Dear Critter Corner: My 13 year-old daughter has been begging me for a pet of her own, my family and I have never owned a pet before, but my partner and I grew up with cats and dogs. What type of animal do you recommend for a first-time pet owner?

There is no one “right answer” for what is the best first-time pet to own, as there are several factors to consider when deciding on owning a new animal. The first, and often most overlooked, is time. A mouse may have a lifespan of 1-2 years, some dogs and cats can live 15-20 years, while a parrot can live upwards of 60 years, and a tortoise can even live to be 100 years old! Most birds and reptiles have very long lifespans, while rodents tend to be much shorter. Do some research and be prepared for the commitment of owning an animal long-term.

The next important factor is how much are you willing to change your lifestyle? A dog is a 24-hour job for the first few weeks, and they require a lot of mental and physical stimulation, daily, for their entire lives. If your daughter is going to be away most of the day, you should consider who will be the one taking care of the animal in her absence – and if your family has an active lifestyle.

Lastly, is the financial strain that owning an animal can bring. Veterinary bills from illness or injury can skyrocket the cost of owning a new pet. Make sure you know your new pet’s medical history and how much you are willing to spend on an animal before bringing them home. In general, small rodents tend to be much less expensive over the course of their lives than other animals.

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