FOUR QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF BEFORE GETTING A PET
Doing research, making lists, asking questions. We all do these things before buying a car, computer, or smartphone. It’s just as important to do the same things when considering taking a pet into your home. These four questions will help you as you start to decide what’s best for your lifestyle and your budget. Knowing what you’re getting into before you get a pet can also help you get better organized.
1) Do I have time for this pet?
All pet guardianship requires time. Right from the start, doing responsible research before you get a pet can take a lot of time. Setting up and organizing your home for your pet can also be a big endeavor. And once you bring it home, you’ll have to feed it, clean up after it, shop for its supplies, and bring it to a vet or for training (if necessary). It may seem a little depressing, but you should also think about the lifespan of your pet. Are you willing to commit the years required for some types of pets?
The time you’ll need to spend will help you determine the type of pet that will work for you. Organized schedules with time blocked off for caring for your pet can help make pet ownership more manageable.
2) What can fit in my household?
Pets and their supplies require space. Do you have enough room in your apartment, condo, or house? Organizing your home and making a place for everything may be enough to prepare your home for your pet. You may find that the space you have—or are willing to give up—is better suited for certain pets.
3) Can I afford this pet?
Budgeting is important in all aspects of our lives. Much like you’d plan for your groceries or school or work supplies, budgeting for pets is just as important. Careful research ahead of time can help you determine how much your pet will cost you—in the short and long run. Plotting out a budget should help you decide what pet to get.
Here’s an example: I recently started keeping a pet frog and toad. In the beginning, they’re easy to feed—crickets are gross, but they’re pretty cheap. But as these amphibians get older they’ll need “serious” and more expensive food, possibly even baby mice (they’re bred for this purpose and would be stored frozen). Suddenly, a couple of bucks a week for crickets has turned into more money and a separate little freezer (because those little naked rodents aren’t going near my ice cream stash). You have to think about these things before investing in a pet. And honestly? You may end up spending far more for supplies and food than for the pet itself. My frog and toad only cost me $25. That’s the total for both of them. Their continual supplies? Much more…
Detailed supply lists—like the dog supply list suggested by The Joyful Organizer—are a must when budgeting for a potential pet. Be sure to include the basics, but also be sure to include extra expenses or worst-case scenario expenses.
4) Do I really really really want this type of pet?
It may seem like a silly question, but the first three questions lead up to this. And it’s one of the most important! At the start, you may have your heart set on a certain type of pet. The reality of owning that pet is sometimes jarring. Believe me, I know. As a kid, I had romanticized the idea of owning a parrot. I’d think, “It’ll be so much fun to have a bird that can perch on my shoulder. He’ll answer me when I ask him questions. And when I don’t want to be bothered, he’ll stay in his cage and be quiet. It’ll be so so much fun!” I soon learned that the reality is that birds can be very messy, dusty, and independent minded. They need to be groomed regularly (nail and feather trimming) and sometimes the supplies aren’t cheap. And they are noisy. So noisy. Some—like mine—almost never shut up. I have loved having birds, but they’re not for everyone.
My advice to answering this important question is to go to a pet store. (This doesn’t apply to dog or cat ownership, as you should never purchase those from a store.) Go to the area dedicated to that type of pet—the aviary, the fish section, the section for small furry animals. Look closely in and around the habitats. How do you feel about cleaning up all of that? Shavings, water splashes, and food pellets can stain your wood floors and mess up your carpets.
Take a deep breath. How do you like that animal smell? Even the cleanest animal habitats have a smell (the wood shavings, the food, etc.).
How about the way those animals sound? Like the chirping and screaming of the birds, the bubbling of the aquarium filters, the squeaking of a hamster or mouse wheel? Now how do you feel about all of those things in your home?
For dogs or cats, I suggest you spend some time with families and friends who own some. Volunteer at a shelter or animal society. Walking and playing with a puppy or kitten is fun. Cleaning up their messes? Not so much.
Pet ownership requires sacrifice—time, money, and space in your home. For many of us, these sacrifices and annoyances are worth owning a pet. But how would a pet fit into your life? Will the pet require a lot of life changes or just some organizational changes in your activities and home? You may find that you’ll have to adjust your expectations and your plans. Maybe you’ll decide a fish is better than a puppy. Or a snake is better than a cat. Whatever the case, careful planning can help you make the right decision!
Karen Ang is a freelance writer and editor who has worked on many
books and projects dealing with pets and responsible petkeeping. She
has owned or cared for nearly every type of domestic household pet,
and often advises people on choosing and caring for the right pets.
Karen is waiting (in vain) for the day her neighborhood is re-zoned,
so she can adopt a miniature horse. In the meantime, she’s working on
her forthcoming blog on dogs, general pet care, and pet issues. You
can contact her at email@example.com