Adopting a pet is one of the most exciting things you can do. Taking responsibility for an animal raises a slew of questions: Will I be a good pet parent? Do I have enough time? What if I’m horrible at training? While there is certainly some anxiety that comes along with adopting a pet, for most people, the rewards far outweigh the risk.
Choosing a pet is a little bit like choosing a new roommate, though. You want to make sure your habits and lifestyles mesh together well before you make such a long-term commitment. Each and every animal has different needs when it comes to care, behavior, cost, housing, feeding and training. Many factors will influence what kind of pet will be best for you, from the size of your apartment to the number of nights you spend away from home every month. Ready to dive in? Here’s what to consider when you’re thinking about adopting a new pet:
1. Consider the Number of People at Home.
The first thing you’ll want to think about is how many people you have in your family and their individual needs. Small children may have difficulty with puppies or kittens—both are only babies, and they may not know how to play well together!
If you want your kids to be very involved in the pet-raising process, you may want to try a pet that requires a little less maintenance, like a guinea pig or a fish, while older kids who are learning responsibility may fare better with a dog. At the end of the day, your pet takes care of you just as much as you take care of it. How will your kids fit into that situation?
If you don’t have kiddos, it’s still important to think about any other people who live in your apartment. Your roommate may say she’s OK with you having a dog as long as you take care of it, but that dog will still interact with her. Barking, potty accidents, pet hair and general cleanup are unavoidable, and you’ll probably need her to take care of your pup overnight while you’re away once or twice.
Regardless of how many people are in the family (or in the apartment), keep in mind that you’re adopting a pet for everyone. Sit down everyone you live with, and talk about how involved (or uninvolved) they want to be in your pet’s life, and how much they’re willing to help you raise it. It’s important to be realistic—the more your friends and family know what they’re getting into, the better for everyone involved.
2. Assess Your Space.
Now that you know how the people living with you feel about your new furry (or feathered) friend, you’ll want to think about how large or small your pet should be. Smaller apartments mean high-energy dog breeds won’t have room to run around inside and will need more time outside to compensate.
Can you take your pet outside? Would he or she need your supervision, or is there an enclosed yard to run around in? Dogs are really the only pets that need daily access to the outside world, but some cat owners like to set up catteries outside to let their feline friends get some fresh air.
It’s also important to consider whether your pet will be sleeping in the same room as you. Most pets like birds, cats and dogs, sleep at night just like you, but rodents sleep during the day and can make a lot of noise while you’re trying to catch some shut-eye.
3. Consider Your Daily Free Time.
One of the biggest differences between pets is how much undivided attention they require. A day with my dogs looks a little like this: My husband and I wake up early to them cuddling with us in bed; we go for our morning walk and they get fed breakfast. The dog walker comes in the afternoon to take them to the dog park. When we get home from work, we go for another walk before they get dinner. More cuddling; then one last walk before bed.
4. Contemplate the Relationship You Want with Your Pet.
Cats may be super cuddly, but they are far more independent than dogs are and won’t be as excited to see you when you come home after a long day. That being said, most cats are still affectionate and playful, so long as you socialize them at an early age. If you’d prefer more of a pet soul mate, a dog might be right for you. There’s a reason they’re called man’s best friend.
Niccole Schreck is a rental experience expert for Rent.com, a free rental site that helps you find an affordable pet-friendly apartment and provides tips on how to move with your pet. She is also the proud owner of two dogs, Bella and Wallace.