Shopping for your Pet

2 dogs overlooked for their looks! Shay is play and a little too energetic at times. Zeke is brindle. Nobody took the time to see past superficial exteriors!
2 dogs overlooked for their looks! Shay is play and a little too energetic at times. Zeke is brindle. Nobody took the time to see past superficial exteriors! | Source

Choosing the right 'tools' when bringing your new pet home can range from "What do I need?" to "What do I want?" The market gives limited options to the new 'pet' owner and if you love your animal, you tend to spoil it. But when you spoil, spoil responsible!

After carefully deciding to bring an animal home and selecting the right animal that will fit one's situation and lifestyle, but before bringing it actually home, comes the often beloved 'shopping trip'. What to bring home depends on the animal.

Rodents
A good starter animal for any child and one that will not require too much care is any kind of rodent type animal. To ensure that a social animal has company if needed, and one that prefers solitude doesn't, I would advise to speak with the seller of the pet.
Guinea Pigs and Bunnies are naturally social creatures. While hand-taming them is a little easier when they are 'single', I personally consider what would make them happier before considering myself. Taming two just takes a little more time and patience, but it will leave a social creature with company when its human family is 'away'.
A Hamster grows up social, but especially males are better kept separated when they mature. They tend to be territorial and if you do add a female, be prepared for 'family'; and a lot of it!

Thinks to buy:
- The “House”
There are several options from fancy plastic structures to cages.
I personally prefer a retired fish tank of at least 29 gallon volume. A smaller one is OK, but I am considering that this will be your animal's home for 'life'. And creative children have much more fun setting up and redecorating a larger tank. The tank will allow space and keeps the child's room much cleaner. Covered with a affordable netted cover for reptiles it is a safer place; especially when cats are in the house.
A Bunny or Guinea Pig does well in the variety of cages that can be purchased. A few pieces of plexiglass can help keep the hay in the cage.
- The “Dinner ware”
Rodent proof food bowls and water bottles are needed.
I prefer bottles since it keeps the water cleaner.
- The “Home décor”
To decorate the tank there are several options. Most of these little creatures prefer a hiding spot and one can either purchase a little rodent house or similar or canvas the yard or woods for hollow pieces of tree or similar. Rodents are also used to covering some distances in search of food and a wheel can help with exercising/entertaining it in a confined space.
Cedar chips have been said to be easier on animals when it comes to dust. They are also a natural flea deterrent and recommended for the use in dog houses for that purpose. The opinions about usage of cedar or pine chips vary, but I personally did not have any negative effects with either.
- The “Diet”
I personally prefer to offer my animals a variety of food that has the basics but also includes what they would search for in their natural habitat. In addition to basic foods most stores offer vegetable and fruit mixes; and after consulting books or the seller, fresh fruit and vegetables can be added. Some special treats and vitamins may be available too.
Buy a book and educate yourself! It will give you a lot of tips, tricks and ideas to improve the life of your pet!

Birds
Birds seem to be an easy animal, but it does depend on the type of bird. A beginner should start out with the common Parakeet, Cockatiel or Finch before moving on to ‘bigger and better things’! Good research will also help with deciding to purchase one or multiple birds. Again, one is easier to tame, but will you be home often enough to keep it company? Parakeets live in large flocks! Love Birds are social, but often stay in pairs!
- The “House”
Birds are often sold with very small cages. As a bird lover it turns my stomach. Having grown up with my father’s homemade bird cages I did some research to determine the correct size of cage for my future Finches. One look at the website and my cats had me scratch my head for answers. A tiny Finch requires the ability to fly several feet to be happy. I had a small house! Having had birds for a few years now again, I am currently working on the plans for a 12ft wide, 2ft deep and 8ft high cage for my four varieties of Finches (Cordon Bleu, Indian Spice, Zebra (fancy and ‘regular’) and Society). Surprisingly the construction of that cage will be no more than $250, if I do not get out of hands with my home improvements. This cage is perfect for a long hallway and will even include lights and fake trees for decoration.
But not everybody has the space or option for such gigantic bird-lover dreams. A smaller cage will do, but to keeping any bird in a tiny creation as recommended by such technical experts as certain retail stores is in my eyes cruelty; unless one has the option to allow the bird time outside of the cage. Even Finches can learn to return to their cage. Always remember, tough, that this will be your bird’s ‘home for life’!
- The “Dinner ware”
Small birds do well with the plastic dishes offered, but a parrot will require something strong enough to withstand its beak. A macaw that can crack hard nuts will make an easy job out of destroying a plastic bowl. If choosing water bottles, ensure the bird is actually used to them. A bird raised on water bowls may not adjust and die of thirst. A lot of birds also love baths. While I occasionally take my larger parrots in the shower or spray them with a water bottle, smaller birds may enjoy the variety of bird baths available.
- The “Home décor”
There are a variety of things that can entertain especially curious clowns such as the parakeet. A bit of trial and error will soon teach you what your bird prefers. A larger cage for Finches, Parakeets and Cockatiels looks great with the addition of fake trees, but they require frequent cleaning and especially Parakeets chew on things. All my birds have always loved swings and benefited from those perches that had a rough surface that wears down their talons. Parrots may also enjoy having to ‘work’ for their treats a little.
­- The “Diet”
Good research will give you a variety of food options to add to basic bird food. Finches love cooked (cooled) and diced carrots, eggs and (whole) peas. Egg shells can be crumbled and added. There are also some seeds, herbs and different mineral powders that can be added. The larger parrots often love apples, bananas and oranges on top of dry bread. Some birds can have special vitamins added to their water.

