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July 6, 2009

Get a Pet

This Extra Ink was written by Betsy C.

So your parents won't get you that pony (or puppy or kitten) that you've been begging for since you were five? Maybe you have allergies, you live in an apartment that doesn't allow large pets, or you're worried about the commitment and responsibility that can come with taking care of another living thing. Don't despair--if you have room in your heart for a new pet, there are creatures to fit every lifestyle and every home. Check out this list of easy-care, low-fuss animals that can make your pet dreams come true--without breaking the bank or driving adults crazy.

Rabbits: More and more people are taking interest in rabbits as "cat alternatives"; they're cute, furry and not too big, and you can keep them in a cage or 'hutch' while you're at school. Rabbits tend to be less smelly than cats, too, as long as you keep their cages clean! They're full of personality, and can live 7-12 years. However, you should make sure you have the space and budget to take care of these guys, since they require larger cages and more food than do many other small mammals. If you're stuck without space for a bunny, you can always go for:

Hamsters/Gerbils/Mice/Rats: Each of these cuddly species has their own pros and cons, so you'll want to read up about which is right for you. Consider that gerbils and Robo hamsters are social creatures and you'll need to buy at least two to keep them happy; however you should NEVER house multiple Syrian or Teddy Bear hamsters together. Small mammals are a great choice if you really want a fuzzy, furry pet, but don't want the commitment or training responsibility that comes with a larger animal. Most rodents are nocturnal, so you'll also want to consider how 'cute' your new pet will be when he's squeaking around his cage at three in the morning. Looking for something quieter? Try:

Fish: If you've never kept pet fish before, you might want to start with a freshwater aquarium. They're much easier to care for than saltwater environments, and you'd be surprised at the variety of colorful freshwater fish out there. If you want something even simpler, you can try a Betta fish (check out the above photo--they're so pretty!) and keep it in a plain fishbowl or vase. Most fish, however, need a real aquarium with a filter and all the trappings. The main drawback to a pet fish, of course, is that you can't exactly pick it up and pet it. If it's interaction you crave, maybe you should check out:

Reptiles: Leopard geckoes are one of the most common, easiest to care for, and smallest (7 inches) pet reptile species out there. There are also iguanas, turtles, lizards, and snakes, all with their own habitat and food requirements. Reptiles make great pets, but you should consider a few factors before you get your own: some species carry salmonella, many require heat lamps and other special (and expensive) gadgets, and you usually have to feed them live crickets or mice. Plus there's the "having to tell your mom when your 8-foot python escapes its tank" factor.

If none of these pets sounds right for you, there are certainly other options out there. From hissing cockroaches to hermit crabs to chinchillas to birds, there's a right pet for everyone. No matter what pet you choose, always remember to think of adoption first--why pay top dollar for a new pet when there are so many out there who need good homes?

And hey, if your parents absolutely won't budge--you can always get a pet rock.

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