Having a pet can be great: you have an in-house friend, not to mention looking after a pet is a great way for kids to learn responsibilities. A lot of families bite the bullet and just get the pets that their children want, but what if you’re not so sure about your family?
One of the most burning questions running through your mind is - whether or not all the responsibility will fall to you, because let’s face it, 9 out of 10 times, it does. But, what about those other little nagging questions that you’re not too sure about? Will your family work well with a big dog, or a smaller one? Is a cat better off in your home?
Maybe just a hamster, or that God-awful snake your son has been talking about, would be a great fit. How do you know which pet is right for you, and if owning a pet is right for your family? We don’t want to scare you off, but this is a big commitment. Adopting a pet is a wonderful and rewarding experience, so make sure you’re doing what’s best for you and your potential pet by doing these 21 things to prepare:
21 Visit the Local Shelter
Shopping around without actually shopping is a great first step in the adoption process. It’s important to explore your options and get a feel for what’s out there. Don’t just assume you know what pet you want, go and take a look. See how different every animal is and get a better feel of what it is that you want.
20 Make a Family Schedule
If your family wants a pet, then they should be ready for shared responsibility. So, you’ll need a plan.
Making a specific chore list for you, and your family, is a great way to see if the responsibility of owning a pet will work out in your home. Going for a walk, letting them outside, bathing, feeding, changing their cage lining (if you're considering a small caged animal). All of these seem simple and like they won’t be much work – until you have to do them day after day.
19 Follow Pets on Social Media
There are some famous pets on social media (some that even have book deals!) that you can follow to see the sometimes glamorous life of a pet owner. No promises that your chinchilla will go viral, but these accounts can give you a lot of ideas of your own, seeing how other people manage their pets.
18 Talk to a Vet
Not only is it good to familiarize yourself with your local veterinarian or shop around for starters, but a vet can you give you plenty of insight on the trials and tribulations of being a pet parent. They’re sure to have great (and terrible) stories to share, not to mention the type of medical expenses and struggles you could be facing with your pet.
17 Watch Animal Planet
Shows like Too Cute! might romanticize the pet-owning experience, but there's plenty of content on Animal Planet to get you thinking. Gather the family around to catch a few episodes to see the realities of bringing an animal into a home. This will also be a great way to have discussions about being responsible for a creature of your own.
16 Try Pet Sitting
Baby-sitting a pet, whether it’s you or your children who needs to the reality check, is a great way to see if a certain pet is right for you. Believe us when we know it's exciting to see your friends’ dog and you and your love to play with her, but what if that fur was all over your floors and she’s waking you up in the middle of the night for no reason? You’ll definitely have wanted to know the back story on this aspect of a pet parent as well.
15 Visit the Pet Store
Think up all the things you’d need to make your pet’s life a healthy and happy one. Food, medicine, toys and treats. You may even want to put them in a shopping cart and add up the costs. Knowing if you can afford this addition to your household will help you out down the road.
14 Set Aside Some Money
Pets can be expensive when it comes to day-to-day necessities, never mind throwing in unexpected vet visits. Try setting aside the amount of money that you would need to spend on the wanted animal, much like you would when thinking of buying a house or a car.
Don’t forget initial items such as: toys, kennel or cage, bed, special shampoo, leashes (if needed), scratching posts, or anything specific to their needs. Make a list, check prices of items online and get a rough estimate of your monthly costs.
13 Make Your Home Pet Friendly
Explore your surroundings to see how you can make it the right environment for your new friend. Yard space is just one thing to consider, but you’ll also want to be sure you have a surface for a terrarium or a safe location for a small rodent to roam around. There are always hidden problems to uncover, like wires or nice book cases that could get chewed up.
Not to mention hiding your slippers if you’re getting a baby dog (their teething process is very harsh on your expensive heels, trust us!)
12 Specifics Matter
That being said, raising specific animals (even breeds) cost specific amounts of money. A large dog will incur different bill amounts than a smaller one. And, of course, a hamster will cost significantly different than a dog or a cat.
Put aside those specific money issues for each animal, especially if you're thinking about getting more than one, or if you simply haven’t decided yet. When faced with two different bill choices, your decision may surprise you.