Buy a book and educate yourself! It will give you a lot of tips, tricks and ideas to improve the life of your pet!

Cats
Cats are in my eyes one of the easiest animals to add to one’s family. They are easy to please, very affectionate and compassionate and sleep for most of the day!
- The “House”
No ‘house’ required other than your own, but you may want to consider making it pet proof. If it is on bottom level and not safe for children, it may not be safe for a cat or dog either! Being a natural climber and loving to wonder along higher ‘paths’, having a lot of fancy items with easy access may cause them to fall and break!
- The “Dinner ware”
A good food and water bowl will do. With multiple cats there are several available that can hold a larger amount of food.
- The “Home décor”
Cats love to play (part of their natural instinct to hunt) and a variety of toys are available. A cat not crippled by declawing and such invasive procedures does require options to sharpen its claws. A cat tree of various sizes may double as scratch tree and ‘tree stand’. Most of my cats love sleeping in high places where they are safe from annoying dogs or playing felines and won’t miss a thing. They also love laying nearby bird cages and fish tanks to ‘watch TV’. You will soon find that a cat can entertain itself with anything in your house; which requires the safe storage of anything that can cause injury or be swallowed.
Should you chose to have your cat wear a collar, be warned that collars can become dangerous. Especially an outside cat should not wear anything other than a proven break-free collar that will come apart should the cat be stuck somewhere!!!
- The “Diet”
Why feed cats only cat food? Do you life on just cornflakes?
Cat- and –dog food comes in a wide variety of anything from fresh, dry, wet to grain free. Choosing the right food depends on your preferences and the animal’s diet needs. Wet food contains a lot of water which can be helpful keeping your animal dehydrated, but also acts like a filler. It also doesn’t wear down the teeth enough and can require cleaning. When I grew up my Mom would buy bags of lung and liver from the butcher and cut it up for the cats. For the dogs she would buy cleaned or un-cleaned (green) pansen (cow stomach).
Cats and dogs needing weight can also have eggs added to their food occasionally. Milk may be used by some people (water should be added), but my cats will get an upset stomach from it.

Buy a book and educate yourself! It will give you a lot of tips, tricks and ideas to improve the life of your pet!

