Pets, as much as we love them, aren’t always easy. To adopt an animal is a difficult decision to make. The pet you welcome into your home will love you unconditionally and become a part of your everyday life. It’s a huge responsibility.

Tragically, every year hundreds of thousands of animals are abandoned at shelters. Before you think about adopting, make sure you’re ready to accept a pet into your home. We have laid out the most important questions you should ask yourself and your family before you get an animal.

How much time do you have?

It’s important to consider how much time you have to devote to your pet. If you work long hours or travel a lot, it might not be best to get an animal. Based on your time commitments, you might want to consider whether you want a younger pet or an older one. A younger pet often requires more exercise, attention and training. Older animals are generally more obedient, toilet-trained and require less time.

Keep in mind, animals can suffer from boredom, just like humans. If they are left alone for long periods of time they can become depressed and develop behaviour problems. Animals love to be active and they love company. It is important to take time with them and stimulate them with toys, exercise and attention.

Are you ready for a long-term commitment?

It seems that people don’t have to make long-term commitments anymore. People are switching jobs and spouses with more ease than ever before. However, with modern vet practices, animals, like humans, are living longer than ever before. Dogs and cats can now live anywhere from 10 to 20 years and even more depending on the breed. If you adopt an animal, make sure you’re ready for that type of commitment.

Ask yourself where you’re likely to be in ten or twenty years. I know it’s not realistic to know exactly where you’ll be, but if it’s your goal to move to Florida or South America in the next couple of years, a pet is probably not the best option. Many owners abandon their pets due to relocation, divorce, new family members, new job or retirement. Make sure you’re relatively stable before you adopt.

How does your family feel about a pet?

If you live with a spouse or a family, then the decision to adopt an animal should be a consensus. Discuss it with everybody in your household before you make a final decision. Taking care of a pet should be a family responsibility. We all know kids have short attention span so if you adopt an animal at their request then you should be prepared to take care of them.

Where do you live?

Every animal needs different living arrangements. A big dog shouldn’t be kept in a small apartment. However, a cat can easily adapt to a small space and can live indoors.

You should be aware that pets, especially young ones, can cause property damage. It might be as minor as scratches to your sofa or can be as major as structural damage to your house. Patience and tolerance is required.

If you rent, then you also need to consider whether your landlord allows you to have pets or not. Many places in the city don’t allow animals. If your building has a sign that says ‘no pets allowed’ have a conversation with the landlord. Many property managers will allow you to make an exception, especially if you’ve been a good tenant.

What ever you do, don’t take the decision to adopt lightly. You’ll want to make the right choice for the animal and for your family. Talk to friends and family who have pets and ask them lots of questions about what it’s like to raise an animal. Talk to a professional – a breeder or a veterinarian – and visit adoption events in your area. When it comes to adding a family member, you don’t want any surprises.