What You Need To Know Before Getting a New Pet
There are many things that I thought I considered before getting our two cats. After all, our family did have a cat before I got married and left home. I love animals and I thought my husband and I needed a pet or two around. It wasn’t before too long I realized that there were times we spent more on our pets than we did ourselves. There are many factors that some new pet owners do not expect when they are excited to have a new companion around the house. Here is a detailed list of things you must consider before getting a pet. If you’re considering a new pet, feel free to get out a pen and paper to answer these questions:
1. Are You Able To Afford a Pet?
This may sound a bit personal, but in all seriousness, pets are not free. One dog can cost you more than $10,000 in their lifetime.Cats feel more expensive than a dog with their scratching posts, cat towers, toys, litter, and litter box. Your new friend will need food, water, toys, a collar, and veterinary visits. On top of that, there may be other extra costs such as grooming, a bed, medications, medical tests, routine vet visits, pet boarding, pet insurance, etc. While there are ways to cut costs, it can still run you at least $100 per month. If you want to keep your pet while renting whether out of an apartment complex or house, pet deposits will be required.
2. Do You Have Enough Space?
Are you in a house? What about that studio apartment? Do you live in a neighborhood? Are you living in the middle of nowhere’s-ville? Do you have a front yard, backyard, or both? Perhaps you don’t have a yard at all? Consider space before getting a new pet. A pet in a cage like a hamster, guinea pig, or fish will need minimal space unless you have a lot of them. Pets such as cats and dogs need more space. A Great Dane will clearly need more space than a Toy Poodle. Cats even get a little crazy and need some dashing room. That puppy or kitten you want may be small now, but how big will they be as an adult? Will you be able to provide the space?
3. Will You Need a Yard?
If you already have a fenced yard then that’s an excellent start, especially for a dog. Keep in mind sometimes dogs can cause damage to fences trying to get out so they may need repairs. Are you willing to take your dog out for a potty break if you live in an apartment complex? You may not want to paper train your dog, especially if it is against your lease. In the middle of the winter are you willing to stand outside with your leashed dog as they use the bathroom and clean it up? If you want a yard to fence in a cat, it will need to be a special enclosed fence. If your cat will be indoors then you probably will not be worried about a fence. Likewise if you have an animal that lives in a cage.
4. Are You Prepared For Pet Deposits?
This one hit us hard after we got the cats. I was simply unaware that apartment complexes and rental homes can charge you pet deposits. We have two cats so it added up quickly. Sometimes I wondered, “Without the cats, we could afford to live here.” Some pet deposits were as high as $500 per pet, plus a monthly fee per pet. It is honestly ridiculous. If you don’t tell the landlord about your pets and they find out they can charge you a hefty fine, or evict you. Not all apartment complexes or rental homes accepted cats so we had to cross them off of our list. It tremendously limited our living options. If you own your own home then this won’t be an issue for you. Many hotels have adopted pet deposits and fee’s so be careful while traveling.
5. Will You Have an Available Pet Sitter?
It is important to have a few people you can call last minute to pet sit because you never know when that situation may come up. What if you must leave to another state because a family member is on their death bed and you can’t take your pet with you? If you are pregnant and will be away from home while having your baby, who will take care of your pets? Make sure to get a list of a few people you can call in these situations. Do your best to be fair to your pet sitters and give them time frames, all supplies needed for your pets care, and fair pay.
6. Do You Travel a lot?
Whether you like to go on vacations a few times a year or travel the world in an RV, you will need to think about your pets. Will you board your pets while you are away? Is a pet sitter available for you? Are you going to be taking your pets with you? Can you provide your pets basic needs while you are away or traveling with them? Traveling with pets for long distances isn’t easy and they do need breaks like we do. Pets can become ill on the road and that isn’t a pleasant experience. Will your vehicle have enough room to keep your pet in a crate? Does your vehicle have enough room for all your pet supplies you will need?
7. Do You Need a Pet With a Preferred Lifespan?
This may sound like a rather gloomy or strange question. However, there are some pets that have longer lifespans than others. Would it bother you if you had a pet that lived 10 years or more? Do you need a pet with a shorter lifespan for any reason? While there are estimated lifespans, pets can more often than not live longer than the average so be prepared for it. Pet ownership is a big commitment. Make sure you will be able to keep your pet with you throughout their life.
