Is adopting a pet right for you?

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Whether you’ve been around furry friends your whole life or you’ve unexpectedly found yourself longing for a four-legged companion, pet ownership isn’t something to take on lightly. That said, pets can be wonderful friends and lasting companions, and there are few things more rewarding than providing a loving home to an animal in need. So what should you do?

The right answer on pet ownership depends on your unique circumstances, but if your community allows pets in your apartment or townhome and you’re thinking about taking the leap, read on for some questions you should consider first!

1. Does my lifestyle support pet ownership?

This is probably the most important question you should ask yourself, so plan on spending some serious time working through the answer. Owning a pet is more than making sure it’s fed on a daily basis. If you’re considering owning a dog, you will need to be home often enough to take it outside to use the bathroom—and you’ll need a place where you can easily walk it. Even a cat requires some maintenance, including regular feeding and litterbox cleaning. If your job requires a lot of travel, who will watch your pet while you’re gone? And if you are always on the go and spend long hours away from home—is that fair to your pet (or to you, since you’ll be the one feeling guilty?)

2. Can I afford a pet?

The most beguiling words in the animal kingdom are “free puppy.” Even if you adopt an animal from the local shelter (which is a wonderful path to take!) you need to be aware that a pet is not a free proposition. In addition to regular (or semi-regular) vet visits, starting with a pet’s initial battery of shots or the procedure to spay/neuter the animal, you’ll be paying for food, treats, toys, medicines and even the occasional reindeer antlers and winter sweaters. No really, you will. So make sure you have enough in your monthly budget to allow for the expense of a pet!

3. Am I a pet person?

This one is harder to answer, especially if you had a pet as a child and remember little more than rolling around in the yard, laughing and having fun. Now, as an adult with some ingrained habits, are you prepared for a cat to pounce onto your bed at 4 a.m. demanding to be fed, or a puppy needing desperately to go outside—even though it’s pouring rain? Pets also can have different personalities. Some are a little standoffish…while others want to be in your personal space all the time! Are you ready to be the pet owner your pet believes you can be?

4. Where will you be in a year—or five?

While it’s difficult to predict the future, owning a pet isn’t a short-term proposition. If you plan on leaving for a year of backpacking Europe within the next several months, this would not be the time to adopt a pet. Conversely, if you’re planning on moving apartments soon, it may be a better decision to wait until you are settled before adding a pet to your life. Animals need time to acclimate to a new environment—especially after being rescued from a shelter—so keep this in mind as you consider when to adopt.

If you’re ready to move forward with adopting a pet (and your apartment community allows it!), then prepare yourself for an adventure that will likely bring you more joy and love than you could ever expect. With the right mindset and a willingness to work through any challenges, pet ownership can be a life-changing experience that you’ll never regret!

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