Owning a pet can be one of the most rewarding parts of life. The companionship and unconditional love a pet provides enriches our lives in so many ways. If you’re considering getting a pet for your home, you likely want to make sure you choose the best option for your lifestyle and needs.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Dogs and cats make the best house pets due to their affectionate nature, trainability, and reasonable care requirements.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the pros and cons of various house pets to help you determine which is right for you and your family. We’ll cover topics like temperament, care needs, health considerations, training requirements, and more.

By the end, you’ll have all the information you need to confidently choose the best pet for your home.

Key Factors to Consider When Choosing a House Pet

Living Space Requirements

When selecting a pet, it’s crucial to consider how much living space the animal will need. For example, large breed dogs like Great Danes require ample room to move around comfortably. Small apartment dwellers might opt for a cat, bird, or hamster that needs less area.

Always research an animal’s full adult size, not just their size as cute little puppies or kittens! Ensure your home can accommodate their needs once grown.

Time Commitment for Care and Training

Pets require varying amounts of care, training, exercise and social interaction. High maintenance pets like dogs need to be walked frequently, while low maintenance pets like fish only need to be fed daily. Be realistic about the time you can commit when choosing your pet.

Puppies require diligent house training and obedience lessons. Kittens need socialization too. Make sure your lifestyle allows enough time to properly care for the pet’s needs…or consider an older, calmer adopted adult pet who requires less work.

Temperament and Affection Level

Consider your own personality and lifestyle when choosing a pet. Outgoing owners may prefer high-energy dog breeds that love activities and attention. Quieter owners may opt for calmer lap cats or pets like rabbits or guinea pigs. Also realize some pets like cats are more aloof, while dogs tend to be affection-seekers.

Make sure to pick a pet whose personality and affection/social needs mesh well with yours.

Potential Health Issues

Sadly, many pets eventually incur illness or chronic health issues. Large breeds often face joint problems or bloat. Dwarf hamsters are diabetes-prone. Do research to discover what genetic or breed-specific conditions may impact the lifespan and wellbeing of any pet you are considering.

This can help avoid heartbreak later and ensure you can shoulder ensuing healthcare costs. Reputably bred pets from ethical sources tend to be healthier over a lifetime.

Veterinary Costs

Speaking of healthcare expenses…these shouldn’t be underestimated! Average first year veterinary costs run $1000+ for a dog or cat. Exotic pets or those with chronic illness cost more for specialized vets.

Budget prudently, invest in pet insurance if feasible, and have an emergency vet fund before acquiring your pet. Too many beloved pets end up surrendered yearly when families can’t afford their care…so determine all-in costs realistically beforehand.

Grooming Needs

While your shaggy sheepdog or fluffy Persian cat look gorgeous, they require frequent brushing and grooming upkeep. Long or double-coated breeds like Komondor dogs need daily brushing to prevent painful matting. Pets with consistently growing hair need regular trims.

Short-haired tabby cats need less grooming. Birds need nail and wing trims. Evaluate if you can realistically provide each pet’s grooming needs or if professional grooming costs should be budgeted for ongoing.

Shedding and Dander

Shed levels vary greatly for dogs, cats, small mammals and birds. Those with allergies should select pets with low-shedding coats. Dander also aggravates allergies, so hypoallergenic dog and cat breeds like poodle mixes or Devon Rex cats shed less.

Tile, wood and leather furniture is also easier to keep dander-free than fabric furnishings. So factor shedding, dander and preferred home decor into deciding on your pet if sensitive household members will be affected.

Noise Level

Certain adorable pets like parakeets, guinea pigs and chinchillas are quite vocal! Dogs readily bark at every passerby. Cats meow insistently when hungry. If you or family members prefer quiet, avoid noisy pets. Terrapins, fish, rats and some reptiles are largely silent and better noise-wise.

However, vocal pets can also act as alert watchdogs sounding a warning if strangers approach the home. So think whether vocalization Deters intruders or just drives you crazy when picking your perfect pet!

Dogs as House Pets

Space Needs

When considering a dog as a pet, it’s important to think about their space requirements. Larger breeds like Golden Retrievers need ample room to move around and play, while smaller breeds like French Bulldogs are satisfied with less area.

Make sure your home and yard provide enough space for exercise and housing based on your prospective dog’s size. The average dog should have at least 200 square feet of living space. Additionally, easy access to an outdoor space like a yard allows your dog room for daily activity.

Required Care and Training

Dogs are pack animals that require company, attention and proper care from their owners. Plan to spend considerable time playing with, training and caring for your dog each day. Puppies need house training and obedience training started early on.

Adults dogs benefit from continued reinforcement of good behaviors through rewards-based training. Additionally, dogs require species-appropriate diets, exercise matched to their age/breed, grooming, veterinary care and more.