8. What Level of Noise Are You Allowed?
If you live in an apartment or condo, other residents can complain about your noisy pet(s). This can be tricky with a new pet because you cannot always be sure if they will be loud or quiet in your living space. If you receive too many complaints about your pet, you may be fined, evicted, or forced to find your pets a new home. If you live in a neighborhood and own your own home, your pet still may be loud and bother other neighbors nearby. Also, how much noise are you willing to put up with from a pet? If quiet time is important to you, you may not want a large, talking bird like an Amazon or African Gray.
9. Are Hypoallergenic Breeds Important?
There are a few breeds of hypoallergenic dogs and cats, but they may be more tricky to find and may be expensive. Some pets are naturally hypoallergenic like reptiles and fish. If you have pet allergies, consider this before diving in to look at the local animal shelter.
10. What Will You Do With Your Pet If You Must Move?
If you need to move, will you take your pets with you? If you live with mom and/or dad, what are you going to do with your pet when you go to college, get married, or move away from home? Are you going to find them a new home or place them in a local shelter? If you have any career that sends you moving from one location to another often, you may want to strongly consider if getting a pet is right for you.
11. Do You Have Kids?
If you have kids, this opens a whole new door. You will need to make sure that any pets will not pose any danger or threat to your child. This can be tricky when getting a new pet because you may not be sure how they will behave around your child. Also, if you plan to have more children, will your pet be accepting of that or become aggressive? Do you have a plan of action in case one of your pets does harm your child? What will you do to prevent harm from occurring in the first place? You will need to be prepared to always supervise your children with any pets. Teaching kids to be kind and gentle with household pets is also another thing that you will need to do.
12. Are You Prepared For Trial and Error on Pet Products?
Many pet products such as food may come as a trial and error experience. Not all pets have the same needs, and you may find out you have a pet with food sensitivities. If this is the case then the pet food cost will probably escalate to avoid common allergens. Thankfully, there are many pet foods that are grain free, dairy free, or egg free. However, they aren’t always the cheapest. Your pet may need their food changed. Same goes for any other products like flea protection and pet shampoo’s.
13. Will You Need Pet Insurance?
If you have a large animal like a horse or a pet breed that is known for many health issues, you may want to strongly consider insurance. As if it wasn’t enough of a pain to have health insurance in this world, there are pet insurances, too. While it is not required, it can be worth a look depending on your type of situation. There may be times where an emergency vet visit is needed, and I will tell you – tests are expensive! Vet visits for an ill pet can easily soar past $500 depending on tests and symptoms presented upon arriving. If your pet requires an overnight or pet hospital stay, this can quickly go above $1,500.
14. Long Haired or Short Haired?
This can be a cost deciding factor as well. If you have a long haired cat you can probably expect more issues with hairballs, buying lint rollers for your clothes, a vacuum for pet hair for your home, and maybe even an air purifier to help keep the dander down. Long haired pets may also need routine grooming that you may not be able to do yourself.
15. How Will You Deal With Loss?
No one is able to predict this one, but if you take loss rather hard you may need to consider if you will need time off from work or school. If you live from paycheck to paycheck then this may not be an option. Make sure you follow any applicable state laws of disposing of a dead animal. If you want your animal to be cremated, it can cost you.
16. Do You Have the Time To Care For Your Pet?
If you go to work, school, or you are a parent dealing with kids filled with energy, the last thing you may want to do when you come home is take care of your pet. For others, this isn’t a huge issue. For our cats, it is feed, clean water bowl, and change litter box once if not twice a day. To take care of their basic needs, it probably takes me anywhere from 5-20 minutes. Sweeping, vacuuming, and lint rolling clothes and furniture may take another 20-40 minutes. Cleaning any hairballs can take 1-5 minutes. When they feel like being loved that can be another 5-30 minutes. You see where I’m going with this? Pets require your valuable time and care.
17. What if Your Pet Has Separation Anxiety?
This is one I wasn’t prepared for. I remember when my husband and I needed to go on a trip out of state. Our cats had been good for us so why wouldn’t they be good for someone else? Our trip lasted a day longer than we required our pet sitters to be there. When we got back home, one of the cats ripped up carpet in one spot. When we walked in, the one with the anxiety problem was clearly frightened and it took a while of us being home for her to calm down and unwind again. Usually it takes us being gone a little longer than one full day for her to start going into her own panic mode. This is an issue that can limit time away from home, or increase your cost for a pet sitter.
