Thinking about getting a new dog or cat? This is a very exciting and important decision to make - I’m sure you’re all giddy inside with excitement. But this is a heavy decision that comes with lots of responsibility.
We got our new cat, Sr. Leopold III (aka Leo), after a few major life changes happened in our household and we knew we needed a new family friend to keep us company and help get us through the ups and downs of the upcoming months. It took us only one trip to the Humane Society to find him - and I think you’ll find that if you go searching, it won’t take you long to find your forever friend either.
But before you rush to get your next pet, it’s important to take a second, slow down and really assess if this is the best time for you and your family. Pets are a lifetime commitment and, even though you can’t predict the future, it’s important that you make sure you can always care for them well.
What You Need to Take Into Account Before Getting a New Pet
Pets take up a lot of time. With Leo, he needs brushed, fed, and watered daily and we also want to leash train him - so that also happens daily, usually taking up at least 30 minutes to an hour or so of time a day.
And that’s not considering the amount of time it will take to get your new pet acclimated to your home!
A new pet will need time to learn the new environment—for example, our new cat Leo had to chill out in my office before we slowly and methodically introduced him to the rest of the house and new animals over the course of days/weeks. We also made sure he had a litter box ready and a cat tree that he could hang out on / sleep on (especially since without it, he slept on the top of my bookshelf and would scare me every time he jumped off there that he’d break a leg!).
A new pet will need time to adjust to a routine—our cat Leo slept a ton the first few days and slowly had to build up trust around us and the other animals. Now, he is able to walk around the house confidently and has begun playing with the other cat in the house on a regular basis.
A new pet will need time to get to know each family member and become comfortable with other pets or children— what we did for this was allow the other animals to smell him and occasionally just see him hanging out in the office through the door. Then we put them out or locked them in a room while he got to explore the house on his own for a day. Then we introduced him to the other cat - letting them only see/smell each other at first (while we were holding them). Then more and more we let them be together on their own before introducing Leo to the dogs in the same manner.
You’ll need the time you need to grieve the loss of a pet before getting a new one—a big reason we got Leo was because we were told that our other cat was going to be moving away due to our roommate. While you can’t compare the new cat to the old cat, as they are both uniquely beautiful and amazing in their own ways, we didn’t want to feel too deeply the loss of the first cat. And so some people, like us, get a new pet right away, while others may wait years before getting a new pet. Both are perfectly fine so long as the family feels ready for the new pet.
Buying a dog costs money, whether you’re adopting or not. You’ll also need to invest in some basic equipment and necessities. For example, a new cat will need a litter box (we got an automated one), a cat tree, cat toys, cat food, a cat bowl (for food/water), scratching posts, up-to-date vaccinations and tags, a collar, a nametag, and so much more. I’d estimate that it costs a couple hundred dollars when everything is said and done.
You’ll also need to budget monthly for their caretaking. Food, toys, groomers, vets…they all cost money. I spend about $100 per month on food ($50), new kitty litter ($20), and general care/maintenance (grooming, vet, baths, nail trims, new toys, etc.) at around $30.
If you don’t have extra money to spare at the end of the money, can you really afford another pet?
Even the best behaved, cuddly furball will require some extra TLC and patience from their new human! Kittens and puppies generally have more energy than adult cats and dogs, so you’ll need to consider your pet’s age and energy levels before committing to them.
We all know life can be stressful. When I was working a full time job and trying to build up my businesses on the side, there was no time for a new pet in my life.
If you’re new on a job, about to move, or going through any other major life event that increases your stress levels, you might not have the patience to train or bond with a new pet. And that’s okay!
Catering to individual needs
Every pet is unique. When I first got Leo, I was surprised when he already knew how to use the litter box on his own and when we discovered he wasn’t a big toy fan (unlike the other cats in the house).
Some pets need regular, professional grooming. Others don’t. Some pets will need to be walked 3+ times a day. Others don’t. Some pets have medical conditions that must be consistently monitored. Others don’t.
Finding the right service provider—whether a groomer, vet, or dog/cat walker, —it’s good to consider your prospective pet’s needs and find folks to help you in advance of bringing your new pet home. Many providers have waitlists, so good to get ahead!
Is there extra living space inside and outside your home? Different species and breeds need different amounts of space, and younger pets often need more room to play than the sleepier, cuddlier older pets.
Before choosing a new pet, consider where they will play, use the bathroom, and relax and hangout (ours like to perch on the windowsills to look outside!) It’s a good idea to research which types of pets might do best with what you have available.
When you choose to take on a new pet, your life will never be the same again! This can be an amazing thing, but it can also be stressful at times. Consider your level of commitment to what it will take to keep your pet happy and healthy - and the lifestyle changes you’d like to make and those you’d rather not. For instance, people who stay out late at night might want an evening dog walker or pet sitter, while people who travel often may want to look into boarding facilities or figure out who will watch their pets while they are away.
Overall, it is very fulfilling to have a pet. They are your constant companion; they grow your sense of responsibility as you develop your care routine for them; and they also increase your activity and the joy you feel day to day as you discover new parts of their personality.
How did you know it was the right time for a new pet? Let me know on our Facebook page!