Dogs
Dogs are great family ‘pets’ and can bring so much fun and happiness to a family. My preference is that they live in my house with me if that is possible. But I do acknowledge that they are outside and pack animals and not ‘pets’ to be confined to a cage; as pretty as it may be.
- The “House”
When keeping a dog outside and restrained in any way, ‘bigger’ is always better. Larger kennel, longer chain (which I am not a fan of), preferable dog run. Wolves are used to covering miles of territory!
A dog house should be sturdy (bored dogs will chew, unless properly exercised!!!), provide protection and should have its front either covered by a flap (mud flaps for semi trucks work great) or some kind of a wind breaker. While they can provide shade, I prefer the help of a tree or such to add to it. Hot temperatures are a killer for an outside dog!
An inside dog may or may not like a crate (rather larger than smaller) as a den or a dog bed. I found that baby mattresses work great when adding a sturdy cover to them. Growing up with animals my children would prefer taking a nap with the dog on the mattress over a forced nap in a bed or play pen.
Crates may also, when used for limited times and not as punishment, become valuable tools for house-training a dog or keeping your house without teeth marks in your absence.
- The “Dinner ware”
Plastic dishes may do, but I found them harder to clean and they may show teeth marks or dry-rod eventually. Metal dishes don’t mind a dishwasher, won’t lose color or start cracking with age. For multiple animals the feeders and water dispensers can come in handy. Bad bottles can easily be replaced by buying the water bottles used for water coolers.
- The “Home décor”
Any retail store can provide a variety of toys and such. Soft rubber toys and string toys may cause an upset stomach or worse and should be avoided. Hard rubber toys, normal tennis balls and old socks stuffed with other old socks are perfect.
You can find sturdy leashes for a good price in the dog department, but a simple, often studier and less expensive 'lead' can also be found within the horse department!
When choosing leashes and collars I have preferences with safety in mind:
- Puppy: No collar until at least 5 months old. If you take it for walks, use a collar that secures it, but take it off after the walk! They will chew it or get stuck somewhere and strangle themselves. I do not use collars with metal buckles for puppies for that same reason.
- ‘Teenager’: Buckled collars have to be always tight to make sure the dog can’t escape when its safety would be at risk (walking along streets with traffic, etc.). I personally prefer nylon collars with some kind of a chocker type feature. They are loose when not in use, but will tighten up and prevent escape when needed. But check them on a regular base to make sure they didn’t loosen up.
- Adults or young adults: Almost all of my adults wear chocker chains. They are comfortably loose when not in use, but will prevent escape when needed. They also can’t be chewed or won’t tear easily (avoid retail store chocker chains since they may have been produced cheaply and tear up or rings bend out of shape). And their noise will allow me to keep track of them as much as the rabies- and address-tags. I have creative and active dogs that spend a lot of time enjoying the outdoors and a chocker chain is also easy to clean.
One word of caution: Be aware that your dog can’t get himself tangled up and choke himself to death, no matter what collar it is wearing!!!
- The “Diet”
The variety of dog food available is almost unlimited and similar to that available for cats. But with both cats and dogs caution is required when changing the diet! To properly change a diet the old and the new food should always be mixed for a few days to avoid diarrhea.
The choice is, again, based both on your preference and the needs of your dog. A fat dog needs a low-calorie diet and a skinny dog such as some of my rescues will receive high-protein (but stomach easy) food with eggs, sour crème, carrots, Red Cell (actually a vitamin addition for horses) and hot dogs for training.

Buy a book and educate yourself! It will give you a lot of tips, tricks and ideas to improve the life of your pet!

Fish:
A fish tank is a wonderful thing. I use it to enjoy the underwater world I can’t afford to dive into; a different way of enjoy the calming effects of a water feature, to follow my creative ‘moments’ and to entertain my children and cats. But having a fish tank is not as easy as it seems.
In order to hopefully prevent you from having some of the heartache I experienced I will soon provide an article on my experience with starting a fish tank.
- The “House”
Some retail stores offer ready to use fish tank sets/combinations. They already include the tank, the filter, the heater, a thermometer and such. These items can be bought independently too.
I personally will buy a complete set-up from a certain Superstore and add both a bottom filter and a second filter matching the one coming with the set-up. It helps keeping the tank visually appealing!
But please consult with an experienced fish ‘owner’ when setting up the tank. The 3 days of running an empty tank (with the required chemicals added) is NOT enough to turn over an entire 55 gallon tank!!!
- The “Dinner ware”
None really required for most common fish species.
- The “Home décor”
When adding décor, take in consideration what kind of tank you have. A fresh water tank does not do well with the seashells found on the beach during your last vacation. And any kind of objects added should not have reactions with the water that can change its chemical consistence, thus killing your fish! Considering the packaging used to transport the very creative décor available at your retail store, please wash the items thoroughly before adding them to the water. Please do not use any soap, especially bleach. It will act as a poison and can wipe out your entire fish population!
- The “Diet”
I grew up with a certain fish food and continued to use it. But consulting an expert will help you chose the one that will fit the needs of the fish you selected. Some need flakes, some need pellets, some need life feed. When choosing fish, make sure they get along. Life-feeders may choose your other fish as food!!

Buy a book and educate yourself! It will give you a lot of tips, tricks and ideas to improve the life of your pet!

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