Being a responsible dog owner is a big commitment of both time and resources.


Different dog breeds have different activity levels and temperaments best suited for certain households. For example, high energy breeds like Border Collies thrive with active owners and plenty of stimulation.

More mellow companion breeds like Cavalier King Charles Spaniels adapt better to quieter home environments. Consider your lifestyle and experience level when choosing a dog to find the best temperament match. Mixed breed dogs can offer great temperaments too.

Consulting with your local animal shelter or rescue group can help you find the right temperament fit.

Common Health Issues

While historically healthy, purebred dogs can be prone to certain inheritable conditions. For example, Labrador Retrievers can experience joint problems like hip and elbow dysplasia. German Shepherds can encounter digestive issues or bone disease.

However, mixed breeds have increased genetic diversity that gives them unique health advantages. Discuss common issues for any breed you’re considering with your veterinarian to understand risks. Keeping up with preventative care and vaccinations can help mitigate some health problems as your dog ages.

Vet Costs

Like medical care for humans, veterinary expenses can add up for dog owners. Routine preventative care like vaccines, heartworm medication and check ups average $235 per year according to the ASPCA. Additionally, emergency costs for situations like injuries or illness can cost thousands.

Pet health insurance through providers like PetPlan or Embrace can help defray costs, with average premiums of $42 per month. Alternatively, “care credit” through veterinary financing companies like CareCredit can assist with expensive treatments not covered by regular savings.

Always anticipate at minimum a few hundred dollars in annual veterinary pet costs.


Breeds Grooming Needs
Short-haired – Labs, Boxers Minimal professional grooming needed, weekly brushing advised
Long-haired – Collies, Komondor Frequent bathing/brushing required, professional grooming every 6-8 weeks

Grooming requirements vary considerably by breed. Short-haired dogs like Labradors often need only weekly brushing and nail trims to stay clean. Long-haired breeds like Lhaso Apsos require daily coat care to prevent matting and may need professional grooming routinely.

Be realistic about the grooming commitment involved when selecting your breed.

Shedding and Dander

As fur-bearing animals, most dogs shed to some degree. Excess shedding can create mess around your home requiring constant cleanup. While hypoallergenic breeds like Poodles shed minimally, no dogs are completely non-allergenic. All dogs produce dander that can irritate peoples allergies.

If you or family members have allergies, meet various breeds first to assess reactions before adopting long-term.


Dogs naturally communicate excitement, fear or boredom through vocal noises like barks and howls. Amount and volume of noise differs by breed – for example, Beagles are notorious barkers requiring training to control vocalizations.

If sound sensitivity is a concern, consider noise levels of prospective breeds and plan for collar devices like anti-bark collars if needed. Additionally, ensure sufficient physical and mental stimulation to prevent boredom-related barking.

With preparation for their vocal nature, dogs can make wonderful companions.

Cats as House Pets

Space Needs

Cats are relatively small animals, but they still need adequate space to roam and play. An indoor cat should have access to areas for climbing, scratching, and relaxing. Multi-level cat trees, shelves, and window perches are great options. Avoid crowding multiple cats in a small space.

The average indoor cat needs at least 30-50 square feet of living space.

Required Care

Cats are relatively low maintenance pets compared to dogs. They don’t require walking like dogs do. However, cats still need daily care and attention. Cats need fresh water and food bowls filled regularly. Their litter boxes need frequent scooping.

Cats also need environmental enrichment through play and exercise. Interactive toys, scratching posts, and daily playtime are musts. Grooming needs vary by coat length. Short hair cats need weekly brushing while long haired cats need daily brushing.


Cats are often stereotyped as aloof or distant pets, but their temperaments vary greatly. Some cats are very affectionate and enjoy cuddling and being petted while others preferLess contact. Kittens and younger cats tend to be more energetic and playful.

Senior cats are usually calmer and enjoy napping. Cats communicate through meowing, purring, and body language. Understanding your cat’s personality takes time.

Common Health Issues

Some common health issues seen in cats include:

  • Dental disease – Regular teeth cleaning helps prevent this.
  • Skin conditions – Allergies are a frequent cause.
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Cancer – Lymphoma, mammary tumors, and skin cancer occur in cats.

Vet Costs

Owning a cat requires an annual financial commitment. Here are some average costs:

  • Routine vet visit: $50
  • Vaccines: $20-100
  • Spay/neuter surgery: $100-300
  • Dental cleaning: $300-500
  • Bloodwork: $100-200
  • Xrays: $250
  • MRI: $1200
  • Hospitalization fees: $1000/day

Emergency care, chronic illness treatment, and medications quickly increase costs. Pet insurance can offset unpredictable expenses.


