Animals add joy, companionship, and love to our lives, as well as a big responsibility. Choosing to add an animal companion to your family is a very important decision. Sometimes, adopting an animal may be too much added responsibility if you’re also experiencing other life changes. To help prospective pet adopters make informed decisions, we’ve compiled a list of expert questions before adopting a pet.
Will a pet fit into my lifestyle?
Prospective adopters should consider how a pet fits into their lifestyle. Cats in general require less time than dogs, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore your cat when you get home from work just because you’re tired and you feel like watching TV. With a cat waiting for you at home, you can’t just accept a dinner or drinks invitation after work without stopping home to at least feed her, and you can’t spend an impromptu night away from home without planning for her care.
Can I afford it?
In a perfect world money would never come between us and our pets, but the cost of maintenance is among the top reasons why people give up their pets, according to a study by the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP). Adopting a pet from a rescue can be anywhere from totally free to upwards of $1,000. Usually, it depends on what the pet has had done and what is included in the adoption.
If you’re adopting an animal younger than six months of age, you will need to visit your veterinarian more often during the first year for vaccinations. After the first year, plan on at least an annual visit. Vaccines and well-check visits vary, depending on what part of the country you live in but range between $50 and $150.
Does my housing situation permit a pet?
The aforementioned study by the NCPPSP found that the number one reason people relinquish their pets is because of moving, while a disallowing landlord is the second. Sadly, even the most pet-friendly apartments can have pet size and number restrictions, and sometimes even prohibit certain canine breeds such as pit bulls. Make sure to double check your lease and be prepared to pay for the privilege of having a pet.
Do I have any pet allergies? What about my significant other or roommates?
If you have allergies or other health issues that may play a factor in pet ownership, be sure to check with your doctor before adopting about what breed or animal is right for you. Make sure you also know if your significant other, roommates, family, children or anyone else who spends time in your home has allergies.
This creature might destroy my stuff. Am I cool with that?
Another thing to consider on the home front is the fact that pets can create a mess simply by existing. Most dogs and cats shed not just in summer, but throughout the year, meaning you’ll have to sweep more often. They may scratch or chew furniture, have the occasional accident and just generally destroy stuff. My cat shredded the window screens in our apartment because he loathed being held hostage indoors. He also used to knock over the contents of any available shelving when I stayed out past his dinner time. I’ve lost more shoes than I can count to my terrier’s nerves and have busted my chihuahua for peeing in the house for no reason other than to get my attention, it seems.
Want to adopt a bird, lizard or other exotic pet?
An exotic animal is anything that is not a farm animal or dog or cat. These can be great pets, especially if allergies restrict you from living with a creature of the canine or feline variety. When adopting an exotic animal, make sure you know the requirement of your pet. Most exotic animals get sick because people do not have their habitats 100 percent correct. If you’re considering an exotic animal, experts recommend first finding an exotic veterinarian and talking with them about next steps.
Can I make a 10 to 20+ year commitment today?
Perhaps the most important question you can ask is whether you can commit to the pet for the long haul. You should even have a plan for where the pet will go should you pass away or be unable to care for it, morbid as that sounds. A dog can easily live 10 or even 15 years; cats often make it to their twenties. What might your life look like over the next decade or two? Maybe you can see yourself traveling for work more often than not, or adding a baby to the family, or moving or living abroad.
Cats and dogs are loyal, sensitive creatures that connect deeply with you and rely on you for everything. Are you willing to consider them and their needs through the years, while you wrestle with your own? Are you ready to fully commit to being there for them for the rest of their days?
If you are unsure about the answer to the above-mentioned questions, then you should consider yourself not ready to adopt right now even if you have a small baby. Instead, express your compassion and love for animals by volunteering or donating to your favorite rescue charities.