Charles Schulz once said, “happiness is a warm puppy,” and he couldn’t have been more right (of course, this goes for all other furry friends, too). There’s nothing like coming home from a long day to see your pet waiting by the door for you, watching the look on his face when you grab a tennis ball, or spending a rainy afternoon curled up with an animal at your feet.
The perks don’t stop there—statistics have shown that pet owners actually live longer, too. In fact, some offices encourage people to bring their dogs to work because pets naturally relieve stress and lift morale.
But, before you decide to bring one home, there are things you not only may want to consider, but need to consider. When you adopt that adorable ball of fur, you’re also signing up for a responsibility that you can’t even fathom until you’re actually standing in the middle of it.
Take it from me (and my adorable ball of fur), you don’t want to let yourself get sucked in by those puppy-dog eyes until you consider the following:
1. Do you have time?
Where you are in your life—career-, relationship-, and time-wise—should play heavily in to your decision process. If you’re working 80 hours a week, you definitely shouldn’t get a pet (OK, aside from a fish). And if you tend to go on spur-of-the-moment happy hours, weekend trips, or uh, “overnighters,” having a pet might really put a damper on your social life.
And it’s not just about being home to feed someone. Especially if you have a dog. If you can’t devote the necessary time to giving your pet exercise or play time, you’re going to have one bored (read: chewing up your shoe collection or clawing up your new couch) animal on your hands.
2. Are you a city mouse or a country mouse? Do you rent or own?
Cats can make it in city apartments fairly easily because they don’t need much space—a bed and scratching post will do. However, most dogs need room to run and play, so apartment living is often a far-from-ideal situation.
Also keep in mind that it can be tough to find landlords that allow furry friends of any kind in their buildings, and most complexes prohibit aggressive dogs on their premises for insurance reasons. (Breeds like pit bulls are commonly banned in whole cities and counties, too.)
There’s nothing more heart-wrenching than rescuing an adorable pup from a shelter, bringing him home, and realizing you either have to give him back or move, stat. And even if your current landlord welcomes animals, recognize your pet may limit your options next time you move.
3. Can you afford it?
This is not an exaggeration: Pets are really expensive. Whether you decide to drop a few thousand dollars on a specially bred teacup variety or you rescue one from a shelter, you’re still looking at some serious bucks in the long run.
Outside of food, toys, and bedding, there are yearly vet visits, shots, and grooming. And any time you go out of town, you can plan to tack on a serious chunk of change for boarding or a pet sitter.
There’s also the possibility for mishaps and accidents—coming up with $1,500 because your dog lost his fight with a basketball is not always an easy assignment. While pet insurance is an option, not everything is covered, and you still have to pay out of pocket up-front and get reimbursed later. Bottom line: If you don’t have the financial means to take care of a pet, you’re not ready for one.
4. Why do you want a pet?
Do you want someone to cuddle up with at night? Or a four-legged running partner? Whatever your reasons for wanting a pet, you should examine them and make sure they’re good ones—and that you have plenty of them—before moving forward. If you get a pet on a whim or “just to have one,” you’re not doing yourself or anyone else any favors. If anything, you’re setting both of you up for disappointment.
But, if you're ready for the responsibility, you'll get a best friend who loves you unconditionally. No person will love you in quite the same way your pet does, and that makes all the work absolutely worth it.
And if you're not quite ready, that's OK. There are other great options to get your furry fix: Volunteer at the Humane Society, foster a pet, or ask to dog sit for that hot neighbor downstairs.
Photo courtesy of Sam Gordon Photography.
Amanda Chatel is a freelance writer in New York City. She has written for AOL's Lemondrop and MyDaily, The Grindstone, New York Magazine, HowAboutWe and is a frequent contributor to The Gloss, YourTango, BlackBook, and the Huffington Post. She lives in the East Village with her dog, Hubbell, who is named after the Robert Redford character in The Way We Were, and not the telescope. People never catch the difference in spelling.More from this Author