Which pet is best for my family?

Are you thinking of getting a family pet? There are lots of factors to think about other than how cute they are and whether they'll entertain the kids. Use this guide to help you decide on which animal to choose - the care they need, upkeep costs and vet's bills - so that you'll enjoy having your pet as much as they love being with you.

Choose the right family pet

Are you thinking of getting a family pet? There are lots of factors to think about other than how cute they are and whether they'll entertain the kids.

Use this guide to help you decide on which animal to choose - the care they need, upkeep costs and vet's bills - so that you'll enjoy having your pet as much as they love being with you.

With advice on everything from dogs to frogs, we'll help you think about how much time and love they'll need, plus what they'll cost you, on top of pet insurance or vet's fees, so you can enjoy having your pet as much as they'll love being with you.

A pet can add so many wonderful things to the lives of you and your family. Pets will love you unconditionally, and give kids a brilliant way to express their caring side, and their fun side too!

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Pets, be it a spider, cat, or bird, can also help to teach your kids responsibility. A pet needs lots of looking after, be it with a walk, special, specific food, entertainment, health checks, and the right kind of home. Whether your family decides to share their home with a dog or a frog, it would be a valuable lesson for your little ones on how to care for something other than themselves.

Plus, giving a home to an animal in need of one is one of the most rewarding and selfless things you can do. At a time when more pets then ever are being sent, or sent back, to rehoming centres and animal shelters, giving a furry friend a safe, warm, and loving place to live is the ultimate way to give back to the animals we share the planet with.

But which pet would work best for your family? See below and choose one today...

Choose the right family pet: Where to get your pet from

Not sure where to start looking? Buying your pet directly from the internet isn't advised. Try your local pet shop or animal shelter - there are always plenty of dogs and cats waiting for a good home. You may have to go through checks with some shelters like the RSPCA, to find out whether your home is right for a new pet.

You can also search for your pet at a responsible breeder, such as Kennel Club assured dog breeders.

Whatever you do, always visit the pet first, then go away and think about it, considering all of the following factors...

Choose the right family pet: Cats

Choose the right family pet: Cats

(Image credit: Getty Images)

GTK says: Cats are very affectionate animals and can live for up to 20 years, so if you're thinking of getting one, make sure you plan ahead. Will you be able to feed it every day? Also, you don't want to cut their long lifespan short - is there a busy road outside?

The local vet says: 'There's evidence to show that kids who grow up with pets are more self-assured and socially adept than those without. Animals communicate with body language and so the children learn basic social skills from the experts.'

Things to remember: The expensive part of owning a cat is its food. If you think it's going to cost you at least £1 a day to feed your cat, over a year that's nearly £400. And over 10 to 20 years, that's between 4 to 8 grand. Plus, there are jabs and pet insurance to pay out for too.

Family rating? Cats are brilliant if you love spending time with animals and can give that long-term commitment.

Choose the right family pet: Dogs

Choose the right family pet: Dogs

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GTK says: Worried about dogs with small kids? The aggression of a dog depends more on the actual dog than its breed. It's important to take time to choose the right dog and train them properly.

The local vet says: 'The biggest bit of advice I'd have for anybody wanting a dog is don't hurry. It's a big decision and you have to wait until the right one comes along. Even if you see a dog that looks right for you, always walk away and think about it.'

Things to remember: Dogs can be hard work and will take up a high percentage of your time. All social animals need at least 20 minutes of attention each day, but dogs also need a 30-minute walk, at least twice a day, depending on the animal. It will also need pet insurance which is more expensive in pure breeds as some have health problems.

Family rating? Choose wisely. Dogs are fantastic for families with space at home and those with gardens or parks nearby.

Choose the right family pet: Fish

Choose the right family pet: Fish

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GTK says: If you're concerned about time, goldfish probably have the lowest input of all pets. They take a couple of minutes to feed and they need a tank clean-out at the weekend, which will take around 20 minutes. A goldfish is an easy starter, if you get it right.

The local vet says: 'The tank needs to be perfect. There's so much chlorine and other elements in tap water that it needs at least a week to settle, with a filter and all your other plants and objects, before the fish go in.'

Things to remember: Goldfish can die very quickly if you get it wrong. Do your research and the kids will have some very happy fish to feed every night after school. The initial set-up is also fairly costly with a basic starter kit costing £34.50 from Amazon.

Family rating? Goldfish are easy to look after and fairly cheap. Great if you want to save time and money!

Choose the right family pet: Hamsters

Choose the right family pet: Hamsters

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GTK says: When you choose a pet for your kids, it's so important to think of their lifespan. The novelty effect of looking after an animal can wear off for a growing child, who turns into a teenager. So hamsters are perfect, with a lifespan of around 3 years.

The local vet says: 'Small children need supervision around small pets. They may drop the hamster or injure the animal because they're not good at handling them, and small hamsters can't defend themselves like a cat or dog would.'

Things to remember: Hamsters can get very irritable when they're woken from sleeping and picked up. They may even bite, so ensure you supervise the child who is handling a hamster.

