The benefits of pet ownership are undeniable. Numerous studies have shown that people who own pets live longer, healthier lives.

After all, pets are a constant source of unconditional love; when life gets stressful, they seem to instinctively understand our needs.

They don’t complain about our annoying habits and they don’t judge us if we put on a few pounds.

Yet many people often overlook the most important factors when selecting a pet. For some people, ‘cute’ is the only criteria—which can lead to disastrous consequences.

Puppies don’t look quite so cute when they’re chewing furniture or relieving themselves on that new Oriental rug.

Lack of foresight is one of the top reasons an estimated six to eight million unwanted pets end up at local animal shelters each year.

Dr. Diane Pomerance, author of the new book, “Pet Parenthood: Adopting the Right Animal Companion For You,” is a bona fide animal lover. She wants to help prospective pet parents understand how to best choose a new pet and to recognize pet adoption is a lifetime commitment and responsibility that requires much thought and planning.

“There’s no denying the attraction to a cute puppy or kitten,” says Pomerance. “But people need to be fully prepared for what’s truly involved in caring for that animal. They are basically bringing a child into their home; a child who needs plenty of attention, an abundance of patience and a lot of time. If you don’t have the schedule, temperament or space requirements to meet their needs, consider a pet that does fit your lifestyle.”

“Pet Parenthood” is a great reference for families who are considering pet adoption.

Pets make wonderful companions for children and can help teach kids compassion, responsibility and respect for all living creatures as well as boost their self-esteem.

But it’s important to determine ahead of time what type of animal best suits the household and what role each family member will take in caring for it.

“Children need to be taught responsibility and compassion,” says Pomerance. “Parents should let their children spend time with pets at a friend or relative’s house before they’re allowed to have their own pet. Not all children are at the stage where they’ve developed the sensitivity needed to take care of a pet and treat it properly. Some kids may also wind up becoming jealous of the attention showered on a new pet. So parents must be wise in discerning when it’s the right time to adopt a pet - and be ready not only to supervise, but to assume overall responsibility for the pet's care and well being.”

“Pet Parenthood” points out other issues that many people don’t think about before adopting their new companion, including:

How will adopting a pet change my life and daily routine? If I become seriously ill or die, who will care for my pet? Does the pet realistically fit my lifestyle? Do I have enough space and time to play with and exercise an animal? Can I handle cleaning a litter box or bird cage or cleaning up after a dog? If I already have pets, will it be a problem introducing a new animal into the family?

Money also comes into play when adopting a new pet.

“No one likes to put a price tag on the love and dedication of a beloved companion - which is what you want your pet to become,” says Pomerance. “But the reality is, pets can be expensive and time intensive. So it is important to understand the costs and responsibilities ahead of time when choosing your pet. Pet parenting is not an easy job, but one that is truly joyful, rewarding and gratifying.”