Dog, cat, lizard, bird, or hamster? Regardless of the pet, most pet parents would probably agree that owning a pet brings much joy. However, there are also a lot of responsibilities that go with bringing a pet into your home.

If you are thinking of getting your first pet, you might be asking what’s the best animal to start with? It all depends on what you may or may not be comfortable caring for when it comes down to feeding routines, walking and vet visits.

High-maintenance or Low-maintenance

Perhaps you prefer something low-maintenance like a bird or instead something that will be in the family for years to come like a dog or cat. Whatever animal you choose, just keep in mind having a pet isn’t always easy but it can be rewarding.

Pets are also big business, too, and according to the 2017-2018 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, 68% of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 84.6 million homes. In 1988, the first year the survey was conducted, 56% of U.S. households owned a pet.

Here’s a breakdown of pet ownership in the U.S. according to the 2017-2018 APPA National Pet Owners Survey to give you a better idea of what pets are most popular:

Number of U.S. Households that Own a Pet (millions)

Bird                                 7.9
Cat                                  47.1
Dog                                60.2
Horse                             2.6
Freshwater Fish         12.5
Saltwater Fish             2.5
Reptile                          4.7
Small Animal               6.7

Total Number of Pets Owned in the U.S. (millions)

Bird                               20.3
Cat                                94.2
Dog                               89.7
Horse                            7.6
Freshwater Fish        139.3
Saltwater Fish           18.8
Reptile                         9.4
Small Animal             14.0

Fish or a Four-legged Friend?

So, in terms of what pet to start off with, a goldfish, for example, might be a great first pet for children and individuals who don’t have a lot of time. Goldfish are relatively low-maintenance and other than cleaning their bowls and feeding them daily, they aren’t much trouble. However, their life expectancy isn’t long it’s highly possible that after a month, you might find yourself flushing your goldfish down the toilet.  As a result, you might have to tell your son or daughter why the goldfish found its way down the bowl.

On the flip side, cats and dogs are more work and are more expensive to care for during their lifetimes. However, dogs and cats have a longer life expectancy than fish and some breeds may live to be at least 20 years old.

If you prefer smaller pets like lizards, snakes, birds, hamsters, guinea pigs and rabbits, these may be less work to care for since live in cages mostly. But be prepared they can also be messy and their maintenance is constant. Cages remember, need regular attention or there are odors to contend with.

As mentioned, owning and caring for a pet can certainly be costly, here is an example of how much was spent on our pets in 2017 according to the same website:

In 2017, $69.51 billion was spent on our pets in the U.S. 

Food                                                              $29.07 billion
Supplies/OTC Medicine                           $15.11 billion
Vet Care                                                       $17.07 billion
Live animal purchases                              $2.1 billion
Pet Services: grooming & boarding       $6.16 billion

Dog, cat, lizard, or snake, whatever pet you choose, remember they all require maintenance, as well as your love. In return, they will give you many years of love and happiness!