6 Things to Consider Before Owning a Pet

Woman with dog

Is Owning a Pet Right for You?

For many of us, few things bring more joy than a wonderful pet. They’re tons of fun, often encourage us to get outside and exercise, and are a loyal source of unconditional love. And the cuddlier ones can be big stress-relievers too.

Adopting a pet can be a wonderful choice—IF you’re ready. Especially if the pet needs lots of attention, it’s a big responsibility. Here are six factors to think about before bringing that furry (or scaly, or feathery) friend into your home.

  1. Are You Ready for a Change to Your Lifestyle?
    Animals like dogs will be starved for attention, affection, and exercise if you’re not around quite a bit. That’s why your choice of pet will depend on the type of lifestyle you’re used to and how willing you are to modify it.

How much time will you spend at home? If you travel for work, stay late at the office, or take frequent vacations, think about how this would affect an animal.

Do you have close friends or neighbors you could depend on for pet sitting? If you travel often, you may want to consider pets that are easy for a neighbor to help with. For animals that need more consideration, see if you’re comfortable with the cost of boarding kennels, which will tack on extra costs to your travel budget.

  1. Do You Have the Space?
    Sure, small pets like goldfish, turtles, and gerbils are relatively low-maintenance and self-contained; they’re easy to accommodate whether you live in a small apartment or spacious home. But larger animals will need plenty of space.

You may also need to check whether your landlord or homeowners’ association is pet friendly. You want to avoid the heartbreak of discovering that “perfect” dog or cat isn’t so perfect for your place. If you have an apartment, find out if there’s a cleaning fee or pet deposit, and factor this into your calculations for the average cost of a pet. Also, think about your closest neighbors before bringing home a noisier animal like dogs and some birds.

  1. What’s Right for Your Family?
    Do you live by yourself? Then you’re responsible for daily dog-walking, cat box emptying, or other obligations. If it’s you and your significant other, or you have kids who are old enough to help, make sure you’re clear about who’s in charge of what. Be sure that no one in your family is allergic to a new furry friend. Also, be mindful that certain breeds of dogs or exotic pets may not be appropriate If you have an infant or very young child at home.
  1. Do You Have the Time?
    Early on, investing enough time into house training and obedience training could be key to your quality of life and your pet’s. Puppies and many rescue dogs will need a lot of care in this area. Make sure you can put in the time for this (which may include seeking outside help from a dog trainer). You, your dog, and your couch cushions will all be better off!

And, of course, you’ll need to feel confident that you won’t be too busy to regularly clean that litter box or birdcage or to regularly take your dog on a walk or trip to the dog park.

  1. How’s Your Budget?
    A dog or cat could run you well over $1,000 in just the first year. Common pet costs include:
  • Pet adoption fees: If you adopt a cat or dog, depending on whether it’s from a shelter or breeder, this initial fee can range from free to hundreds of dollars.
  • Upfront services and supplies: For dogs and cats, you’ll need to pay an initial neuter/spay fee (if it’s not part of the adoption fee), as well as purchase a license, beds, crates, litter boxes, or travel accessories. For other animals, there’s the cost of a cage or aquarium and various accessories.
  • Future veterinarian costs: Checkups and shots can cost a minimum of a couple hundred dollars per year. For emergency vet visits and more extensive care later in a pet’s life, the costs can rise into the thousands of dollars. Be sure your savings are in good shape to cover that emergency vet bill if needed.
  • Food: Annual pet food costs range from around $200 for a cat to many times that for a large dog. But you may want to treat your pet to healthier, better-quality food that costs more. Just like for people, a healthy diet now can lead to fewer medical costs later, so you may save money in the long run.
  • Other costs: Remember the other things you’ll need to keep your animal happy and healthy, like treats, toys, medications, and grooming services.

Yes, it’s a daunting list, but it’s better to know the costs upfront, so you can avoid financial pressure down the road.

  1. Are You Ready for the Commitment?
    Once you figure out your needs when it comes to space, your lifestyle, and your budget, you’ll have a better idea of whether you should get a pet right now—and, if so, what kind of animal and breed is right for you.

Also, make sure you’re pretty “settled” in your life. While no one can predict the future, you want to feel sure that a big life change, like a cross-country move, getting married, or starting a family, won’t interfere with your ability to care for your pet.

Think carefully about this decision and do your research so you can enjoy all the rewards of pet ownership and provide a loving home for a wonderful animal.