18. What If Your Pet Doesn’t Like Certain Family Members?
Not many count on this one. I mean, if a pet is around long enough, it will learn to like everyone, right? Wrong! One of our cats prefers my husband, and the other only lets me sit and pet her. We have had them for nearly seven years. The one cat that only likes me and is afraid of pretty much everyone has never grown close to my husband. The other cat on the other hand loves my husband and doesn’t love me the way she loves him. Pets have their own personalities, are you prepared for this type of scenario? What will you do if it does happen?
19. Is Your Pet a Restricted Breed?
There are many restricted dog breeds, and I have seen some restricted cat breeds (usually Siamese, Korat, Singapura, Sphynx, etc.). Although, I have only come across cat breed restrictions once. They seem to be quite rare. This usually applies for apartment complexes, condo’s, and other rental homes. At times there are certain clauses about restricted breeds for homeowner’s insurance as well. Some states, cities, or towns have restricted certain breeds as well. This means for homeowners insurance that they will not be liable if your dog bites, attacks, or injures someone. While searching for a rental space such as an apartment, this can mean that these breeds are simply banned from being on property at any time.
20. Will You Need To Have Your Pet Trained?
This goes for potty training or litter box training for puppies and kittens. I haven’t had many issues with kittens and getting them to use the litter box, but potty training a puppy is a whole different story for me. Some rental spaces prohibit puppies and kittens because of their lack of training. It also depends on the individual pet as they will learn at their own pace in accordance with the routine you set for them. If you need a dog house trained, you may need to take time to teach them yourself or enroll into an obedience school. There is such thing as cat obedience school, but I can’t imagine how that would work out as I have never tried. However, it may take time if you want to teach them to stay off of the counters, tables, or other areas.
21. Do Certain Pet Behaviors Bother You?
Some cats and dogs have obnoxious behaviors that will take some patience. You need to be prepared for this one. Some cats will chew on things they shouldn’t (we literally needed our house baby proofed before kids because one of our cats would eat anything – plastic, paper, cardboard, carpet fibers, etc.) Likewise, I’ve heard of pet owners complaining their dog ate their couch…literally. Some pets nip, get into the trashcan, or tear apart your belongings. If you know a pet has a certain behavior they naturally do that you don’t like then avoid that pet or pet type.
22. Where Will All the Pet Supplies Go?
Know this one before you get the pet. If you live in a small studio apartment, a huge cat tower probably isn’t going to work out. Where would you place a pet bed for your dog? Do you see a good place to put their food and water bowl (out of a child’s reach)? Do you have a sealed bin to store their food (away from children and household pests)? If you have a caged pet, where will you place it so it is away from the sun, or chilling cold from the windows? Pet supplies can take up a considerable amount of space.
23. Is Everyone In Your Household Committed?
Make sure everyone at home is on board with taking care of the new pet. If they are small children, they may be unable to understand how to care for a pet and it will be the adult’s responsibility. If your kids are teenagers, make sure they are comfortable with the transition of a pet, and they are willing to take care of the pet, too. The last thing that is needed is arguments on how the pets are cared for or someone neglecting their part.
24. Are Other Pets Welcoming of a New Pet?
For example, if you have a hamster and plan on adopting a cat it may not be a good match. You may end up shutting the hamster in the bathroom or a bedroom to keep the cat away. Even so, the cat might beg to get in all night long. Cats more often than dogs are territorial and wouldn’t be welcoming of a new pet – especially another cat. I have seen families get a young dog with a senior aged dog in their home, and it doesn’t look like it works out great. The older dog isn’t always in the mood to play and the younger dog can get out of hand leading to stress and fights between the dogs. If you get a laid back dog breed and a hyperactive dog breed it can be the same way. Two cats may fight if they cross into each other’s territory. You don’t want to cause tension for yourself, your family, or between animals in the household.
25. How Will This Pet Relationship Benefit You?
There are many health benefits to having a cat or a dog. I wanted cats because I wanted company while my husband was working. I enjoy having an animal companion around and I felt empty without one. Their presence alone in the house was enough to make me happy. You may want a dog that can go with you on hunting trips, jogs, or to play fetch at the beach. If that is the case, choose your dog breed accordingly. Do pick a pet that will meet your expectations on the activities you would like to do with your pet.
[Image Credit: Samantha Scholl at unsplash.com]