Guest post by Jessica Brody
After months of deliberation, you’ve made a decision: You’re finally ready to add a pet to the family. Before you head out to adopt your first pet, you have a lot of important details to consider. Here are three things you need to think about before bringing a furry bundle of joy into your home.
1. Your Lifestyle
Pet ownership is full of Kodak moments, like your kitten curled up on a sunny windowsill or your kids teaching the puppy new tricks. But pet ownership is also full of work. You’ll have to change your schedule, your budget, and your home to accommodate your new pet. If you choose the wrong pet for your lifestyle, you might end up feeling like it’s more trouble than it’s worth.
Think carefully about your lifestyle and how a pet fits into it. Do you have the time and space to entertain a rambunctious pup, or is your busy schedule or small home more suited to a laid-back cat? Are you ready to care for a pet through big life changes like having kids or moving to a new house, or does pet ownership conflict with your long-term goals? Owners who relocate or no longer have time for their pet are two of the biggest reasons that animals are surrendered to shelters, according to Petfinder, so it’s important to think about these tough questions ahead of time.
The lifestyle question goes deeper than dogs versus cats. You also need to consider your new pet’s personality. Many first-time pet owners think that breed is the best indicator of personality, but breed generalizations are a false comfort. Research shows that while breed influences a dog’s natural tendencies, nurture has the biggest impact on a pet’s behavior. If you really want to know what your new pet’s personality is like, adopt from an animal rescue that has spent a lot of time getting to know your pet and its unique personality.
2. Your Home
Don’t be fooled by photos of perfectly groomed pets lounging in spotless homes. Those moments do happen, but in between are many hours of keeping up with your pet’s messes. Some pets are cleaner than others, like cats and low-shedding dog breeds, but every pet comes with some mess.
If you’re prepared to clean up after your new pet, your home will run much more smoothly. Make sure you have a vacuum cleaner designed for pet hair, a pet-specific stain remover, and grooming tools to keep up with brushing and nail trims. If anyone in the family has allergies (or just a sensitive nose), an air purifier can control pet dander around the house. Not all air purifiers are suited to pet dander, so do some research to find models capable of filtering dander.
3. Your Finances
Adopting a pet is a big financial commitment. Bringing a new dog or cat home might only cost a couple hundred dollars, but after that, you have to pay for food, supplies, and wellness visits for the rest of your pet’s life — and that’s just the beginning! If your pet isn’t spayed or neutered and up to date on vaccines, you’ll need to schedule these ASAP. Don’t delay, because an unexpected illness or pregnancy costs a lot more!
You’ll also want to start a pet emergency fund in case your pet gets seriously sick or injured and needs emergency veterinary care. There’s nothing more heartbreaking than being unable to afford life-saving vet care, but it’s a very real situation you could find yourself in if you don’t prepare. Pet insurance can also help you afford big vet bills, but pet insurance usually requires owners to pay up front and file for reimbursement, so it’s not a replacement for an emergency fund. The Simple Dollar explains more about how pet insurance works.
These tips aren’t meant to dissuade you from adopting a pet, although we know it might seem like it! Rather, our goal is to help you enter pet ownership with your eyes and heart open so you can provide your pet a loving home for years to come. When you make a well-informed decision in pet adoption, everyone benefits!
Joy Shanahan is a student at Appalachian State University with a passion for community service. She can be found in the dance studios at ASU or researching helpful animal tips for Lee Shore.