If you're pet obsessed like me, then you probably spend the majority of your day scrolling Instagram for cute pictures of dogs. With each scroll, you imagine how much better life would be with a puppy, and you resolve to make it be so. And yet, as we all know, there are so many things to consider before getting a pet. So let's put down our phones, log out of PetFinder.com, and review.
After all, this is a big responsibility we're talking about. Unless you're daydreaming about the perfect pet goldfish (which still needs care and attention), your entire life will change the moment you bring home a pet. "Pet adoption is certainly a major step — and a long-term one," says Alison M. Jiménez, director of media and communications at ASPCA, in an email to Bustle. "Most pets can live upwards of 15-20 years (depending on species and health conditions), meaning this pet will be around for a long time."
Of course that's a good thing, and yet the huge lifestyle change should make you take pause before adopting a pet. Will you have the time? Do you have the space? These are all questions to ask yourself before marching off to adoption day at your local animal shelter. And below are a few more things to consider to ensure you're bringing a dog or cat into the best possible situation — for you and them.
1. Why Do You Want A Pet?
First things first, let's talk about why you want a pet. This deep question might not cross your brain as you stare into the big, shiny eyes of an adorable puppy. But you really should take some time to soul search before adopting one. Are you lonely? Do you crave responsibility? Do you want to save an abandoned animal? Getting a pet is a big commitment, so figuring out why you want to do it is the best place to start.
2. Which Breed Will Fit Your Lifestyle?
Sometimes it's necessary to burst your own bubble, and realize that a certain pet will never be right for you. For example, the great dane of your dreams won't work if you, say, live in a 200-square-foot apartment. "Fortunately, most shelters and rescue groups are excellent at match-making when it comes to finding adopters the best pet that fits their lifestyle," Jiménez says. "They will ask you questions about your schedule, activity level and hobbies and what you're looking for in a pet, so that ultimately they can match you up with a pet that best matches your lifestyle and expectations."
3. How Much Spare Time Do You Have?
Sure, maybe a goldfish doesn't need as much attention as a puppy, but everything obviously requires care. "Dogs, cats and other companion animals cannot be ignored just because you ... are too tired or too busy," noted an article on SSPCA.org. "They require food, water, exercise, care, and companionship every day of the year." Just something to consider when you are choosing which pet is right for you.
4. Do You Have The Funds?
Here's a sobering reality: when you add up vaccinations, health exams, heart worm medications, litter, collars and leashes, food, and grooming, you can expect a bill of at least $1,000 a year, according to SSPCA. And that's not to mention any health emergencies that can crop up. Making sure you have the funds (and some dough in your savings account) is a really good idea before bringing home a pet.
5. Will Your Landlord Allow It?
You know what would be super sad? Getting excited over a super sweet dog or cat, only to find out your landlord won't allow it. According to an article on HumaneSociety.org, many landlords don't allow pets, and most rental communities have restrictions. So if you live in an apartment, check with management before skipping off to adoption day.
6. What About All That Grooming?
If you have a dog with long or curly hair — think adorable poodles or Afghan hounds — you're going to have to do some pretty intense maintenance. And that can get pricey. "Professional dog grooming runs from $50-$90 and you'll need to do it every couple of months for a dog with long fur," said Travis Newcomb on Lifehacker.com. (That's about $360 if you go four times a year, just FYI.) You also might want to consider allergies, if you have them, and whether or not shedding bothers you.
7. Who Will Pet-Sit When You're Away?
Do you travel for work, or plan to go on a few vacations? If so, you'll need reliable friends, relatives or money to pay for a boarding kennel or pet sitter, according to SSPCA. I'd vote reliable friends, as they'll probably all be clamoring to "babysit." (And as a side note, you shouldn't make leaving your pet behind a habit.)
8. How Settled Is Your Life?
Going off the above point, it's not a good idea to bring a cat or dog into your life if you plan on moving all the time. Waiting until you settle down is wise, according to HumaneSociety.org.
9. Are You OK With Less Free Time?
All of my friends who have pets are just as busy as actual parents. They can hardly ever hang out. And when they do, they have to head home early to take care of their pet. As Newcomb said, "You're committing to coming home directly after work for the next 10-15 years of your life." Personally, that sounds perfectly fine with me if it means coming home to my awesome dog.
10. Do You Have The Time (And Willingness) To Train Them?
Part of responsible pet ownership is training your pet to behave. This includes the tedious task of training your puppy to pee outside, or your cat to use the litter box. "If your happy home is going to remain a happy home, the housetraining will need to start immediately after bringing your pet home," said Victoria Heuer said on PetMD.com. It can't wait, and it will require a lot of time and attention.
11. Are You Willing To Bring The Pet Back?
Despite pet adoption experts doing their best to match pets with owners, it doesn't always work out. As an example, you might end up with a hyper dog who needs more exercise than you can give. In cases like this, you should consider bringing the pet back to the shelter. They want a perfect match, for both you and the animal, and will be more than willing to try for a better fit.
Despite this long and somewhat overwhelming list, having a pet is still going to be an amazingly rewarding experience. If you have the time and energy, then I say go do it! Get that puppy or cat of your dreams. And PS- definitely consider adopting, as Jiménez says it's truly the best adoption for all involved.
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