Are you thinking about adding a new addition to the family? How about one with four legs and a tail? Animal adoption can give a dog or a cat a second chance at life when you welcome a furry critter into your home. Find out which animal is best for you and how to prepare for your new friend.

Preparing for Your Pet

Should I get a cat or a dog? The age-old debate! When thinking of adoption, it’s important for you to consider a couple of things while making your decision. The type of environment you live in, who lives with you and how much time you have during the day are all important factors you need to keep in mind.

Most animal shelters will help your family decide which choice is best for you. The MSPCA has adoption counselors who offer information and tips on how to choose which cat or dog will work with your family and home.

* Environment

If you live in a small home or an apartment, a cat or smaller dog may be a better fit than a larger dog that needs a lot of room. Dogs need to be walked frequently for exercise and to use the bathroom. You’ll also be responsible to clean up your dog’s solid waste. If you don’t have a lot of time to spend with your animal during the day, a cat may be a better choice. Cats also use a litter box as their bathroom so you’ll avoid apartment steps or cold nights when they need to use the bathroom. They can be indoor, outdoor or indoor/outdoor.

* Children and Animals

Your children are another huge factor in deciding which pet is right for you. If you have babies or very young children, puppies and kittens may try to play with them like littermates. Keep the animal’s sharp teeth and nails in mind and always monitor play. Older animals can make great family pets since they are calmer. Some shelters even offer discounts or waived fees on older cats! The best dog breeds for children include Sheepdogs, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Boxers, Mastiffs, American Staffordshire Terriers and mutts. These dog breeds may not be suitable for families: Dalmatians, Chihuahua, Yorkshire Terriers, Akitas or Pit Bulls. The best cat breeds for families include Persians, Burmese, Ragdolls, Birmans, Exotic Shorthairs, Coons and of course domestic/mixed breeds.

* Training Your Pet

A major difference between cats and dogs are that dogs need training. You’ll need time and patience to train your dog. Training is really important as it will help with behavior problems. If you’re worried about the time and dedication it takes, ask your shelter if they have any dogs that are already trained or need minimal training. To help make the process easier, shelters sometimes offer their own classes at discounted rates! The Northeast Animal Shelter has training rooms in their building and offers classes for your convenience.

* Spaying and Neutering

Spaying and neutering your dog or cat is a really important step in the pet owning process. It is important for your pet’s health, behavior and animal population. Animals that aren’t fixed may be more aggressive and are prone to mark their territories more often. If your animal socializes with other animals, you’ll want to make sure they don’t try to mate to help reduce the population of homeless animals. See if your local shelter offers low-cost spaying and neutering like they do at Sterling Animal Shelter.

*Things to Keep in Mind

If you already have another pet at home, they will need to be introduced to the new pet. It’s a good idea to introduce them in a neutral area and keep them in separate spaces for a little bit at home. Talk to your shelter and read about the best methods before you bring your animal home. Remember that this may take some time and you’ll have to keep an eye on them.

Both cats and dogs have costs and you’ll need to calculate food, toys, crates and veterinarian trips into the picture before jumping right into this decision. Be prepared for health issues and costly medical bills.

While adopting and saving an animal is a great act no matter where they come from, look into no-kill shelters in your area to support their system.

Do as much research and ask as many questions as you can so that you and your family are prepared to adopt your new dog or cat.

Jennifer Hanrahan is an intern with Boston Parents Paper.