deciding on the right pet

The first step in finding the right pet is to think about what you are looking for in a pet, and then looking at your lifestyle to help you decide what kinds of pets might be a good fit. The East Bay SPCA shelters only adopt dogs and cats, but there are other shelters and rescue groups that also adopt rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, birds and other small companion animals.

Below are some points to consider about adding a pet to your home. After reading them, take the time to review our checklists to see if a dog or cat is a good choice for you.

  • No Impulse Decisions

Try not to adopt (or purchase) a pet on a whim. Make it a deliberate, thought-out action, because the results of that decision will be with you a long time. Bringing a pet home because it looks so cute and cuddly is not a good way to add another long-term member to your family. We do not encourage pet store purchases because they often support high volume breeders, which often result in numerous health issues. Take the time to do your research. Reputable organizations will take the time to learn about you and your family before ever agreeing to adopt (or sell) you an animal. Spend ample time with the pet before deciding to bring them home.

  • "Shop" Around

Pay several visits to your local shelters and humane organizations. Take the time to learn about the kind of pet you are considering adopting. Remember that a new pet can change the structure of a family and needs to be accepted by everyone in your household.  There are several shelters in the area with many animals to choose from, so take your time deciding. You can also check out websites, such as and, and begin to develop an understanding of what traits appeal to you in a pet. Consider the positive and negative aspects while interacting with the animals on a one-on-one basis.

  • Match the Pet To Your Life Style

Learn about the special attributes of many species and about breed specific needs and activity levels. Are you a night owl or a day person? Some species spend much of the day asleep and are most active at night. Do you work long hours? Some get very lonely by themselves while others are not bothered by solitude at all. Do you have children? Are you prepared for the supervision that they will need when you add a pet to your home? Is the pet you choose stable enough to respond appropriately to a child that may seem threatening? If you travel a lot who will care for the pet while you are away?

  • Match the Pet To Your Home Environment

How much free space is there? Do you have a space to keep the pet separate from other pets in the home, to ensure a smooth transition? How will your neighbors feel about this new pet? If you rent, are pets allowed and/or do they require an additional pet deposit or agreement? Keep in mind that finding a rental property with a pet can be very challenging should you decide to move in the future.

  • Decide Why You Want A Pet

Do you want a pet that is independent and requires little contact or are you looking for an energetic companion with whom you can jog or play Frisbee? Do you want to play with it or just want to cuddle? Are you looking for a rambunctious pet to add to your home or a mellow companion?

  • Is It the Right Time In Your Life To Get A Pet?

If you already have other pets how will they get along with the new one? How do you plan on introducing them? How stable are your human relationships? How good is your health? How would you care for your pet in the face of unexpected changes in your health or human relationships? Are you planning any major changes to your home environment which may be stressful for a new pet?

  • Decide How Long You Expect Your Pet To Live

Average dogs and cats can live 12-16 years – some longer. Smaller dog breeds live longer then larger breeds. Indoor cats live longer then cats allowed outdoors, due to the hazards they encounter outdoors. Tortoises and goldfish have indeterminate life spans that approximate our own. Small parrots live 8-14 years; larger ones 35-60 years. Mice, hamsters and rats, however, are old at two years.

  • Decide If You Are Able To Meet This Pet’s Specific Needs

It is a good idea to do some research as to how much care your pet will need and talk to other pet owners. Do you have enough time to properly feed, exercise and clean after it? Many pets get bored if they do not have enough one-on-one contact. This boredom can lead to a host of undesirable behaviors, such as barking, chewing, improper elimination, etc.

  • Consider the Cost of Owning a Pet

Besides the initial cost of the pet, which include the cost of adoption, food, litter, dishes, leashes, collars, crates, etc. Over time, the cost of a good diet for the life of the pet adds up. Your new pet will also need ongoing veterinary care, grooming and pet sitters as well. Talk to other pet owners to determine what they spend yearly on their pet and see if that can be accommodated for in your budget.


Consider your options: