ Don't buy a pet if you're going to punish it for being itself. If you want a cat that will cuddle with you, specifically ask for that. If you want a dog that is good with kids, ask for that, because getting one that isn't good with kids and then beating it for biting someone is not okay.
Make sure that you can afford it
Although a beta fish can be bought for less than $10 at walmart, you'll probably have to drop about $30 on a decent tank (because it's a total myth that betas are happy in itty bitty little tanks.), then another $20 on a heater for the right temperature to keep it alive. Then there's food, decorations, and a filter if you aren't willing to clean the tank every 3 days. Pets can be a major drain on your pay check, so you should only get a pet if you know that you can afford it. I have a very low amount of money that I can spend, so I bought the supplies for my cat (toys, food dish, litter scooper) from dollar tree. I buy her food, litter, etc at walmart or any pet store where I can find it for affordable prices.
Be prepared to be occasionally annoyed
Pets can be the sweetest little angels that will love you unconditionally. That, or they're total asses. I don't think there is an in between.
~Example: My cat, Rosy, likes to climb onto my back and lay on my ass whenever I lay down. It annoys the hell out of me because I feel bad making her get off so that i can go do what I need to (especially if I have to pee.) I just deal with it or I roll slightly to my side so she gets the hint to hop off.~
You have to have the patience to train your pet. Training does NOT mean hitting or neglecting your animal in any way. I have not one tiny shred of respect for ANYONE who will hit their pet so easily. I think of those people as scum, and not fit to own any creatures. Defend it all you want, if I see or hear about you hitting an animal, I will instantly loathe you. Don't get a pet if your only idea of training is "punish it till it listens."
Love your pet
All of my pets are my babies. Rosy is the queen and Guns is the king, and I am their care giver/mother figure. You'll need to be ready to open your heart to the critter you've decided to take into your home. Buying or adopting a pet won't make you love that pet. Try to find an animal that you feel a connection with, then you'll be more likely to show them the love and positivity that they deserve, and they'll normally return the favor.
I hope this helped someone get an idea of what they should do before getting their new pet! Enjoy your companions! :)