Chances are, you grew up with at least one pet. If you didn’t, then you had friends who did. In my family’s house, we had a long list of dogs, cats, and birds. My husband’s family also included horses, rabbits, chickens, and even a baby raccoon.
Now that you’re married and on your own, you may find yourself longing for a little animal companionship. Or maybe, your spouse is the one wanting a pet. Here are five questions to ask yourself before bringing another “member” into your household:
1.) Does our landlord allow pets/are we able to take care of a pet space wise?
At most apartments and houses that you rent, pets are a big “no-no”. Chances are, you signed a contract saying you wouldn’t have any pets in the building. If that’s the case, then obviously pets are already a no-go. However, don’t be afraid to ask your landlord. At our first rent house, we weren’t allowed to have pets. When I really began wishing for a puppy, my husband simply asked our landlord. He already knew we were good tenants, and would take care of any damage, so he agreed with conditions. The dog had to be small and not bother the neighbors, and it was only allowed inside as a puppy, and only on the tile and linoleum (no carpet). If your landlord still says no when you ask, don’t go behind his back. You may need a good reference from him later on, and hiding a forbidden pet isn’t exactly the way to go about it.
If your rental already allows pets, or your landlord agrees to let you have one, you still need to think about the space you have and if getting a pet is wise. You may be allowed to keep a large, active dog in an apartment, but you may regret it when he tears up your furniture in his boredom. Even a small dog can become a problem if you don’t have a good place to let it go to the bathroom outside. Think about your space and what it can handle. Sometimes, the best compromise is to get something like a fish or a bird. Not only will your landlord be happier with this arrangement, but it also might work better for you for the time being. Keep in mind that any damage your pet does will be your responsibility to fix. Don’t get a pet if you’re not prepared for this.
2.) Can we afford a pet right now?
Shelters are full of puppies and kittens that people really wanted, but realized too late that they couldn’t take care of them. Before you run out and get a pet, think about the costs of having one and if you can really afford it. Besides food (which can get expensive…especially with bigger dogs), you need to take into account vet bills, grooming, supplies (eg, leash, collar, dog run), spaying/neutering, getting someone to take care of your pet while on vacation, and any damage they may inflict. My husband and I love our pets, but they do cost us a pretty penny. One time we came into the kitchen to find our cute little beagle puppy literally shredding a $20 bill. Apparently she found it in my purse and pulled it out. While that may seem like an “unexpected” cost, remember that pets are full of surprise costs. What if your pet gets sick or gets hit by a car? Be prepared for unscheduled vet visits from time-to-time…they’re simply part of having a pet and you can’t avoid them completely.
3.)Do we have the time and energy to take care of this pet?
Let me tell you, pets can be a lot of work…some more than others. For instance, if you plan on crate training a puppy, be prepared for lots of “accident” cleanups and lots of sleepless nights while the puppy cries. Before you run away in fear, however, let me tell you a little secret: the more you exercise and play with a dog, the better behaved he’ll be. A lot of dogs need walks everyday plus playtime. If you don’t have the time for this, then don’t get the dog. Trying to correct their bad behavior will not be worth it, trust me. Other dogs will need to be brushed and bathed regularly, and let’s not even talk about training. Are you prepared for that?
When thinking about getting a pet, be sure to match your abilities to the pet’s needs. Cats are relatively easy to take care of, but you’ll still need to worry about cleaning out the cat box and feeding the cat. Every pet will take a little work—be prepared for that.
4.)Have I done my research?
You won’t know how much exercise or time a certain pet will need unless you do your research. Certain breeds or animals will simply be better suited to your circumstances. For instance, you don’t want to get a dog who is unpredictable with children if you’re planning on starting a family in the next few years. You also don’t want to get a dog who bonds only to one person if it’s supposed to be a family dog. Before getting any pet, be sure you do your research! A little time up front will save you a lot of pain and hassle later.
5.) How does my spouse feel about getting a pet?
This is by far the most important thing you need to think about. Just because you want to get a pet doesn’t mean your husband or wife does! If you coerce them into allowing you to bring one home, that cute little pet just might become a wedge between the two of you. Trust me, no pet is worth harming your marriage.
On the other hand, your spouse may be fine with getting a pet, but may have different views on what kind or what role it will play. I grew up always having inside dogs, whereas my husband always had outside dogs. I don’t notice a few dog hairs around the house, but my husband always notices them…and they really bother him! While we’ve compromised a bit as far as puppies are concerned (they’re allowed in the house at first), our dogs are all going to be outside dogs for the foreseeable future. While I could nag about the issue, or let the dog in the house anyway, I have mostly learned to live with the situation. Yes, I would love to let the dogs inside the house with me, but at this time that would be more detrimental than beneficial to our marriage. If your spouse doesn’t want a pet right now, doesn’t want it inside, or doesn’t want you to baby it like it’s your child, then accept that and move on. However much you may want a pet, it’s not worth putting a thorn in your relationship.
If you’re the one who’s not so keen on getting a pet, then consider compromising for the sake or your spouse. Find a solution that can work for you both.
Pets can be a wonderful joy in your life, and can often make you feel more like a real family. My husband and I have a beagle, a cat, and a nine-week-old boxer puppy. Yes, that may seem like a lot for a young family with a baby on the way, but we own our own house, have a big yard for them to play in, and have the ability to take care of them. Most importantly, while we still differ on the inside/outside dilemma, we both enjoy having them.
Weigh the pros and cons before getting a pet right now. Remember, waiting a few years won’t hurt anyone. A pet is a big responsibility, and not one you should take lightly.
Do you have pets and what have you and your spouse decided about them? Do you feel they’re more beneficial or detrimental to your marriage and family?