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3 Things to Consider Before You Adopt a Pet

Some background: two months ago, I became a new cat mom, and it was one of the best things I've done this year. My 8-month-old kitten makes adorable appearances in my zoom classes, senses when I'm feeling anxious and is a great cuddle buddy when I'm binging TV shows. But he also wakes me up too early, attempts to assassinate my house plants and doesn't cover his pee when he uses his litter box. And those are the things I haven't been able to train him out of.

With COVID-19 keeping us from seeing our real-life BFFs, people are turning to pet adoption to stave off the loneliness blues, and I don't blame them. If quarantine has you realizing that you're an adult who can go out right now and come back to your apartment with a new puppy, I get it. Let's just talk about a few things before you google 'shelters near me,' though.

  1. 1. How Are You Going to Afford One?

    It's true, being home all day is the perfect environment to raise a puppy or kitten. Now that you don't have to make daily trips to campus, you could really give your potential pet all the attention they could ever want. You won't have to put that cutie in a crate when you need to go clock in because you're not working eight-hour shifts anymore! But that's the problem. If you're an essential worker and you're (hopefully) getting that hazard pay, feel free to skip this section. If you're unemployed right now… yeah, we gotta talk.

    I hate to sound like your mom, but she was right when you were in fourth grade, and she's right now. Pets are expensive especially if you're getting a puppy or kitten. If you're planning on getting a job or side hustle that has you working remotely, you should probably wait to get a pet until you, A) actually have that income, and B) have had it for a while. You never want to end up in a situation where you have to make the decision to buy dinner for yourself or dinner for your new fur-baby. 

    Be responsible, do the math. Pet expenses don't seem like a lot when you're looking at the .80 cent wet food cans at Kroger, but you're not just buying food. If your heart is set on a puppy or a kitten, they're going to need to see the vet and have a good number of toys to stay healthy and happy. Sure, now you have a lot of time to play with them, but pets can get bored if you're only ever playing with the same three toys.

    Pet mom tip: keep everything you buy in rotation! Switching up stimuli keeps their playtime interesting and will save you some money, too. I'd even recommend doing this for the flavors you're feeding them (just be careful you don't only buy the new flavor you're introducing them to—just in case they hate it and refuse to eat it).

  2. 2. What About Your Future Plan?

    photos of study abroad

    So, yeah, you're probably not pulling a Donna Sheridan and escaping to a Greek island this Summer or fall semester. But if your graduation date isn't just around the corner, studying abroad might still be in the cards for you and having a pet will, unfortunately, complicate that. 

    One thing is to get a pet sitter for spring break, but figuring out who is going to take care of your pet for an entire semester is very different. Ask yourself if a pet will fit into your academic plan. How will your pet feel when quarantine is over, and you're back on your work grind? Basically, how well would your hypothetical furry friend fit into your pre-COVID life? I know sometimes it seems like this will be our new normal but the truth is things will go back to how they were before. Have a serious conversation with yourself about why you didn't get a pet before the quarantine. If your lifestyle wasn't pet-friendly then, bringing a pet into your life now might be an irresponsible choice. 

    Pet mom tip: think wisely about what kind of pet you want to get. Be prepared to commit to that animal for as long as it's alive. If you're a workaholic like me, consider a quarantine buddy who's more flexible, like an adult cat or a rabbit.

  3. 3. Are You Ready For Even More Change?


    It feels like all we talk about nowadays, but that doesn’t stop it from being our reality: we’re living in a really weird time right now. A little ball of energy racing around your apartment might seem like just the thing you need to get you out of bed, but new pets always come with challenges you could have never accounted for, and that might not be what’s best for you if you’re already struggling. Training an animal to be accustomed to your lifestyle is easiest done when you have a routine you follow every day. If you don’t have a routine right now, a pet could be what you need to stick to one or... it could be another hurdle. After getting my kitten, I actually ended up missing more classes because he wouldn’t let me sleep at night. If you’re already struggling with something like sleeping, a new animal could actually make your mental health worse rather than better. 

    You might have read the past two sections and realized you’re totally prepared to raise a new pet on your own, both financially and commitment-wise, but don’t get too caught up in the excitement and forget to really check in with yourself. If you’re in a headspace where you might not be up to giving your fur-baby the playtime it needs, seriously consider if waiting might be the best option for you. Not having done this step properly before getting my kitten is my only regret, and I’d hate for you to make the same mistake. You owe it to yourself and your future buddy to make sure you can properly handle some of the challenges a pet might bring.  

    Pet mom tip: do a couple of check-ins with yourself throughout each day for a week or two before driving to the shelter. If you’re not used to doing this, there are a bunch of great mood tracking apps available that should help a lot!

Like I said, adopting my kitten was the best decision I've made all year, and I am so thankful he's in my life. Sharing your days with a furry little friend is such a rewarding experience, and the love they'll give you is irreplaceable. Just make sure you're setting the both of you up for success by being a mature, considerate pet parent-to-be. If now's not the right time, it doesn't mean there will never be a right time, just that maybe you should be a new plant mom instead of a new pet mom right now. 

It's okay if you didn't really think it through before, we'll just blame it on the fire signs you have in your chart.