If pet ownership were all puppy kisses and kitty snuggles, every home would be filled with animal companions. But pets require time, money and attention from their owners — not just today, but throughout their lives. Unfortunately, research shows that pet abandonment spikes shortly after Christmas — a result of families being unprepared to rear a puppy or kitten after giving it to their children as a gift. The same heartbreaking statistic is commonly seen after Easter with pet rabbits.
These families typically don’t mean to adopt an animal with the intention of surrendering it later; they just didn’t consider the long-term responsibility, costs and time commitments that come along with their new pet. If you’re debating whether to adopt, here are five things to consider before getting a pet.
1. What Does Your Future Hold?
One result of the COVID-19 pandemic was an uptick in the adoption of shelter pets, driven by the desire for companionship while in quarantine. In fact, shelters in New York City reported record-low amounts of shelter animals in 2020.
Unfortunately, with many workers returning to the office and students returning to the classroom, many animals adopted during the pandemic are being returned to shelters — or even dumped in the desert.
Unlike a holiday or a quarantine, caring for a pet is not a fleeting occasion or a weekslong commitment. If you’re adopting an animal, you should plan on raising them for the rest of their life.
That means different time commitments for various species. The lifespan of the animal you’re looking to adopt is an important thing to consider before getting your pet.
Expect the following average life spans for these common pets:
– Dogs: 10-15 years (varies by breed)
– Cats: 17+ years
– Snakes: 10-20 years (varies by species)
– Birds: 20+ years (varies by species)
– Turtles: 40+ years (varies by species)
– Hamsters: 2-3 years
– Guinea pigs: 4-6 years
– Rabbits: 4-14 years
Then, ask yourself these questions about the coming years:
– Are you expecting any life events (e.g., marriage, having children, moving) that may affect your ability to care for a pet?
– If you work from home, how long do you plan to keep it that way?
– Will you be traveling frequently, such as for work, the military or school?
Having a holistic (and realistic) understanding of your future is key in making a responsible decision.
2. Can You Afford the Expenses of Pet Ownership?
The cost of adoption is a drop in the bucket considering the lifetime expenses of pet ownership. The ASPCA estimates that during the first year of a large dog’s life, you can expect to pay more than $2,000 for adoption, medical costs and basic necessities. For cats, you’ll pay about $1,174. And that’s just for year one!
The ASPCA estimates the annual cost of pet ownership (after the first year) as follows:
– Small dog: $737
– Medium dog: $894
– Large dog: $1,040
– Cat: $809
– Rabbit: $477
– Guinea pig: $304
– Ferret: $574
– Small bird: $317
– Fish: $27
Keep in mind that these costs don’t include unexpected veterinary bills. Run these estimates through your budget, and pad it with an emergency medical fund — around $500 annually for cats and dogs.
3. Do You Have a Pet-Friendly Household?
While a Saint Bernard may look adorable in your studio apartment, large dogs need ample space to play. Be sure you’re adopting a pet that can thrive in your environment by asking yourself:
– Is your home big enough for you and your new friend to inhabit happily?
– Do you have a yard? If not, is there a dog-friendly park nearby?
– Are there walking paths in your neighborhood?
If you’re renting, check your lease for breed restrictions or “pet rent” addendums before bringing an animal home.
4. Do You Have Enough Time (and Patience)?
To some extent, animals’ natural temperaments are unpredictable. However, there are some factors you can count on: Adult dogs should not go more than six to eight hours without a potty break. (For puppies, that number drops to two hours.) If you have a long commute, a dog may not be a good fit.
While every animal is unique, there are common threads between dogs and cats of a certain size, breed and age. Puppies and kittens require more attention and training. Older animals require more health care and assistance. Some dog breeds are better suited to small children or older adults. Know what you’re looking for and what conforms to your schedule before falling head over tail at a shelter.
5. Why Do You Want to Adopt?
Of all the things to consider before getting a pet, the most important question to ask yourself is “Why?” Having your very own Easter bunny or seeing your family’s reaction to a Christmas-morning puppy is not a sound reason alone — when an animal is adopted, it’s expecting to become part of your family, not a prop.
Adoption is a big commitment. Go slow. If possible, try fostering before you adopt to gauge whether a pet is a good fit. Take your time to find the best pet for your budget and lifestyle, and you’ll have playtime and cuddles with your companion for years to come.
Discover more pet care tips and insights at The Barking Lot.