Bringing a pet into your family is a wonderfully exciting time, but it ought to be a thoughtful decision and one where you’ve deliberately considered all the potential impacts on everyone involved. From budgets to allergies and beyond, here are top ten questions you should ask yourself before becoming a pet parent.
1. Do you have any allergies to pet dander?
The last thing you want to do is go through the financially and emotionally costly process of finding your furever friend, only to learn you cannot actually share your home with them. Rehoming is seldom easy, so do your research before you commit.
Find out if you are able to spend time with your pet of choice ahead of any firm commitments (consider the type of animal as well as breed, and your own sensitivities). Some breeders and local pet groups will help facilitate you doing a “dry run” in advance by letting you spend time with a similar pet. Also, it may also be worth doing an allergy test ahead, if one is available. Don’t simply assume that because a pet is deemed “hypoallergenic,” you won’t have any allergies down the road.
2. Are you mentally and emotionally prepared for the long-term commitment?
One reason that gifting pets for holidays and birthdays is seldom a good idea is because it doesn’t take into account the new pet owner’s ability to commit to the animal over the long haul. Even if your life is at the moment ideal for looking after another dependent sentient creature, will these circumstances remain (i.e. even after the pandemic)? In five years? In ten years? Are you able to look after your pet’s basic needs consistently into the future? If you foresee any major changes that will impact both your patience, and presence, perhaps it’s best to foster an animal, or to consider pet-sitting in the meantime instead.
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3. Can you afford to look after the pet?
Pets can not only cost a lot up front (especially if you’re not adopting), but then there’s the question of all the pet supplies, food and vet visits you will need to ensure your pet not only survives but thrives. Consider how much cushion you have in your budget to absorb any unforeseen expenses too.
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4. Do you have the time?
Different pets require different amounts of time, but they all require some time at least to ensure their basic needs are met (even goldfish need their tank water changed and aquarium cleaned). Dogs too may require obedience training and certainly need our attention to feel loved and not neglected. Ask yourself how much time you can realistically devote to your pet per day? If your schedule is already crammed and your bandwidth at its limit, this is a good sign you may either need to make some major readjustments or you won’t be able to give your pet the time it needs.
5. Do you have the right space to offer your pet a suitable home?
Certain pets require very specific conditions to be able to thrive. If you want a large, active dog such as a Burmese mountain dog, do you have an easily-accessible outdoor space where your pup can regularly run and play? If not, you may need to revise your vision and look for one that is appropriate for your living situation. Do you rent or own? Not all rentals are pet friendly. Do you have a house or an apartment? Some buildings have pet restrictions (including dog size restrictions).
Additionally, you may also need to pet-proof your home to make sure any hazards are safely out of your pet’s reach.
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6. Are you away often?
Do you spend long hours away from home (even in non-pandemic times)? Consider whether you would need a dog-walker and whether that’s something you can take on. Do you travel often, whether for work or leisure? Do you have support from others in your circle to help with the care? These are questions you want to ask yourself so you can put a plan in place to ensure your pet can get proper care even in your absence.
7. Have you owned a pet before?
If yes, what was that experience like? Consider anything you may want to approach differently this time, as well as what worked well.
If you presently already have a pet, how would this pet react to a new member?
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8. Will you be taking in a pet on your own or with someone else?
If this is not just a “you” decision, consider the impact on the other individual, and be sure to involve them in the decision-making process. If everyone is on-board, discuss what the care will look like, and who will take the lead on the daily responsibilities, or how it may otherwise be shared.
9. Have you done your research?
What do you know about your particular breed of dog, cat, fish or any other pet? While each animal is unique and distinct, there are some common traits to each type of animal and its various breeds (including mixed breeds). Are you a neat freak? An outdoorsy type? A cuddler? What are you looking to get out of this new relationship so it’s mutually satisfying? Make sure that your choice suits your lifestyle so there are no disappointments or broken hearts (and that includes your pet’s).
10. Do you plan to adopt or shop?
Look into the organization or breeder thoroughly before making any commitments to ensure your future pet is being looked after in an ethical way. The pandemic especially has seen a rise in shady breeders and sellers looking to make a quick buck, but with little regard for the animal in question. Make sure the route you pursue is reputable and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Reputable organizations and sellers want their animals to go to the right homes.
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