The first thing that you should keep in mind before deciding to open your home to a companion animal is location.
Consider the following:
- Think about the environment of where you live: Are the summers extremely hot? Does it snow a lot in the winter? Is there a crazy rainy season that could lead to flooding?
- What is the atmosphere like where you reside: Are there lots of “pet”-friendly places (e.g., parks, restaurants, stores, etc.)? Is there a lot of traffic in the area? What are the local laws regarding leashes, fences, etc.?
- Do you live in a house with a yard? Or in an apartment? Is your landlord OK with tenants having animals? If so, are there certain breeds the landlord allows or prohibits?
These are just some of the questions that you should answer about location before you commit to a companion animal. Obviously, adopting a dog who has a heavy coat would not be ideal for a place with hot summers. A cat may be a better choice for a companion if you live in an apartment since cats don’t typically need as much space as dogs do. Just make sure that the location is suitable for whatever type of animal you decide would be happiest in your home.
Your lifestyle is something else to evaluate before you choose a companion animal.
- Consider your current and future relationships and family status. Are you married or planning on getting married? Is your significant other open to having animals? Do you have kids or plan on having them?
- What are your career commitments? Do you have to travel often because of your job? Is your job schedule flexible, or do you work a solid 9 to 5? Are you always on call?
- What about the rest of your time? Do you have time to add another responsibility to your schedule? Do you have an active life, or do you prefer to lounge around?
Adopting a companion animal will likely lead to a lifestyle change that you need to be prepared for. Depending on what kind of animal you get, you should expect to care for him or her for at least 10 years. In addition, animals need love, care, and time. If you’ll constantly be gone on business trips, now may not be the best time to bring an animal into your life.
The last thing that you should remember before bringing a companion animal home is the liability that you are about to take on.
- What do your finances look like? Do you have a stable income? Are you willing to pay to give your new friend the best possible life?
- Are you ready to take ownership? Are you willing to handle complaints that may come from neighbors, friends, or family members? Are you willing to put your companion animal’s needs above your own?
Adding a cat or dog to your life is one of the best liabilities that you can take on, but you still need to be ready for the responsibility. Just like humans, animals require food and water, and you also need to consider the cost of veterinary care. As a guardian, you also need to make decisions based on the animal’s needs, not necessarily on what may be most expedient for you.
If you have taken the time to think about the answers to the questions above and know that you can give an animal a loving home with a fantastic life, go for it! Sharing your life with an animal is one of the most rewarding experiences that you can ever have, and you’ll be astonished to see how much animals can teach you about life itself.
Two last pieces of advice: Always adopt—never shop. Adopt an animal from a local shelter instead of buying one from a pet store. You’ll be saving money and a life. And be sure to have your new companion spayed or neutered.
Post written by former PETA intern Victoria Wall