You’re in love. You’ve found your soulmate and everything is tickety-boo.
Then one of you suggests you take your relationship to the next level. No, not kids, silly! Kids will just complicate your perfect bubble of luuurve. The only thing that could make your relationship even better, even deeper and stronger and more meaningful, is to get a pet together. Of course it will!
Except, it might not. Yes, it might be a great idea to rescue some mewling kitten or vivacious pooch. It might cement those bonds even further, and sharing the responsibility and care for another living being might help you understand and appreciate each other even more.
But make no mistake – investing in a pet together is A Big Deal. It’s a step toward something more permanent, which is the first of many reasons why you should take a little time before heading off to the pet shop or shelter. So before you go any further, take a minute to consider a few things…
1.) Are you both at the same stage in life? Do you both want to settle down, or are you hoping to take off and do some medium- or long-term travelling at some point? If so, what’s to become of your pet? No matter how cute it is, your parents probably don’t to wish to inherit it; if they’d wanted a giant, drooling St Bernard, they would have moved to a bigger house, put away a dedicated savings to pay for its food and bought one.
2.) This is a boring one but perhaps themost important point: Are you financially stable enough to have another mouth to feed? Animals aren’t cheap. Well, unless you get a goldfish, but c’mon, what’s the point of that? Apart from the initial investment of bedding or a crate, bowls, toys, leads and other equipment, there are the regular costs for food and preventative veterinary care. Plus there are the giant, wowza vet bills you’ll incur if Fido swallows a rock (it happens more than you might think) or Fluffy slices open a paw on some broken glass on the pavement. Will you get pet health insurance? Microchips?
3.) On that note, if you rent, are you allowed a pet or will you have to pay an extra security deposit? Is your house suitable for an animal? Is it big enough? Can a cat get out for some fresh air, or do you live in a flat high from the ground? Do you have a garden for the dog or are you near a park or open area where you can walk it?
3.) Who’s going to be responsible for the bulk of the care? You might think you’ll share equally in the house-training or walkies, but chances are one of you will end up doing the majority of the work. Do your schedules enable you to be home enough to adequately look after an animal? While some pets are fairly low-maintenance, it’s still not fair to leave them shut up alone all day.
5.) Do you and your partner agree on what kind of pet you both want? Is he a cat person while you’re a dog lover? Does she want a couple of pet rats that will entertain each other, or a chilled-out lizard, or do unconventional pets make you squeamish?
If you’ve worked through all those points and are still in love with the idea of a cuddly companion, there’s one last thing to discuss, and it’s a tricky one: What happens if you split? It’s a terrible thing to consider and might be the last thing from your mind, but it’s important nonetheless. Have some compassion for the poor pet who might be the subject of a custody battle, or worse yet get turfed out because neither of you could care for it independently. You should at least be able to talk about it in the abstract, and if not it might be a signal that you’re not ready for such a big commitment.