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7 Things to Consider Before Adopting a Pet

It’s a big decision, so check these boxes before you sign on the dotted line.

by Jodi Helmer
April 12, 2022
A woman staring at her computer while holding her dog close.
Jimena Roquero / Stocksy

Your pet wants you to read our newsletter. (Then give them a treat.)

You have permission from the landlord, a financial cushion, and lots of space at the foot of the bed. So this is it: you’re ready to adopt. Or are you?

Adopting a pet is a long-term commitment; you’ll be responsible for another life, and you have to be ready to take on whatever that entails. Before filling out that adoption paperwork, be sure you’ve thought through all the variables. Here are seven things to consider before adopting a pet.

1. You may need to adjust your schedule.

Instead of hitting the snooze button (again), you’ll need to hop out of bed and walk the dog, dish out breakfast, and scoop out the litter box — and then head straight home from work to serve dinner, manage potty breaks, and offer snuggles to dogs and cats who have spent the last eight hours waiting for you. “Different pets require different amounts of time and effort, but all pets need regular care and company,” says Holly Sizemore, Chief Mission Officer for Best Friends Animal Society. 

If you want every member of the household to participate in pet care, Ruth Allen, director of admissions and matchmaking at the ASPCA Adoption Center, adds, “It’s a good idea to draw up a schedule of who in the family will help with the care of your new pet, including playing, feeding, grooming and walking.”

2. You’ll never poop alone.

Your four-legged friend sleeps on the bed, watches your favorite shows, and keeps you company while you cook dinner — so don’t be surprised if he’s all up in your business while you’re doing your business. Go ahead and close the door. If he doesn’t scratch and whine, he’ll be waiting to greet you like you’ve been gone for days. Or invite him in to curl up at your feet. Who needs privacy, anyway?

3. Pets can be expensive.

Once you pay the adoption fee, you’ll need to budget for food, vet care, grooming, boarding, pet sitters, and other cost associated with pet ownership. Adopting from a shelter can help keep costs in check, according to Sizemore. “Pets for adoption from shelters and rescue groups are usually already spayed or neutered, vaccinated and microchipped — services that can cost hundreds of dollars,” she adds. “When you adopt a pet, you not only save a life; you save a lot of money.” 

Getting pet insurance or establishing a savings account will help with unexpected costs, but remember: Your bank account balance is an indicator of your ability to be a good pet parent. “It’s vital to consider the upfront costs when thinking about adding a new pet to your household, as well as the long-term financial obligations, [but] pet owners who are financially advantaged do not love their pets any more or less than those in different financial situations,” Allen adds.

4. There’s an ick factor.

Ask any pet owner: Poop happens. Vomit, too. Whether you’re scooping a litter box, picking up on a walk, or (oops) cleaning up an accident, it’s important to feel comfortable with all the bodily fluids your adorable companion produces. “Most people can get into a routine to clean up pet hair and all the other things that come out of dogs and cats and focus on all the wonderful benefits of having pets,” Sizemore says. “It makes the cleanup worthwhile.”

5. Plan on pet hair everywhere.

Keep the lint roller handy. Your favorite sweater and the shirt you planned to wear to work will inevitably be covered in hair — even if you have a non-shedding dog. Do a quick once over with a lint roller or wear a T-shirt that declares “dog hair is glitter” and embrace it.

6. Older animals make great companions.

Puppies and kittens get a lot of attention at shelters, but don’t overlook older animals. Sizemore notes that senior pets are as loving and loyal as their younger counterparts and are often easier to care for because they’ve outgrown puppy-like behaviors such as teething or potty accidents.

“A great benefit to adopting an adult pet is that you know exactly what you’re getting,” says Allen. “Their size, weight, and personality are already developed, so you can choose them for what they are, rather than for what you hope they’ll be when they grow up. When it comes to choosing the right animal to adopt, prospective adopters should keep an open mind [and] ask questions.”

7. Socialization matters.

You might be your dog’s BFF, but he needs other friends, too. “Dogs need training and socialization to learn how to be healthy and happy members of the family and that responsibility falls to you,” Sizemore says. 

Look for options like group obedience classes, take dogs on outings to the park or dog-friendly shops and restaurants, and introduce them to new people (and other dogs) to ensure that your dog is calm and well-adjusted. Knowing what to expect before adopting a pet can help make the transition to pet parenthood as smooth as possible.

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Jodi Helmer

Jodi Helmer is a North Carolina-based freelance writer who shares her home with an embarrassing number of rescue dogs and relies on four feral cats to patrol the barn. When she isn’t refilling food and water dishes, Jodi writes about animals for Scientific American, Sierra, WebMD, AKC Family Dog, Living the Country Life, and Out Here.