While there may never be a "perfect"
time to get a pet, since life will always be some level of busy or stressful, it's still OK to admit you're not quite ready. Whether it's a dog, cat, hamster, or fish, a pet will require a lifestyle change, to one degree or another. And sometimes that's just not feasible.
"Owning a pet is a lot of work," veterinarian
Dr. Adam Christman, tells Bustle. "They are just like having children. They have their own wants, needs, and expectations," all of which will require your attention. And many times, the change is a lot more than you were ready for.
It's important to make sure you're totally aware of
what you're getting into, including how much time, money, and energy it will take up, as well as how it'll fit into your current life. If you just got a new job, for example, Dr. Christman says you might be a little too busy or distracted right now.
That doesn't mean, however, that you can't or shouldn't
get a pet in the future. Once you settle into your routine, save up money, make a plan, and really digest what it is you're committing to, you should feel free to get a pet and enjoy that new life. With that in mind, here are some signs you may not be quite there yet, according to experts.
You Don't Have A Solid Routine
"If you don’t have good self-care practices [...] you are not ready to get a pet,"
therapist Katie Ziskind, LMFT, tells Bustle. This includes taking good care of your health, getting plenty of sleep, and even simple things, like remembering to take out the trash.
It can be tough to take care of another life if your own is unpredictable. So you should create a solid routine of your own, before adding a pet into the mix.
You Have Big Travel Plans
If you plan to do a lot of traveling in the near future, whether it's for work or just for fun, now may not be a best time.
"Unless you have reliable and responsible pet sitters lined up, it is not fair to adopt a pet,"
professional dog trainer Steffi Trott, tells Bustle. "Your pet will miss you and be a bit unsettled every time you leave."
Of course, it's OK to travel once your pet is established in their new home. But Trott says it can take anywhere from several months to a year, before they'll feel safe and secure.
You've Been Moving A Lot
Moving can be very stressful for a pet. "Some develop behavior issues such as sudden aggression, irritability, or refusal to eat," Trott says. And it can also be tough, logistically, in terms of finding apartments that allow pets.
Once you're settled, though, you should think again about adopting.
You Just Accepted A New Job
"Getting acclimated to your routine, your hours, and obtaining the skill set requires time," Dr. Christman says, which is why you'll really want to think twice about adopting if you're still in the middle of adjusting to a new job.
"Having a new [pet] requires a lot of time and work," he says. "If you don’t know what your normal work routine is, how would your furry friend know what theirs would be?"
Many people are surprised by how much it costs to take care of a pet. If you get a dog, for example, you'll have to be prepared to pay for healthy foods, training, toys, grooming, vet visits, and so on. And the same is true for other pets, too.
"If you are unable to properly budget for your pet, then you are not ready to be a responsible pet parent," Dr. Christman says. "Although some people’s hearts are bigger than their wallets, it is a necessary reality to recognize."
"It is best to make sure that you are 100% ready for a pet before purchasing or adopting one," Dr. Sara Ochoa, veterinarian advisor for
doglab, tells Bustle. If you love the idea of having a pet, but aren't totally sold, it may be a good idea to wait a bit longer.
You Love To Be Spontaneous
If your life is all about being spontaneous — grabbing drinks after work, staying out late, setting off on weekend adventures — think twice.
"Make sure to consider how your social life can change upon getting a pet," Megan Marrs, founder of
K9 of Mine, tells Bustle. "When the work day ends, your pet has already been alone most of the day and needs to be fed and/or let out [...] Your pet's care comes first, and you need to get home."
Of course, this rule won't be as strict if you get a hamster or a fish, compared to a dog. But they need their own type of care, too.
"Don't count on being able to stay in bed on Saturday morning — even if you're sick or exhausted from the night before," Marrs says.
And that goes for other days of the week, too. You'll have to let go of that luxurious sleeping-in life in favor of getting up to feed and/or walk your pet.
You Haven't Done Your Research
Since the idea of getting a pet can be so exciting, it's not always easy to remember to take the time to look up the type of pet that would suit your life, or what they'd need.
If you're interested in adopting a certain breed of dog, for example, you should research the type of healthcare they'll require, Dr. Christman says, so you'll know what to expect.
If you haven't done that yet, you may not have all the information you need just yet, in order to make an informed decision.
You Can't Imagine Going For Walks
"If the idea of walking twice a day sounds exhausting, then getting an energetic puppy who needs regular walks and exercise is not for you,"
Gabby Slome, co-founder Ollie, tells Bustle. But the same is true for older dogs, since they'll need exercise, too.
While a cat might be a better choice for people who are less active, they'll
also need plenty of time and attention. Just be sure to think about how much effort you're willing to make, and whether it seems like something you can do.
You're Spotting Flaws In The Pet
A sure sign you're not ready to adopt? If you go to the shelter to meet the pet, and immediately spot its flaws.
Many shelter volunteers have found that prospective pet parents say things like, "Wow, this dog is
way bigger than I thought," upon their first meeting, Jme Thomas, executive director of Motley Zoo Animal Rescue, tells Bustle. And that's often a sign they're on the fence, or looking for an excuse to talk themselves out of it.
If you're having similar thoughts, take some time to think it over. When you're truly ready to adopt, you won't be looking for negatives.
You'd Have To Hide The Pet
Before getting a pet, consider whether or not you'd have to hide it from your roommates, a landlord, or an RA at college, or if that might be the case in the years to come.
"One of the biggest reasons pets are surrendered to shelters is due to housing issues,"
shelter volunteer Milo Rusnak, tells Bustle. "If you can't provide a stable home for your pet, in the long run you'll only be adding unnecessary turmoil to its life."
You Haven't Thought Long-Term
"Although it may seem like the right situation now, make sure your future plans will be fitting for the [pet], too," Mark Van Wye, CEO of
Zoom Room, tells Bustle.
Since a pet is a long-term commitment, try to think beyond the next couple of weeks, and into the years ahead. If it seems like your life is heading in a direction that can include them, then it may be a good time.
If you really want a pet, there will come a day when you're officially ready. You'll know for sure that you have the right amount of time, money, and resources on hand to give them the best life possible, and also
have them add to yours.