Plan Ahead Before You Bring a New Pet Home

Kitten on a blanket

As an animal trainer, I work with prospective pet parents in a variety of settings, including animal shelters and private preadoption consultations. In every situation, my goal is the same: to help people identify their ideal animal companions. Careful planning and assessment are essential prior to adding a  new dog or cat to your family, regardless of whether the animal is the first pet in your home or the household already has numerous furry residents.

If you are considering a new pet, there are some important factors to consider before you commit.

Assess the Cost

Dogs and cats give us far more than we can give them when it comes to love and devotion. But it's important to be aware of the cost of adding a pet to your family — in terms of both money and time.

Pets require a substantial financial commitment; the shelter adoption fee or breeder cost is only the beginning of this investment. Ongoing costs include veterinary care (one or two wellness exams per year, plus surgery, medication and treatment as necessary), boarding, training, grooming, food, toys, bedding, containment options and other essentials. As you choose your new pet, think carefully about available resources. Breeds with genetic predispositions to certain health issues, for example, or giant breeds may be more likely to incur significant medical expenses than other breeds. Pet insurance is one possible way to offset costs over the long run and provide care even if the unexpected does occur, but that is another additional cost.

Money isn't the only issue, though. A pet requires a big time commitment, too. Cats may be stereotyped as antisocial and independent, but many felines need significant amounts of attention and interaction. Dogs also require ongoing quality time. Potential pet owners who work long hours outside the home, travel frequently or are consistently unavailable for long periods of the day or week will need to explore alternative options, like a pet sitter, doggie daycare or a dog walker, before committing to a new pet. If your current schedule makes it difficult to commit to caring for a pet, then it makes sense to postpone bringing a new cat or dog home. 

Finally, it is important to be aware that younger animals may require a greater commitment of both time and money than older pets. Puppies and kittens need time-consuming socialization and training; in addition, you will most likely need to pay for initial vaccinations and spay or neuter surgery. Younger animals typically have more energy than older pets and will have more to learn, like house training and good manners (although older pets may need to be reminded, too). These factors should be weighed carefully when you're deciding if a younger or older pet will best fit into your home. 


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