“Forget wild animals,” Strickland said. “Go ahead and set a timetable to have it neutered, too,”Strickland said. “Cats are growing in popularity faster than dogs,” Stricklandsaid. “That’s mostly because they cost less.” Some breeds require a lot of costly clipping and grooming, too,he said. Pets are also available from local breeders and from franchisedpet shops. You have more choices at pet shops and usually getsome kind of guarantee, but they’re likely the most expensive,too. Dogs range from tiny hand-sized breeds to nearly 200-poundgiants. So consider how much you can afford to feed it. “A ruleof thumb is that it takes an ounce of feed a day for each poundthe dog weighs,” Strickland said. “Don’t ask the seller how good an animal is as a pet,” Stricklandsaid. “Ask for a list of buyers, and ask them.” Even giveaway kittens can make nice pets. Pedigreed cats can cost$100 and up, Strickland said, which is still much cheaper thanpedigreed dogs. Fish are nice, but it’s hard to hug a fish. A cuddly puppy sporting a bright ribbon on Christmas morningcould start a lifetime of special memories for some lucky child. “Outside, it’s best to have a fenced yard,” he said. “The dogneeds room to run, but you want to prevent automobile accidents,and you don’t want the dog to be a nuisance to the neighbors.” Ultimately, though, it’s hard to beat dogs or cats as pets forkids. Children can learn from pets, especially if they’re the ones whofeed and care for the animals. But you don’t have to teach achild to love a pet, Strickland said, or a pet to love a child. A good place to find the pet is “just someone who has raised alitter,” Strickland said. “You tend to have a little less diseaseproblem with these pets, and they can cost a lot less.” For house dogs, consider your child’s age. “A tiny breed like apocket poodle or Chihuahua might not survive with a very youngchild, while something like a beagle is more likely to grow upwith the child,” he said. “Larger dogs may be too energetic for asmall child.” “Birds make good gifts,” Strickland said. “And most vets havemore training on birds now than they used to have.” Exotic pets can be costly, he said, and it could be hard to findexperienced veterinary care for them. And many a potbellied pighas ended up in a pig sale or humane society shelter. Consider the dog’s disposition, too, he said. Among big dogs, forinstance, a Labrador retriever is a better choice around childrenthan a Rottweiler, which may be a better protection dog. Before you put all that magic in motion, however, think itthrough. Do you want to give your child a dog, cat, bird, fish orsome exotic pet? How about a wild animal? “The best thing about owning a pet may be that special bond thatdevelops between the animal and its owner,” said Jim Strickland,a University of Georgia Extension Service veterinarian. Check the local newspaper classified ads for that owner with alitter for sale or the local breeder. The local humane societyhas good, low-cost dogs. Franchised pet stores are mostly inshopping centers or malls. Wherever you find your pet, Strickland said, be sure to get itsmedical records. Then take the pet and its records to a local vetwithin a week. Check with the vet on heartworm prevention, fordogs, and flea and tick control, for dogs and cats. If you give your child a dog, decide first what kind you want,Strickland said. Will it be a house pet or an outside dog?