You’ve been scrolling through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter lately and notice more and more posts from friends and followers about their fluffy new pooch or adorable new kitten. You start to follow every account that posts cute pictures of the fur babies, and, soon enough, you start thinking: I want a pet.

Well, great! There are millions of companion animals worthy of your home. But, before you run out to the shelter for your new “son” or “daughter,” take a hard few days and think this through. Are you ready?

Here are a few things to consider before deciding if becoming a pet owner is right for you:

Finances

One of the most important aspects to consider when choosing to adopt a pet is simply: can you afford it? Not just in terms of paying for the adoption fees, but also in terms of covering the animal’s diet, fun or medical expenses. You should be financially stable enough to add a pet into your monthly or annual budget so the animal receives all of the care and attention it needs. While your enthusiasm to adopt a pet is a wonderful and crucial element to owning a companion animal, it’s equally important to be able to afford and care for the pet. Ask yourself a few hypothetical questions:

If I have to travel and need to bring my pet, can I afford this?

Can I afford a pet-sitter if the situation arises?

If my pet gets diagnosed with a disease, will I be able to pay for the medical expenses necessary to aid my pet’s health?

Having a pet can be similar to having a child as far as keeping up with regular care and expenses. You want to be able to foster a supportive, caring and healthy environment for your new fur ball. Just because you are currently financially stable does not mean this will always be the case. Life throws funny curve balls every now and then and may leave you strapped for money at some point. If this situation comes about, will you be able to make the promise and commitment that your pet will still be a top priority?

Time

Next, what is your free time currently like?

Adopting a pet sometimes requires a big time commitment and adjustment. At the beginning of your pet’s new life with you, you’ll need to have patience and take the time to teach your pet the layout of the land in the new house, where to go to the bathroom, what toys are his/hers, and what is off limits. You may have training expenses if your pet needs help learning how to properly interact with children, adults and other animals. Also remember to set aside time for adequate exercise, whether that may be a walk outside or play time with their favorite toy.

Remember, too, that you may be used to coming home and simply making dinner for yourself and/or a partner. Now, there’s another mouth to feed in the house and another being that is craving attention. Will you happily set aside time to care for your newly adopted friend?

Making the time commitment is not simply a year-long promise. You should research the approximate lifespan of the animal you are considering for adoption and see if you are ready for the dedication involved. So long as you are alive and well, will you care for this animal for its entire earthly life? It’s tough to think about sometimes, but it should be done before adopting a pet.

Relationships

Though this topic may not resonate with everyone, for those that it does, you should consider who else is directly involved with your life and make sure they are on board with your decision of adopting a pet.

If you are in a romantic relationship that you foresee being a part of for a long time, try to have a conversation with your partner about the idea of becoming pet owners. Even if it will technically be your pet, if you will be seeing someone quite often, you have to know their thoughts on the matter. Not only is this beneficial for the relationship between you and your partner, but also for you and your future pet. You want to make sure that you can feel confident having this person around your new pet. Not having a conversation about getting a pet could result in tension between your partner and yourself and could create a stressful living situation for your animal. Neither of which are ideal circumstances.

If you will be splitting payments between you and another person, it will be beneficial to sit down and discuss how the payments will be handled. Will one pay for medical expenses, while another pays for food and toys? Will all payments will be split in half? There is no right answer, it’s just a matter of clearing up expectations before jumping into pet adoption.

One more item in terms of relationships: try to make sure there are no allergies involved with the animal you want to adopt. Simple conversations about these issues will create peace when moving forward in the decision.

Research

One of the last things to consider before making your final decision is simply, have you done your research?

Have you figured out what animal you want or what specific breed you are looking for? Do you know about the care and safety involved with this specific animal? What should its diet consist of? What is the approximate nature of its personality? What kind of exercise regime will be needed to keep them healthy and strong?

Adopting a pet will be more fun if you have an idea of what you’re getting into. Of course, part of being a pet owner is learning on the fly, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do primary research to prepare yourself.

Excitement

The very last thing to acknowledge before making your decision: are you excited to be a pet owner?!

You are going to be turning your world upside down, for the better, and bringing a new life into your house! Not only will you be giving an animal a happy life, they will be making your life happier in return. If the thought of becoming a pet owner doesn’t excite you and make you want to take a lap around the block, then maybe this isn’t for you. On the other hand, if you’re jumping for joy at the thought of owning a new pet, then congratulations! Decision time is upon us.

Decision Time

You’ve confidently gone over your financial obligations and time commitments, have had conversations with close relationships, done your research, and are excited above all else. You should be ready now to adopt a new pet.

In retrospect, if you’ve realized that you are not at a point in your life where you are ready to adopt, there are still so many ways you can be involved in helping animals’ lives. Donate food or toys, volunteer at an animal shelter or become a pet foster parent, or simply work to raise awareness about the needs of animals. There are numerous ways you can make a difference if you just put yourself out there. If and when you decide you are ready to make the commitment to adopting a pet, there will be one waiting to be loved by you. —Maureen Mierke

Maureen Mierke is a writer, cat lover, travel enthusiast and ping pong aficionado. She is also a proud Ohio University alumna.

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