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A few decades ago, a family would have consisted of a mom, a dad, children, and maybe a grandparent or two. Present day has added a number of changes to this structure including pets, who have become very important family members to many households around the globe. So, it might be no surprise that after much deliberation and a careful look at your life that you’ve decided to adopt a new pet into your family. If you have other pets, then you already know about the happiness they bring to a person while offering constant companionship — and the patience they can teach us! Whether your new family addition will have fur, feather, scales, or hooves, there are a few important things that you need to know before adopting any new pet.

1. Are you financially ready to care for a pet? If you chose to adopt, you’ll need to be aware that your financial responsibility will include food, toys, grooming, veterinarian visits, annual pet licensing, cat litter, and more, which can amount to an extra hundred dollars or more a month. Check out this Pet Care Costs chart from the ASPCA to see an estimation of what it will cost you to bring a pet into your home.

2. If you travel a lot for work or are gone most of the day, is there someone who can care for your pet? It’s convenient to have nearby family willing to take on the task, but if you don’t, you will need to contact a reputable kennel or pet resort for animal sitting.

3. Is anyone in your household allergic to any animals? A family member might not know they have an allergy, so it’s important that everyone meets your new house member prior to adoption to determine if an allergic reaction will occur.

4. Do you have the patience and time to train? Even older animals have potty and chewing issues that you may have to address. You’ll need to your research ahead of time and know that returning an animal to the shelter is not the answer to training problems. Be committed or don’t adopt.

5. Will your new pet get along with your other pets? Well, there is a very real possibility that they might not work well together at all. Thankfully, most shelters will allow you to bring other pets in to meet each other before you officially adopt. A potential pet might not be a good fit with your current pets, which means you need to be prepared to not take that new guy or girl home. Don’t give up on finding a new addition — either see if there are better matches or wait until the right one catches your attention.

6. If you adopt a dog, do you have the time to exercise him or her? Certain breeds have a lot of energy and need to run it out every day while others are more sedentary. Many dogs in shelters are mixed breeds. In this case, simply take note of the dog you’ve met and look up all possible breeds he may be to get the general idea of his/her activity needs.

7. Do you have adequate space and accommodations for the pet(s)? Dogs like a yard to run around in, cats and smaller animals require less space, and chickens and ducks will need outdoor shelter and a place to roam. Whichever animal you choose to bring home, just be sure you’ve evaluated the space you’re able to provide them and choose your companion accordingly.

8. Will your county, town or building allow you to keep the pet you are looking to adopt? Unfortunately, not all areas and not all housing facilities are fully pet-friendly. Some may have ordinances about how many animals you can have and even rules about the types of animals you can keep. Be sure to check with your building manager, town council or county website about animal ordinances you need to be aware of before bringing a companion home with you.

9. Are there kill shelters in your area you can adopt from? While there are plenty of fine shelters and rescues out there, try looking at kill shelters first since many of these animals may be put down not long after they are brought in, and remember: they deserve a second chance, too.

10. Are you ready to keep, love, and care for a pet for possibly many years to come? When adopting a pet, no matter what kind of animal, you are committing yourself to be his or her caregiver, for better or for worse. Having a pet is for LIFE.

 Image Source: Elizabeth Tersigni/Flickr