If you have a pulse, it’s pretty likely that you melt at the sight of cute puppies and kittens. If no one were looking, you might just sweep up a few in your arms and run for the hills, right?
We get it.
Not only are pets achingly adorable, but they can also enrich your life – when you look at that little face, you imagine the little guy or girl becoming your new best friend forever and ever. But, just because pets are cuddly and sweet doesn’t necessarily mean you should get one…at least, not right now.
We’ll tell you what your parents told you when you were a kid begging for a dog: having a pet is a huge responsibility and it might not be one that you’re ready for at the moment. And because adopting a pet is not a decision you can easily undo, you should consider a few important things before you start thinking of cute names for your new furry friend.
The Here and Now
There’s no such thing as a short-term pet adoption, so before you dive head-first into pet parenthood, think about whether or not your daily life can realistically accommodate another living thing’s needs day in and day out.
- Cost – According to the ASPCA, you’ll spend more than $1000 in just the first year of owning a dog or cat. And that doesn’t take into consideration unexpected medical needs if your pet happens to develop any serious health issues.
If your furry friend should need surgery or special meds, you’ll have to pony up a sizeable amount of cash, which will be a bit of a challenge if you’re living on a ramen noodles budget. So, if you don’t have a steady paycheck and extra cash flow, having a pet will likely drain your financial resources.
- Time – Most pets require a pretty serious time commitment. Dog owners must make sure they’re home to walk and feed their pup at least twice a day. And if you get a puppy, you’ll also have to commit to time upfront to house-train your new little buddy.
Most college students and young professionals spend huge amounts of time away from home, and leaving a new pet alone for long stretches isn’t a good idea. Just like you, they get lonely and sad when left alone. Also, be sure to consider your travel habits – if you go on lots of trips, you’ll have to find a reliable pet sitter, which will be another hefty cost.
- Living Situation – You might like cats more than you like most people, but what about your roommate? Oh, he’s allergic? Oh, she can’t stand cats? Looks like your new kitty is now the most unwelcome roommate in the house. Here’s the thing – even if your roommies give you the thumbs up for a pet when you ask, there’s no guaranteeing they’ll be so excited once that little animal starts chewing their shoes or peeing on the kitchen floor.
When you have a new pet, there’s no telling how they’ll react to their new surroundings. And though you might be on board to put up with whatever adjustments have to be made in order to keep the pet, your fellow apartment or house dwellers might not be so patient. If it gets bad, you may even be put in the position of having to choose between finding your pet a new home or finding one yourself.
What’s to Come from Being a Pet Parent
Your current lifestyle could very well be perfectly suitable for a pet, but you also have to think about the near future. At this stage in your life, things can change on a dime, so really consider what life could have in store for you in the next few years.
- Moving – When you’re young, picking up and moving to a new apartment is a fairly frequent occurrence. You probably don’t have a ton of stuff, so no big deal, right? Well, when you’ve got a pet, moving can be a big deal. Whether you just head across town or to a new city, this change can be a scary and anxiety-inspiring upheaval for a cat or dog.
The environment would also significantly change if your significant other moves in with you. If your rescue cat has gotten used to just you and a new person is suddenly added to the home, there could be some fall-out. So, if you know you’ll be changing living situations sooner than later, it’s best to wait till you’re more settled.
- Work – As you probably know first-hand, Millennials don’t often stay in the same job (or even the same career) for too long. And each time you switch gigs, your life may change a bit, which will impact your pet’s life too. When your dog is used to being walked every day at 6 and suddenly you’re not home till 8, there might be trouble.
So, Are You Ready?
You’ve read all of our warnings and think that you’re ready to take on the responsibility, right? Great! As one last test, we recommend fostering a pet first. Given that cats and dogs have an average lifespan of about 12 years, fostering is a great way to try out the role of pet parent before committing for the long haul. If you have trouble taking care of an animal for a couple of weeks, you’ll know that now might not be the best time to adopt.
Another good solution is to adopt an adult dog or cat. Sure, the babies are so cute it hurts, but they’re usually more difficult to care for and can get into a lot more trouble. Getting a pet who’s had a couple of years to adjust to the world already may be the best solution for you.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure that you’ve give the decision the time and consideration it deserves. Bringing home a pet should not be an impulsive choice that you make on a whim because you see a sweet pair of eyes staring at you from a pet shelter window. You and your future furry friend will be much better off if you wait to adopt until you’re truly ready to become a pet parent.
UPDATE (10/31/17): Be sure to check out this guide to financial aid for pets from the paw-friendly crew at The Simple Dollar.