Family rating? Hamsters are perfect furballs and make great pets for children.

Choose the right family pet: Insects

Choose the right family pet: Insects

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GTK says: Let their imagination run wild and get your kids a pet insect like a spider or a stick insect. Insects are fairly low maintenance as long as you feed them regularly and get their habitat right. However, as with all insects, ensure you all wash your hands after handling them to prevent an illness from the parasites they carry.

The local vet says: 'A spider bite is like a really painful wasp sting. And some tarantulas have barbs on their coat that will shed and stick into your skin, which, if they get into your eye, can cause conjunctivitus. I'd watch out for those things.'

Things to remember: Buying and keeping an exotic animal can be expensive because you need to have the right equipment to provide a suitable habitat for them to live in.

Family rating? Insects are low maintenance but they don't really have the same cuddle-factor.

Choose the right family pet: Rabbits

Choose the right family pet: Rabbits

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GTK says: Lots of parents make the mistake of getting a rabbit for their kids without thinking about the repercussions. Make sure you're able to take over if your kids get bored of taking care of their pet, as rabbits can live for up to 10 years.

The local vet says: 'Rabbits can get very lonely on their own and need at least 20 minutes of attention a day to be content.'

Things to remember: Placing the hutch outside will put your pet rabbit at risk from potential predators that are after their food including foxes, rats and mice. Make sure you have a strong and secure place to keep your rabbit.

Family rating? Rabbits can be affectionate and easy to look after. But only consider them if you're in it for the long haul.

Choose the right family pet: Amphibians

Choose the right family pet: Amphibians

(Image credit: Getty Images)

GTK says: With pets like frogs and toads, it's really important to get their diet right. It can be good fun too - the 'pacman' frog has a mouth almost as wide as its entire body and eats whole mice for breakfast!

The local vet says: 'Amphibians, frogs especially, come in all shapes and sizes but are very fragile and so children should be supervised when handling to prevent dropping!'

Things to remember: Amphibians can carry harmful bacteria, like salmonella, on their skin so always wash your hands after touching them. They will also need live food, which you'll need to buy from a specialised pet shop.

Family rating? Amphibians make fun pets for kids, if supervised.

Choose the right family pet: Birds

Choose the right family pet: Birds

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GTK says: Birds often bond strongly with just one individual and can cause serious injury to themselves or people if intimidated. Small children, watch out!

The local vet says: 'Birds, like parrots, are used to freedom. So if, when in captivity, they aren't stimulated enough they can get very sick. That bond with a human is crucial.'

Things to remember: Although quite rare, birds can carry a disease called Psittacosis, which can transfer to humans and cause lung disease. Always have your pet checked by a vet. Birds can also make messy and noisy pets.

Family rating? Birds can make great companions but require more work than you may think.

Choose the right family pet: Reptiles

Choose the right family pet: Reptiles

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GTK says: Lizards and snakes, like a bearded dragon or a corn snake, can be the perfect starter pet for kids aged 5 and up. Although they need stimulation or some can get aggressive.

The local vet says: 'If you get the environment wrong it can make a reptile very ill. They are cold-blooded animals and need somewhere to warm up, under a lamp, and then also a corner to cool down in.'

Things to remember: Research how big lizards and snakes can grow. If you get this wrong, they could outgrow their tank fairly quickly and it'll end up costing you more. Reptiles will need live food to live. Beware of salmonella on a reptile's scales and always wash your hands after handling them.

Family rating? Reptiles are great for kids but require a costly start-up.

Choose the right family pet: Reptiles

Choose the right family pet: Reptiles

GTK says: Lizards and snakes, like a bearded dragon or a corn snake, can be the perfect starter pet for kids aged 5 and up. Although they need stimulation or some can get aggressive.

The local vet says: 'If you get the environment wrong it can make a reptile very ill. They are cold-blooded animals and need somewhere to warm up, under a lamp, and then also a corner to cool down in.'

Things to remember: Research how big lizards and snakes can grow. If you get this wrong, they could outgrow their tank fairly quickly and it'll end up costing you more. Reptiles will need live food to live. Beware of salmonella on a reptile's scales and always wash your hands after handling them.

Family rating? Reptiles are great for kids but require a costly start-up.

Jabs at the vets

Jabs at the vets

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GTK says: It's not required by law that you give your pet jabs against diseases and illness but it is strongly advised since, if your pet gets ill, your insurance premiums will go up.

The local vet says: 'Doing nothing would result in your pet's suffering and you might be prosecuted for neglecting an animal. It's mostly cats, rabbits and dogs that need jabs to stave away diseases like hepatitis and cat flu, which can be fatal in puppies and kittens.'

Things to remember: Expect to pay around £20 to £40 for a course of pet jabs and £10 to £20 for any boosters later on. Ensure you see your vet as soon as you make the decision to adopt or buy an animal and for the best advice on jabs, treatments (like worming treatments for cats and dogs) and how to look after your pet.

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