Home , Pet


How to PICK A PET The pros and cons of , , , and

BY JACK SAVAGE et it be said here that a life is not complete without the companionship of a beloved pet. Nearly 60 percent of households in the United States and Canada have pets of L one kind or another. Most popular, of course, are dogs and cats. Almost 40 percent of U.S. households (41 percent in Canada) have at least one , with the average being 1.6 dogs. Apparently even half a dog is better than none. A quarter of all U.S. households have an average of 1.8 cats, or perhaps two cats who go missing 10 percent of the time, while in Canada, 38 percent of households have at least one . Choosing a pet successfully requires knowing yourself and your lifestyle. Are you a dog person or a cat person? Or perhaps neither, and a fish or is more your style. Pets take time and dedication. Will you really take the dog out for walks? Are you willing to clean your fish’s tank? Perhaps the best advice is to ask a trusted friend what kind of pet they think would be good for you. If they say “a bottle of wine on a leash,” listen to them. A good match between pet and pet owner/caretaker/provider may come as a result of natural symbiosis, an ideal complement of personalities and lifestyles. You get out of the relationship what you put into it. Your pet will live a better life thanks to your care, and they in turn will allow you to be a better person.

168 Illustrations: Getty Images PETS DOGS

DOGS are the best. Just ask the people who live with one (or 1.6). Not all dogs are the same, of course. If a dog’s life is for you, read up on breeds and find a good match. There are apps (Barkbuddy or GetPet) where you can swipe right, and dogs never ghost you. If you already own a , you may feel inexplicably compelled to have a dog— 80 percent of horse owners also own a dog.

CONS WANT TO MEET SOMEONE OK, there’s the slobbering NEW? DOGS ARE WAY BETTER thing. And the eat-first- THAN ONLINE DATING. ask-questions-later thing, which leads to the puking thing. Then there’s the PROS not-quite-house-trained DOGS are known for their thing. Oh, and the watch- unconditional love and affection. everything-you-do thing. Dogs make you happier. Resist Every. Thing. You. Do. intellectualizing dog love. Just YOU have to run home revel in it. after work to let a dog out. DOGS get you outside, which is And then get up in the good for your well-being. (Pouring middle of the night to let rain during the walk? Woo-hoo!) it out. (continued) Remember, you’re not taking the dog for a walk—he or she is taking you. Be grateful. FOR dogs, the water bowl is always half-full. Kibble for breakfast? It’s the best! Again for dinner? Awesome! DOGS SHED. THEY CHEW YOUR NEW SHOES. AND YOUR OLD SHOES.

Illustrations: Getty Images 169 PETS CATS

CAT ancestors were solitary hunters. (Dogs evolved from pack- wolves.) Even today, domestic cats are seen as more “independent” than dogs. This is among the reasons that many people find cats appealing as pets. A CAT’S is created by the muscles that control the opening and closing of the vocal cords. As , the purring reminds mama cat to keep nursing them; later in life, domestic cats purr to encourage you to pet them. Not only does a purring cat in your lap reduce stress, but also it is believed (by cat scientists) to have therapeutic healing effects on muscle and bone tissue. House cats also “” in order to get attention.

CONS YOU never really liked those floor- length curtains anyway, did you? CATS don’t fetch. They may leave PROS a dead at your feet, but CATS MAKE AWESOME that’s about them, not you. YOUTUBE VIDEOS—THEY KITTY can be passive-aggressive; RULE THE INTERNET. that broken lamp was no accident. And if cats could text, they CATS are arguably less work wouldn’t. than dogs; they can stay inside and be happy. CATS chase a flashlight or laser on the wall. This is entertaining for you and the cat. IF a cat does purr or meow or rub against you, you know that it is expressing affection. LITTER BOXES. ENOUGH SAID?

170 Illustrations: Getty Images PETS

IF purring isn’t for you, then consider the equally calming white noise of the bubbling fish tank. The well-curated makes an aesthetically pleasing statement in any home: pretty, colorful, exotic. Tropical fish are not very expensive, an aquarium doesn’t take up a lot of space, and, at the bottom of the tank, you can stage scenes from your favorite pirate movie.


PROS IF the cable goes out, you can always watch the aquarium. KIDS love to gaze at fish in fish tanks and can be entertained for minutes FISH TANKS HAVE TO BE at a time. CLEANED, AND THE WATER HAS TO BE MONITORED CAREFULLY— PH LEVEL, TEMPERATURE, AND SO ON. THIS TAKES WORK AND CAN BE MESSY.

CONS FISH do have to be fed daily and are YOU CAN WATCH THEM hard-pressed to remind you. TO PRACTICE FOR YOU can’t really pet a fish, and they “FISH FACE” SELFIES. can’t sit in your lap. (continued)

Illustrations: Getty Images 171 PETS BIRDS

BIRDS are fascinating to watch, and they often think the same about you. They’re intelligent and have personality. They have evolved to flock, so they are naturally social: You can flock together even if your don’t match theirs.

CONS BIRDS can be messy and never clean up after themselves. THEIR feed attracts mice. THEY fly away. PROS THEY—–OR RATHER, BIRDS may well be gateway THEIR —–DON’T TAKE pets toward owning a , UP MUCH ROOM. as 25 percent of snake owners also own a bird. IF birds get sick, there are THE cost to house and feed a avian , but it’s bird is modest compared to room not every vet practice that has and board for other pets. a bird specialist on hand. In SOME birds say funny things fact, find one on hand and they or say things that are funny are worth two in the bush.  in a certain context. Like little brothers. Or like city folk when they visit a farm. BIRDS like macaws can live up to 100 years, which means that you can leave them to your favorite (or least favorite) nephew or niece.

Jack Savage lives with his wife on Skydog Farm in New Hampshire, where they have been blessed with a menagerie of pets, farm , and surrounding .

172 Illustrations: Getty Images