It will be messy. It will be time consuming. It will definitely be fun. Having a pet, especially a family pet, is a big commitment and an even bigger reward. No matter what kind of pet person you and your family are, there will be responsibilities to tend to and names to pick out. If you're on your second or third pet, you probably know what you're doing. However, if this is a first time ordeal and you're looking for some help, you've come to the right place. Follow these step by step keys to determine which pet is perfect for your palace ... or home.

1. If you don't want to be cleaning things up -

go with a turtle or fish. Yes it may sound silly, but with virtually every other pet you should expect more upkeep. In the right climate, turtles can remain in the backyard and only require food and love. Fish really only need food and a bowl cleaning once every few weeks.

2. If you don't want to have noise -

avoid birds. Using a spray bottle of vinegar, you can train most dogs to not bark if you so desire. Small puppies will squeal and cry for the first few weeks, so be prepared for that. Birds, however, are free flyers and will squawk all day long. Cats are usually very quiet, almost to the point of scary.

3. If you don't want to sneeze -

stay away from the fluff. Make sure you pre-check your family to learn about allergies that you may not have known about before. If you want a dog, there are plenty of options for hypo-allergenic breeds. My shih tzu Max, for instance, does not shed and does not cause any problems for our allergic friends. Fish are also a pretty safe call.

4. If you don't want to pay a lot -

there are still options. In-home breeders and adoption facilities are always open and ready for new families, so check those out. There are also discounts on certain pets because of older ages or small deficiencies. Many families are beginning to breed their own animals. Opportunities are everywhere.

5. If your pet is a surprise -

don't panic. A pet is a perfect way to teach responsibility and care, and it will soften everyone's hearts. A pet becomes an integral part of the family and may even appear on future Christmas cards. Use a trainer, if necessary, and find a good groomer. This is another member of the family after all.

Whether it's a dolphin or snake, a llama or a duck, your love is the biggest and best thing you can give. Remember to keep the water bowl clean and to keep the back gate closed if your dog likes to bolt into the street. A family pet is a challenge and a blessing all in one.

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