Getting a pet is a rewarding and loving experience — there are 78 million dogs and 85.8 million cats in happy homes to prove it — but it doesn’t come without its fair share of responsibility. While it can be tempting to choose a dog based on looks alone, there are several other considerations to make based on your lifestyle and personality. So, before plucking the first furry face you’re attracted to, make sure you have a firm grasp on what it takes to be a dedicated pet owner.
Determine If You’re Ready
You may think you’re ready, but are you? Ask yourself some questions that can help you determine whether or not you’re ready to take the plunge. For example:
Do you own or rent your home?
You’ll want to know if your building has a restriction on pets if you rent or live in a condo. If you have a home, would you need to install a fence in the backyard?
- How much outdoor space do you have — if any?
Dogs typically thrive in areas where they can run around and play. Not to mention, having a yard can make it easier to let them out and do their business. If you live in a small apartment, a cat (or bird or small mammal) may be a better option for you.
- What’s your schedule like?
If you work crazy hours, it can be tricky to own a dog unless you hire a walker — which can be expensive if it’s a regular occurrence. There’s also a stigma that cats are fine without people. In reality, they get lonely, too, so if you are rarely home, consider if this is the right time in your life to own a pet. The answer is probably not.
- What’s your financial situation?
While it may not have cost a lot to get the pet, are you prepared for the expenses that come with food, toys, medicine, check-ups, and medical care should they become ill? Owning a dog is not a “money saver’s move”.
- Are you prepared to housetrain if need be?
Puppies aren’t the only ones who need housetraining. Many rescue dogs also have issues with making a mess indoors, so you’ve got to make sure you have the time to teach them the ropes. If you need help check out this article on housebreaking your puppy.
Breeder Versus Shelter
Breeders often get a bad rap, due to bad breeders that keep dogs in poor conditions and their breeding methods have caused health issues with the animal. A reputable breed with good reviews is maybe your best choice for a dog if your are looking for a specific dog for a specific task or reason. If you do go this route, make sure you do thorough research (referrals, a site visit) before making a commitment, as it’s liable to be costly. The other available route is to adopt a shelter animal, as you’re saving a life and most facilities are perpetually jam-packed with fur balls looking for their forever home. Shelter animals also get bonus points for already being microchipped, spayed or neutered, and vaccinated, and if they’re a mixed breed, for having fewer genetic health problems.
Choose A Breed
Whether you choose a cat or a dog, do some breed research first to determine nuances about their personality. For example, some may be better with children than others, you may not want a dog that barks a lot, and some cats are more affectionate than others.
Before bringing your new family member home, make sure you have all the preparations in place: food, dishes, a bed, a litter box, poop bags and a scoop, toys, treats, a collar, a leash, a muzzle (if applicable), and a crate or carrier. If you adopt an elderly dog or cat, modify your abode by getting a litter box with a side opening that’s easier to enter, putting a ramp near high areas where they like to hang out (like a couch, for example), installing no-slip treads on the stairs, or adding a gate across the stairs to keep your pet from using them altogether if they have a severe arthritic condition.
If you love being a pet owner and decide to introduce a new cat to your dog (or vice versa), do so slowly. There’s a process one must take to ensure the transition is smooth for both animals. Research which breeds get along to prevent taking the animal back to the shelter should there be a major issue.