Don’t Pet Your Fish…And Other Sage Advice For New Pet Owners

Also, your reptiles shouldn't go vegan.

Should chickens wear sweaters?

Animal lovers enjoy humanizing pets with clothes. An emerging trend among people raising chickens as pets—as opposed to livestock—is making them wear hand-stitched sweaters. Is it a good idea for our feathered friends to wear clothes?

"Chickens can wear harnesses if you want to take them on walks, and you can order diapers from the internet if you want chickens inside your home. As long as it doesn't block the chicken's vent [body parts for laying eggs and expelling waste], you can put a sweater on your chicken if you choose." —Mark Smith, Foster Feed & Garden

Should I pet my fish?

I saw a video online where a fish seemed to enjoy being petted as much as a dog does. Should I train my fish to be affectionate?

"We believe you should not pet your fish. Petting your fish can result in damaging the slime coat, making the immune system weak and easier for the fish to get diseases. A slime coat helps to retain necessary electrolytes and keep away harmful bacteria." —Brea King, World of Wet Pets

Should I leash train my cat?

We've seen people walking through Portland with cats perched on their shoulders like parrots, and we've seen viral videos of cats refusing to move when they wear a leash. Is it a good idea to leash train a notoriously independent species like cats?

"Leash training your cat is an excellent way to provide opportunities to let them explore outside and in new areas safely and without environmental implications, like predation on wildlife, so for many it is a wonderful option. Starting leash training when the animal is young and using positive reinforcement methods may make the process easier for everyone, but even many adult cats can learn to wear a harness and walk on a leash." —Monique Udell, assistant professor of animal and rangeland sciences, Oregon State University

I just moved to the top floor of an opulent high-rise. Should I get a puppy?

I'm new to Portland. I have a good job, a luxurious new apartment, and a good park in my neighborhood. A new puppy would be the perfect addition to my new life, right?

"I would urge extreme caution. Puppies are a big challenge and might require more work than you're ready for. Not everyone's good at training their puppies not to bark. People underestimate how much their neighbors will tolerate a puppy barking all day, and they underestimate what dog breeds will do to their home. Puppies are a lifetime commitment. What will you do if your puppy destroys your new $1,000 couch? I've seen dogs who have chewed their way out of a front door. Don't pick a random dog." —Craig Capley, Safe Journey Dog Boarding

Should my reptiles go vegan?

I've recently started a vegan diet, and I'd like for my pets to do the same. There's a lot of different opinions online whether it's a good idea. I'm willing to do the research, but I don't know where to start.

"As you may know, there are carnivores, herbivores and omnivores in the reptile family—each with very specific digestive systems, acids and bacteria designed or adapted over millions of years to digest either protein, vegetable matter or both. So to turn a carnivore into a herbivore without killing your pet would not be possible unless your pet reptile is an omnivore. Even then, there may be some long-term health issues associated with a strictly vegetarian diet." —Richard Ritchey, Oregon Reptile Man

Should I use my pet goat as a living trash compactor?

I've seen a lot of old cartoons, I have some land, and I want to save money on my garbage bill. Obviously, not everything we see in movies is true, but is the portrayal of goats eating trash accurate?

"Most definitely no. Contrary to their popular image, goats do not 'eat everything.' The most ludicrous example: They do not eat tin cans. Some goats like licking metal, and some like their paper labels. There are many things, in fact, which are not good at all for goats. They also are much pickier than their reputation, even among things that they do—and can—eat. Goats should be fed grass hay, forage and usually some sort of mineral mix or blocks aimed at supplementing their diet. They can eat your household's vegetable scraps. Don't ever feed someone else's goats without permission."—Bix Frankonis, project manager for the Belmont Goats