So you’ve decided you want a pet. According to author John Bradshaw, “Over half of American households share their home with either a cat or a dog.” Sharing life with a pet can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life, but there can also be some challenges. It’s all about finding the right pet for your lifestyle. Here are some questions to help you zero in on the right pet for you:

● Do you or any family members have allergies to pet hair? Speaking of hair, will you be OK with a pet that sheds?

● Will you be able to clean a litter box every day or scoop up after your dog?

● If you are renting, does your landlord allow pets?

● Do you have room for the pet of your dreams?

● If considering a dog, do you have time to take him on daily walks? Do you have a fenced in yard for those times your dog needs a potty break and you can’t take him for a walk? Veterinarians recommend that adult dogs go no more than six to eight hours between trips outdoors. If your work schedule prevents that, will you be able to hire a dog walker?

● How much time do you have to spend with a pet? Dogs, for example, are social creatures and are not happy left alone for long periods of time. If you’re always on the go and rarely home, a dog is probably not the right pet for you. If you want a puppy, know that this is a huge commitment of time because they need to be handled often, taught house-training skills and socialization.

● Do you have the financial resources for food, accessories, grooming, routine vet care, occasional emergency vet care, and boarding when you travel?

● Can you commit to the life expectancy of the pet? Most dogs live 10 years or more; cats, 15; rabbits, five to eight years, and some exotic birds including Amazon parrots live 40-60 years.

● Ask yourself why you want a pet. What kind of activities do you want to do together? Do you visualize yourself going for daily runs with a dog or being a couch potato with a cat on your lap?

● Are you a night owl or a morning person? Some pets, like ferrets and sugar gliders are active at night and spend much of the day asleep.

Answering these questions honestly should help you clarify whether you’d be a great candidate for that pony of your dreams or if you’d be better suited for a parakeet.

When considering where to get your pet, adopting from your local animal shelter or pet rescue is a great option. Their staff is professionally trained to help you find a good fit. They often have purebreds too. For dog breeds, research them well because their needs vary greatly. The American Kennel Club has a quiz that matches your lifestyle with an optimal breed.

The kind of pet you choose will determine how to prepare for his arrival. For all pets, you’ll want to have food, bowls, bedding, a few toys and the number of your veterinarian on hand. For dogs or cats, you’ll want to pet-proof your house and yard.

The level of bonding you’ll have with your pet is dependent upon the type of pet you choose. Bonding typically takes place quickly with puppies, but it can take longer with older dogs and rescue pets that may be nervous or fearful at first. It’s important to establish trust, provide praise and spend plenty of quality time with your new pet in both training and play.

Whatever pet you choose will be a long-term member of your family, so kudos to you for doing your research. Pets can fill your heart with love, and research abounds on their health benefits too. Regardless, if your pooch motivates you to start walking or caring for your guinea pig helps you to beat the blues, the right pet is bound to bring you much joy and laughter.