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Each year, nearly seven million animals are surrendered to shelters. Many of these come from families that got a pet for a Christmas gift or because it was cute and ended up dumping it at a shelter when they realized the animal was more than an adorable accessory. Before you bring a dog into your home, consider these important factors of being a pet parent.

1. It’s a Commitment

When you bring a new pet into your family, you are committing to the care of this animal for the duration of its life. Depending on what pet you get, this could be anywhere from 10 to 30 years. When you think ahead to a decade or more in the future, you should be sure a pet will fit in with your life plans.

Consider major events like retirement, your kids going off to college and any long distance moves or career changes you anticipate. If a pet would put a wrench in your future plans, it would be better to not put an animal in a situation where it will need to be rehomed in a few years.

2. It’s a Huge Time Investment

When you are holding a cute wiggling puppy, you often do not think of the enormous amount of time you will have to devote to the care of your pet. When you get a pet, you are signing up for hours of extra chores every day. Many people find the extra work rewarding, but if you are not prepared for it, it may come as a nasty surprise.  One way to get your pet to be well mannered is to hire a dog trainer to help with obedience, listening and being a good companion animal.

A baby animal is always going to be more high maintenance than an adult. Puppies need to have hours of training a day, and kittens are little balls of crazy energy. Dogs need to be walked, exercised, fed and groomed. These chores all add up to a lot of extra time out of your day caring for your new pet. If you are not prepared to put in the time needed to adequately care for your animal, do not get one.

3. Pets Are Messy

Unfortunately, pets do not clean up after themselves, and they can make huge messes. While it would be nice if Rover got out the vacuum cleaner every once in a while to get fur off the couches, the reality is you are the one who will be doing the extra work that cleaning up after a pet requires.

Getting a puppy means frequent accidents inside until they are fully house trained. A good pet carpet cleaner, patience and a lot of paper towels get you through this stage. Pets shed fur their entire lives. Frequent sweeping, vacuuming and lint rollers are staples for all the extra fur removal you will need to do. If you like a clinically clean home, a pet may not fit into that environment.

4. Pets Are Expensive

One of the biggest surprises for new pet owners is the high cost of keeping an animal. If you can’t afford to add an extra 1,200 dollars to your annual budget for the care of your pet, you can’t afford one.  Fortunately, supplemental vet care is becoming more affordable for determining an emergency, off hours or non-routine veterinary visit as its following the tele-doctor model as a supplemental service- think youtube or the internet to research symptoms but with a professional bent.

Do your research into finding deals at your local pet store or online deals such as a Nutra Thrive discount. In addition to buying food, your pet will need regular grooming and at least one vet visit a year. If you want to take a vacation, you will need to spring for a kennel stay or a house sitter to look after your pet. If your pet is not healthy or is aging, this cost goes up significantly. Before you bring a pet into your home, make sure you are able to financially take care of it.

A pet can add so much love and joy to your household, but it is a huge commitment. If you take time to consider if you are ready to take on the extra responsibility, pet ownership can be one of the most fulfilling relationships in your life.

Alternative Ways to Love Animals without Full Responsibility

So, as it turns out, maybe you’re not ready to take the plunge into pet parenthood just yet. Some alternatives include co-parenting with a friend.  This can help cut costs in half as well as free up time and some responsibility.

Another option is to be a pet sitter for friends or family, volunteer for an animal rescue or sanctuary OR if even that’s more than you have to give, consider giving to a rescue organization monetarily or visiting an animal sanctuary (and make a trip of it, or at least have it be a highlight on one of your trips!).

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