Yesterday we went to the pet store to buy some more fluff for the hamsters. As we heading in the door Thing 2 asked if we could get another pet. Like most children, the girls are huge animal lovers and we would live in a zoo if they had their druthers. Aba isn't so fond of that idea, though he is okay with many things as long as they are cared for and don't "stink up the house."
When the idea of a new pet is brought up, the first thing we do is look up what kind of care the animals need. We use many sources including the internet, the library, people we know with the pet in question and the staff at a pet store. (A specialized store is better if possible as they tend to know the ins and outs of the particular animal better than someone from a big box store who needs to know about a wider range of animals.)
After researching we discuss the animal's needs and if we can meet them. Can we provide a habitat they need? Can we give them time outside? Food? Are they too skittish for the loud house we live in? Can we provide quiet when they like to sleep? (Many animals are nocturnal or require quite a bit of sleep.) Are they compatible with our other pets?
Next we discuss if we can fit their needs into our schedule. Cleaning cages, vet visits, pet store supply runs, supervision out of their cage all require a regular time commitment. Our days sometimes feel very relaxed and other times feel overfull. Even when we are stretched, our pets still need care and we need to provide it.
Finally we talk about the ethics of having this animal as a pet. One of my favorite animals and what I would buy if money, space and time were no issue is a Hyacinth Macaw. I love these birds and their beauty and gentle ways. However, their numbers in the wild are dwindling rapidly. I don't wish to encourage their overcollection in the wild and have issues buying even captive-born chicks (Where did their parents come from?). I also have no desire to start a breeding program so I'll leave the Hyacinth ownership to individuals able to help this gorgeous species survive.
There are also a number of halachic (Jewish law) issues regarding pets. While the general consensus is that harmless pets are okay to own, there are limitations on what can be done on Shabbat and Yamin Tovim, foods acceptable to use, and reproductive care of the animal. (As always, when in doubt consult your Rabbi.)
After going through these discussions, our home's animal population is pretty well set at our Amazon parrot, Zeus, our hamster rescues Rapunzel and Flynn (both male) and our tank full of fish, frogs, snails, clams and shrimp.