The start of a new year can seem like a good time to bring home a new pet. Since many pets given as holiday gifts are relinquished to shelters in January, it is also a great time to adopt. But, the responsibility of a pet should not be taken lightly. Consider the following tips before you head to your local pet adoption center. 

#1: Decide what you are looking for in a pet

Do you want your pet to to take part in your active lifestyle, or are you rather sedentary and looking for a couch companion? Questions like these will help guide you toward the appropriate pet for you and your lifestyle. If you want a four-legged friend to accompany you on long hikes, you may want to look into adopting a younger, large-breed dog. If low-key snuggles and gentle exercise is all you’re looking for, a cat may be more your style. If you have ample time and dedication to providing special care, an older pet or one with health concerns may be a rewarding option. Take a look at your lifestyle, decide what attributes are most important to you, and then do your research. Some characteristics to consider when looking for a pet include:

  • Activity level of both you and the prospective pet
  • Pet talents, such as sense of smell or retrieving abilities, and how these mesh with any activities you enjoy 
  • Level of interaction you desire in a pet
  • Pet health considerations
  • Pet grooming requirements
  • Pet personality

#2: Think about the kind of pet who would suit your family

Whether you have toddlers or teenagers, factoring in the children is important when choosing a family pet. Fearful, anxious, or senior pets may be better suited in a home without small children or too much stimulation. Puppies and kittens are often great choices for kids of all ages, but be mindful of their razor-sharp teeth, pointy nails, and lack of obedience and boundaries, at least until they are trained. Small mammals, such as rabbits or guinea pigs, are popular choices with families and are suitable for children approximately 4 and older. If you are adopting a pet so your children will learn ownership responsibility, remember that ultimately, the responsibility lies on the parents. 

#3: Consider the amount of time you will need to dedicate to a pet

All pets require time and care, but some pets demand more attention than others. Puppies need time, patience, and consistency from their owners, along with frequent potty breaks. High energy, large-breed dogs need daily exercise and mental stimulation to keep them happy and out of trouble. If you spend most of your time away from home, you may want to reconsider whether a pet is right for you. Or, you may want to think about using doggy daycare facilities or hiring a pet caretaker to spend time with your pet in your home, and add in that cost. 

#4: Pets can be messy

From poop-scooping to pet hair, pet ownership is not always easy or glamorous and, in fact, can be downright dirty. This is not a surprise for some, but for those who’ve never owned a pet or prefer a neat and tidy home, a new pet can be a big, sloppy shock. You’ll need to keep your cleaning closet stocked and invest in a good quality vacuum. Here are a few messy situations you may find yourself in:

  • Cleaning up excrement in the yard, or inside, if your pet isn’t quite housetrained
  • Vomit on the carpet
  • Kitty litter on the floor
  • Drool on the couch
  • Pet hair on your clothes
  • Pet food and water bowl spills
  • Dirty paw stains on your favorite rug

#5: Adopting a pet is a lifelong commitment

When considering pet adoption, think beyond the cute face or floppy ears. Pet ownership requires time, patience, finances, and unconditional love for the life of the pet, which can be upwards of 15 years. Spend time thinking how a pet would change your life—good and bad—and make your decision accordingly.

If you have questions about adopting a pet, or need recommendations on the right pet for you, contact our veterinary team.