All cats need occasional grooming and brushing. Long haired cats require daily brushing to prevent mats and hairballs. Short haired cats need weekly brushing. Nail trims are needed every 2-4 weeks. Ear cleaning helps prevent infections.

Baths are rarely needed for indoor cats but can help cats with flea allergies or long fur coats. Grooming is a good chance to check for any lumps, injuries or skin issues.

Shedding and Dander

All cats shed to some degree though the amount varies. Long haired cats have less dander but more loose hair. Short haired cats tend to have more dander but less hair. Frequent brushing and vacuuming can help manage cat hair. HEPA air filters help reduce airborne dander.

However, no cat is truly hypoallergenic. People with allergies may still react to cat saliva and dander.


Cats can be quite vocal animals capable of a variety of vocalizations like meowing, yowling, purring, chirping and growling. Kittens and intact cats tend to be the most vocal. Spaying/neutering can reduce noise levels.

Providing adequate playtime, toys, and access to windows/outdoors can satisfy a cat’s natural instincts and curb excessive vocalizations. Still, some noise should be expected when owning a cat.

Other Small Pets as Options


Hamsters are popular small pets that are relatively easy to care for. They are nocturnal rodents that average 2-6 inches in length. Hamsters like to live alone in cages with bedding material, an exercise wheel, hideouts, and chew toys.

Their diet consists of commercially available hamster food, supplemented with small amounts of fruits, vegetables, and the occasional treat. With proper care, hamsters can live 2-3 years. Some key things to know about hamsters:

  • Require a cage of at least 24″ x 12″ x 12″, with good ventilation.
  • Need a quality hamster diet and fresh water daily.
  • Are fun to watch run in their exercise wheels at night!
  • Each hamster has a unique personality.
  • Easy to handle, but can nibble or bite.
  • Ideal for kids about 6 years or older.

Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs, also called cavies, are gentle, social rodents that make great pets. Their compact size (7-9 inches long) makes them easy to house. Guinea pigs are active during daylight hours and are quite vocal. They thrive on interaction and live happily in pairs or groups. Guinea pigs require:

  • A cage at least 7.5 square feet, with a solid floor.
  • Daily fresh hay, pellets, vegetables and water.
  • Weekly cage cleaning.
  • Regular nail trimming to avoid injury.
  • Daily playtime and social interaction.
  • Vet checks twice a year.

A few interesting things about guinea pigs:

  • Life span of 4-8 years.
  • Come in many coat colors and hair types.
  • Make cute chirping, purring and rumbling sounds.
  • Must have vitamin C in their diet.
  • Great for kids about 5 years and up.


Rabbits are extremely popular as house pets. They are intelligent, affectionate animals that bond closely with their owners. Rabbits require plenty of space to run and exercise. Key aspects of rabbit care include:

  • A large hutch and/or exercise pen.
  • A diet of hay, leafy greens, pellets and vegetables.
  • Litter training.
  • Protecting wires and baseboards from chewing.
  • Providing interactive toys.
  • Regular brushing and nail trimming.
  • Spaying/neutering to avoid health issues.

Here are some interesting facts about pet rabbits:

  • House rabbits can be free-roam and very social.
  • Lifespan of 8-12 years.
  • Weigh 2-10 pounds depending on breed.
  • Make quiet honking sounds when happy.
  • Ideal for children about 8 years old and up.


Fish can be low maintenance yet relaxing pets. Many freshwater species are well-suited for home aquariums. When setting up a fish tank, key considerations include:

  • Tank size – minimum 10 gallons for small fish.
  • Proper filtration and heating.
  • Gradual tank cycling to establish beneficial bacteria.
  • Water changes and testing water parameters.
  • Compatible fish species and numbers.
  • Plants, decor, substrate and hiding spots.

Popular beginner fish include:

Fish Care Level Temperament
Betta Easy Can be aggressive toward other bettas
Platy Easy Peaceful, good for community tanks
Zebra Danio Easy Active, should be kept in schools
Guppy Easy Peaceful, prolific breeders
Neon Tetra Intermediate Peaceful, should be kept in schools of 6+


Birds can make engaging, intelligent companions when given proper care and attention. Popular pet bird species include parakeets, cockatiels, lovebirds, finches, canaries, and parrotlets. Key bird care guidelines:

  • A sufficiently large cage, at least 20″W x 20″D x 30″H.
  • Proper perches, toys, food bowls.
  • Special diet according to species.
  • Daily interaction and supervised out-of-cage time.
  • Regular wing clipping for safety.
  • Removing droppings and washing cage/perches weekly.

Things to know about pet birds:

  • Social, vocal animals that thrive on bonding with owners.
  • 5-15 year life spans for common pet birds.
  • Require vet exams 1-2 times per year.
  • Can learn words, songs, and tricks with training!
  • Ideal for kids about 10 years old and up.


