7 things to consider before getting a pet in your 20s

You can’t walk past a dog park without making a ‘quick detour’. You have a growing list of pet names saved to your phone’s Notes app. You’ve already scouted out your local breeders and are waiting eagerly for their next litter. Sound all too familiar?

During our 20s, life can be unpredictable. We’re finding our feet in our career, possibly finishing a degree and moving from place to place on short-term leases. And among all that, we’re wining and dining and jetting off around the world whenever we can score cheap flights.

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Welcoming a furry friend into your life is a major decision. Although coming home to a wagging tail and having a companion to bring to brunch sounds ideal, there’s a lot to keep in mind before diving into pet ownership. If you’re considering purchasing your first pet as an adult, read on to learn the 7 key questions to ask yourself before making the investment.

1. Why do you want to own a pet?

We all have that one item in our wardrobe that never should have happened. Maybe you found it in a busy sample sale or your bestie convinced you ‘it can definitely be dressed down with jeans!’. Now, it’s covered in dust with tags still on and is most likely destinated for a Vinnies donation bin.

When we don’t take the time to consider why we want to buy something, we’re more likely to walk away regretting our decision. The same logic applies to purchasing a pet. Take the time to reflect on what’s motivating your desire to own a pet. Have you always grown up with animals in your life? Are you missing your family pet after moving out for the first time? Did you see your ‘dream breed on a pet adoption site?

Clearly write down the thoughts you’re having to uncover the motivating logic that’s driving you. The best decisions are made objectively, so it’s crucial to identify and remove any emotional factors that may sway your judgment.

2. Who are you living with?

Sharing a house with your besties can be a blast. You’ve always got someone around in case you lose your keys (again) and there’s someone home to share wine with at the end of a hectic workweek.

But if you’re thinking about bringing a pet into your life, it’s important to consider the environment they’ll be living in. If you’re sharing a space with other friends or acquaintances, a young puppy or kitten may find a busy household disruptive and unsettling. Plus, your housemates might not be so keen on the idea of living with pets.

And it’s not just where you’re living now that matters. A pet can be a 10 to 15-year commitment, meaning you need to consider where you’ll be living in the years to come to understand if you’ll be able to give your new pet a stable and comfortable home.

3. What lifestyle do you lead?

Are you working full time? Do you love a cheeky mid-week wine with your bestie? Do you often escape the city for a weekend away? Or maybe you love dancing the night away at your favourite club on a Saturday night?

Whatever your schedule looks like, make sure to consider how a pet would fit into your current routine. Do you have time to raise a young puppy that will need to be taken out every few hours? Can you factor in a walk every morning and night? What about teaching your new pet a few basic commands?

Assess what your schedule looks like and think about what time it will take to care for a pet. Do your research and speak with a range of breeders and vets to understand what’s really involved in caring for a furry friend. Make sure to allow for things like training, feeding, exercising and grooming time each day and investigate what breed-specific requirements you may have to factor in, too. For example, if you are looking to buy a working breed like a Border Collie or Kelpie, you’ll need to allow extra time for long walks and play sessions as these are extremely energetic and highly intelligent dogs.

4. How will a pet fit into your budget?

When we’re in our 20s, our financial strategy usually involves blindly tapping your card until payments start to decline. Living paycheck to paycheck can work in the short-term but is often unsustainable once we start to acquire larger investments such as a pet.

Create a clear spreadsheet that shows your cash flow on a fortnightly and monthly basis. Start by calculating your monthly salary and factor in any non-negotiable bills like rent, utilities, and your phone bill. Next, take a look at your last bank statement and assess how much you spent on non-essential purchases like eating out and that new pair of yoga pants. Be honest with yourself and calculate how much money you have leftover at the end of each month.

Owning a pet is a major (and ongoing) financial investment. From pet food to flea treatments and vet bills, unexpected costs need to be anticipated when budgeting for a new pet. If you’re unsure whether you have the capacity to accommodate these costs, it could be wise to hold off purchasing a pet until you have a good buffer of savings up your sleeve.

5. Have you thought about the best breed for you?

Not all pets need the same kind of care and attention. Some pups will love being left to snooze in the sun all day, while others prefer to be outdoors expending their endless bounds of energy.

Create a shortlist of possible breed options and head online to research the temperament and care requirements of each. This step is essential as it gives you valuable insight into the pros and cons of each breed. Plus, you’ll be better placed to make an educated decision about your first pet with all this important information on hand.

6. Who will be responsible for training and raising it?

This one comes back to assessing your current schedule. A new pet isn’t a set-and-forget purchase. It’s a huge responsibility that requires ongoing involvement, time and attention.

If you’re living alone, make sure you understand what kind of training and care you’ll need to give your new addition now and in the months and years to come. If you’re about to make the purchase with a partner, have an honest conversation about what time you can both afford to put towards your new pet.

7. What are your plans for the next 5, 10 and even 15 years?

Do you have a 5 or 10-year plan? For most of us 20-somethings, planning for the next decade feels like an overwhelming task. But, if you’re looking to purchase a pet you’ll need to consider what long-term goals might impact this new addition.

Do you have travel plans on the horizon? Are you dreaming of moving to another state or country? Is climbing a competitive corporate ladder on your agenda?

Although you don’t need to have everything planned out, think big picture and reflect on what life changes might impact your decision to own a pet.

This article first appeared on A Girl in Progress.