10 Questions to Ask Yourself if You Want to Be a Pet Parent
Of course, like having children, there are many responsibilities that come with being a cat or dog parent. Before you embark on this special journey, here are some important questions to ask yourself about being a pet parent.
Can you financially care for a pet?
Even if your pet is given a clean bill of health by a veterinarian, injuries and unexpected illnesses can pop up. Dogs and cats should visit a veterinarian at least once a year, but when you add in the cost of spaying or neutering, anti-flea and tick medications, dental care, food, supplies and training – it can cost a lot to raise a dog or cat. Certain breeds also require professional grooming throughout the year, which adds to your expenses.
According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), routine costs for dog parents can be $1,380 annually, cat parents can spend about $908 a year. Those calculations don’t include ongoing medical care, health emergencies and surgical vet visits, which make up the largest expense for a dog parent, while the largest cost for a cat parent is generally food.
Keep in mind, dogs can live an average of 15 years or more, and cats can live up to 20 years or more, so consider the cost of raising them throughout their lives.
How old are you?
Rescuing kittens or puppies requires commitment for their lifetime, so it makes sense to adopt them when you’re younger. Older dogs and cats can make ideal companions for an older pet parent by providing a rewarding lifeline for both of you in your senior years.
Do you have allergies?
Before adopting a cat or dog, be sure no one in your household is allergic to pet dander, the most common reason for humans to have allergic reactions to pets. Dander is made up of tiny, dry skin particles that flake off pets and fill the air when they shed their hair and fur. If a doctor can provide shots to successfully treat the allergic symptoms, then it’s not a deal breaker unless shots aren’t an option. Certain dog and cat breeds who produce less dander than others are often recommended for allergy sufferers, but unfortunately, there aren’t 100% nonallergenic pets.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) recommends no-shed or low-shed dog breeds who have hair-like single coats, such as Bichon Frises, Maltese and Poodles. Breeds who don’t tend to shed as much may produce less dander. If you have allergic reactions to dogs and cats, but still want to be a pet parent, check out this guide to less allergenic breeds.
Do you own your home or rent?
Even if you own a condo or apartment, you still have to be sure the complex permits pets. Also consider what would happen if you had to move suddenly, especially when you rent. Finding a pet-friendly apartment can be difficult, so if you’re planning on moving anytime soon, be sure your new accommodation allows pets.
Changing partners or living situations?
What if your new spouse, partner or roommate doesn’t like pets? What if that person has a dog or cat, but the Brady Bunch arrangement won’t work because your pets don’t get along? Before you advance any living arrangement, discuss your love of pets. You never want to abandon or give away a dog or cat, especially when they’ve been raised in your home since they were pups or kittens.
What’s your work/life balance?
If you’re a workaholic, consider adopting a cat who tends to be more independent than a dog who needs frequent walks for bathroom breaks and exercise. Keep in mind, however, that even the most free-spirited feline still needs to be fed and nurtured.
Do you travel a lot for work or pleasure? Boarding pets can be costly and may not be the healthiest environment for your dog or cat. Having trustworthy, caring friends to feed, walk and watch your pet while you’re away is a great solution. Pet-sitting in clients’ homes is also popular but requires vetting your caretaker as diligently as you’d interview a babysitter.
Where do you live?
Are you in suburbia, but live near a busy intersection or highway? If so, do you have a fence, or will you be installing one? Even with a fenced-in yard, pets shouldn’t be left outside alone, especially when you’re not home.
Domestic cats are usually kept inside, especially if their nails are clipped. If you get a cat, consider using a harness and leash to take your feline outside for a walk. Also, be sure your yard has enough shade. Pets need easy access to shade and fresh water if they’re out in the sun.
If you live in a city, consider the neighborhood. Are there places to safely walk your dog? Are bark parks within easy access? Are there other pets inside your building who may not get along with your dog or cat?
De“bone”air Urban Dogs
If you live in or plan on moving to a city, these dog breeds can make great urban dwellers:
- Boston Terriers (Hey, they’re even named after a city)
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
- Chihuahuas (Caveat emptor: can be loud, yippy barkers)
- English Bulldogs
- French Bulldogs
- Great Danes
- Greyhounds (Pro: calm and relaxed. Con: may have to train them to negotiate stairs)
- Havanese (Pro: hypoallergenic fur! Con: Fur requires more maintenance)
- Maltese (Pro: No excessive shedding)
- Yorkshire Terriers
Can you handle the unexpected?
List all of the pet parenting scenarios that can occur to consider how well you can handle them. If scratched furniture, cleaning up poop or vomit, broken items, chewed shoes, and flea or pest infestations will quickly raise your blood pressure, you may find pet parenting too stressful.
Planning on having children?
Remember, dogs and cats become part of your family. If you’re adding babies to the mix, you’ll need to assess the timing. Pets have a positive effect on humans and when children are raised with a dog or cat, the animal often becomes their best friend and protector.
Your child will need to be taught how to play nice, not pull tails or provoke your pet in any way that could be dangerous for either of them. Raising a child at the same time as a dog or cat brings even more responsibilities and potential stressors to your life. You may want to wait until your child is older and your lifestyle has adapted to the hustle and bustle of raising a baby first.
Ready to take the compatibility test?
Are you physically active or do you prefer curling up on the couch to watch TV? Early riser or late sleeper? Research breed personalities to help find the right dog or cat for your lifestyle. The last thing a homebody pet parent needs is a working dog who needs lots of exercise and outdoor time.
If questions like these seem daunting, don’t let them discourage you from parenting a dog or cat. Giving a loyal companion a loving, forever home is one of the most generous commitments you can make. You just want to be sure the timing is right and it’s the best decision for you and your new best friend.