11 Start Small
Start off with a smaller pet that will take the least amount of responsibility and money to see how your family fares. Try getting a fish, then moving to a hamster or guinea pig, then to a cat, then – finally – a dog. Perhaps you won’t need this order at all, maybe your family does so well with the fish that you move right up to the dog or cat.
You may end up flushing five fish down the toilet in one week, which is a great indicator of how you really aren’t ready to be a pet parent yet.
10 Try Fostering a Pet
There are so many dogs, and cats, that need temporary homes nowadays that most shelters make use of fostering agencies. This is a great way to see if a specific animal will work with your family dynamic, and a great way to try out pets.
You may only have the animal for a week or two, or a few months, resulting in some quality companion time, while the cost and responsibilities of having an animal for their entire life span is cut drastically short.
9 Stuffed Animals, Anyone?
Okay, this one may sound weird, but hear us out! To use for those who fear their children will take on the large responsibility early in and then peter out, try the fake baby that we have all had in high school, but with a stuffed animal of choice instead.
We’re not suggesting families drag a stuffed dog down the street in an attempt to take it for a ‘walk,’ but pretending to take care of the stuffed animal, feeding it, cleaning its poop etc will remind your children how often real animals will need attention and care.
8 Walk Some Neighborhood Dogs
Picking up a neighborhood dog walking gig can help your children earn some extra money. It will also simultaneously teach them responsibility and give them the feel of different types of dogs.
Plus, great exercise, some quality time with neighborhood dogs and time spent outdoors? Even if you end up not getting a pet in the long run, what’s not to love?
7 Volunteer at an Animal Shelter
Volunteering will get some great points on those college resumes and CVs, while allowing yourself and your children to interact with different animals. Bonus points: you’ll get to learn lots in terms of experience when you volunteer, and you can even make volunteering a family exercise!
6 Prepare for Vacation Time
Try taking, or planning, a vacation with the idea in mind that you already have a specific pet. Are you taking the pet with you on vacation or are you leaving them at a crèche? Does someone need to come and feed your animal, or take full responsibility and look after your pet for the full vacation time? Pricing and schedules can conflict with all vacations, big or small.
5 Go for Walks at Ridiculous Hours
This one will only apply to you if you own a dog, but cats may paw at your face at 5:00am as they’re hungry, and apparently to cats that’s the only thing you’re good for.
For some, thinking about waking up at ungodly hours brings back a shaking fear of little-to-no-sleep same as when you had a newborn, but the reminder may be needed. Just as you wish for another baby when your kids are grown, bringing in the negatives may help you make the right decision.
4 Animal Lending Facilities
Is there an animal lending facility near you? These types of ‘libraries’ can allow you and your family to take care of a pet (usually smaller animals such as hamsters, guinea pigs, etc) without the headache of having to buy everything it needs and wind up in the sad situation where it doesn't work out.
This can be used as a test run before part-time pets, such as dog sharing. Which brings us to our next point.
3 Try Dog Sharing
The internet is a strange and beautiful place, nowadays, and you can find anything you’re looking for. If you’re thinking about getting a dog, but aren’t sure if you can handle the responsibility 24/7, dog-sharing may be right for you.
Dog-sharing websites allow you and your family to take care of a dog on a part-time basis, relieving you of day-to-day activities and expenses. Again, just like fostering, volunteering or pet sharing, is an excellent way to get a feel of what it’s like to actually have a pet.
2 Class Pets Are Excellent for Children
Class pets are usually small animals like hamsters or guinea pigs, making it an easy step for your child to start learning. Use this time to really talk your children about how much responsibility it is to own an animal, and take advantage of the weekends when they take the animal home to care for it.
1 Adopt an Older Animal
Say your kids have passed all the above tests, but you’re still a little worried about puppy training, or losing a tiny kitten behind your couch. Adopting an older animal can be the perfect answer for your family! They’re already trained, love to sleep, need lots of love, and as awful as it sounds, another plus is that their lifespan will be shorter than that of a puppy entering your household.
Read over their history carefully before adopting. And know that since most people prefer “cute” or “young” pets, most older pets are destined to live their old lives languishing in animal shelters. If nothing at all, you’ll be able to provide an innocent animal a life of love, something that it’ll cherish till its very last breath.