For the exotic pet lover, reptiles like snakes, lizards, turtles and frogs can make fascinating companions. Their specialized needs include:

  • Properly sized and heated terrarium with UVB lighting.
  • Substrates, hides and decor suited to species.
  • Species-appropriate diet and supplements.
  • Regular tank cleaning and water changes.
  • Careful handling, as many common reptiles can bite.
  • Researching the legality of owning certain exotic reptiles.

Fun facts about reptile pets:

  • Snakes like ball pythons and corn snakes are popular starter snakes.
  • Green anoles and leopard geckos are common beginner lizards.
  • Aquatic turtles require large tanks with special filtration.
  • Life spans ranging from 5 years (some geckos) to over 20 years (large snakes, tortoises).
  • Not recommended for children under 12 years old.

Which Pet is Right for You?

Consider Your Lifestyle

When deciding which type of pet fits your lifestyle best, think about your daily routine, housing situation, budget, and travel habits. For example, if you work long hours or travel frequently for work, a low maintenance pet like a cat, small rodent, fish, or reptile may fit better than a dog that requires regular walks, attention, and care daily.

However, if you work from home or have a flexible schedule with time for daily exercise and training, an energetic dog that needs activity and interaction could be a great option.

Also consider if you rent or own your home. Certain landlords or apartments may have restrictions on pets, especially larger dogs. If space is limited, a smaller animal in an aquarium, cage, or terrarium may be better suited.

Finally, estimate costs for food, supplies, veterinary care, grooming, boarding, etc. Pocket pets like hamsters are most budget friendly, while caring for a larger pet like a horse can get quite costly.

Think About Your Family Situation

When selecting a pet, an important factor is who else is in your home. Think about family members’ ages, interest in caring for a pet, and any allergies. For households with younger kids, sturdier pets like a dog, cat, or bunny that enjoy playtime are good options.

Fish, turtles, hermit crabs, or frogs are lower maintenance for busy families. If you have a family member with allergies, consider hypoallergenic pets like certain dog or cat breeds. Do research to find picks suitable for children and allergy sufferers.

Reflect on Your Personality and Preferences

Your personality can determine which type of pet is the best fit. Outgoing owners who enjoy activity tend to appreciate high-energy pets like dogs for adventures outside the home. If you’re introverted or have limited mobility, a cat that likes napping or low-maintenance small pet may match better.

Also think about your ideal activities with your pet. Do you hope to teach them verbal commands, tricks and tasks? Interactive pets like dogs and parrots that bond closely respond well to training. Or maybe you just want a cute companion to cuddle and observe, making pets like guinea pigs, rabbits, or chinchillas good picks.

Weigh the Pros and Cons for Your Top Choices

Once you narrow it down to a few preferred pet types, dive deeper into their unique pros and cons. This comparison table highlights key considerations between two popular options to help decide what’s best for your situation:

Consideration Dogs Cats
Time Commitment Require substantial time for care, play, training and exercise daily Relatively independent, need less daily interaction
Attention Needs Crave regular human interaction and play Can be left alone for longer periods while at work
Training Level Eager to learn behaviors and commands with persistence Notorious for being less interested in training
Exercise Needs Need outdoor activity and walks daily Entertain themselves more easily indoors
Costs Higher for food, supplies, vet care, grooming, boarding, etc. Lower overall expenses

Making a table like this breaking down your top contenders can clarify which matches your home best right now. And don’t forget to also consider adoption options if you decide on a dog or cat!

Be Realistic About the Commitment Required

Welcoming any pet into your life should not be taken lightly. They fully rely on owners to provide for all their needs over a commitment of potentially 10-20 years. So be honest with yourself – do you have adequate time, funds and lifestyle stability to properly care for them?

Can you continue affording veterinary costs as they age? What if unexpected life changes happen affecting your ability to keep them? Have backup plans with trusted family or friends if needed.

Being realistic about responsibilities, costs and required effort will ensure everyone’s happiness long term. While first year costs vary greatly by animal, sources like WebMD estimate annual costs around $875 for a small dog, $670 for a cat, $350 for a rabbit or guinea pig, and even $40-$50 for a fish.

Do your research and budget accordingly!


Choosing a pet for your home requires careful thought about your needs, lifestyle, and commitment level. While dogs and cats are often top choices, other pets like small mammals, fish, and birds can also make great companions.

By weighing factors like space requirements, grooming needs, health considerations, and temperament, you can determine which type of pet is best for your situation. Do plenty of research to make sure you fully understand the care requirements for any pet you’re considering.

With realistic expectations and an open heart, a house pet can bring you years of joy and companionship. Approach choosing your pet wisely so you both get the most out of the special bond you’ll share.

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