What to Consider Before Getting a Pet

Author: Alecia Pirulis

Dog in Animal Shelter

Photo of a dog behind a chain-link fence at the Paws and More No Kill Animal Shelter in Washington, Iowa. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It happens in a variety of ways. For some, they are living alone for the first time … and their apartment just seems too quiet. Others would like that extra sense of security. For me, it was a family decision … something the kids really wanted. No matter what has led you to this place, you now find yourself considering a pet.

Before you take that next big step, be sure you know the answers to the following questions:

1. Does my apartment allow pets? Is there a breed or weight restriction? Is there a pet deposit or a monthly pet fee?

2. Do I have the time to commit to caring for a pet? You’ll have this pet for its entire life – at least 10 to 20 years, depending on the breed/type of pet. Be sure you are thinking long-term … pets are four-legged children that never grow up … keep that in mind. They will depend on you for their entire life – to feed them, play with them, and care for them.

3. Do you have the resources to provide the pet with on-going care? In addition to regular vet visits, your pet may need emergency services. There are also daily and monthly costs, such as medications, grooming services, food, toys, obedience school, pet-sitters, etc.

Once you’ve thought it through completely and still want to move forward, the next step is to decide between adoption, a breeder, or a pet store. Don’t let the common misconceptions about pet adoption keep you from what could be the ideal pet. For example, it isn’t true that dogs and cats up for adoption were somehow “bad” pets. Many are given up for adoption because the person who purchased them didn’t consider all of the above questions before taking on a pet. Or, the owner didn’t spay/neuter a pet and ended up with a litter of kittens or puppies that were taken to the shelter. And many owners give up their pets during a move – usually because they are moving to an apartment complex that doesn’t allow pets.

Don’t believe the myth that you can’t find a purebred dog in a shelter – there are plenty of purebreds, as well as mixes, puppies, and older dogs. Speaking of which, consider an older dog – you won’t have to worry about house training or chewing, and older dogs make great companions for apartment renters because they aren’t as active as puppies.

If you are concerned about adoption because of the dog’s potential past, rescue pets often live with a foster family who can tell you all about their temperament, idiosyncrasies, likes and dislikes. They will be very honest with you because they want the dog and you to find the perfect – and permanent – fit. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if they seem silly. You want to be completely sure before taking the pet home with you.

Perhaps you have your heart set on a specific breed of dog (or cat) and there aren’t any available at the shelter. If you choose to purchase through a breeder, check them out first to be sure you are dealing with a responsible breeder. Get referrals and be sure to ask plenty of questions – you don’t want to end up purchasing an under-socialized or sick puppy.

After careful thought and planning, you’re ready to welcome home your new four-legged roommate! Being a pet owner is a rewarding experience – a dog is a guaranteed smile when you get home from a long day at work or school, and a purring cat curled up next to you while you watch television in the evening is a great stress-reliever.

Are you a pet owner? What is the best advice you can give to someone thinking about adopting a pet? Share it with us on Facebook!