It’s easy to dream about finally getting the pet you’ve always wanted, whether it be a super cute corgi or a sassy Siamese cat. And when you’re in a committed relationship with another animal lover, these feelings can intensify — especially when it feels like everyone around you has a fur-baby of their own. But no matter how many times the two of you have pet sat together, getting a pet together as a couple is a huge step in a relationship that takes more responsibility than you both might expect.
“Some of the animals that come into our shelter come from people who weren’t necessarily expecting the responsibilities that come with pet ownership, like unexpected medical problems or unforeseen behavioural issues,” says Tegan Buckingham, the manager of communications and events at The Toronto Humane Society, which has already opened its doors to approximately 3,000 pets in 2017 alone.
For this reason, it’s crucial to get a pet at the right time, when both partners are ready for the commitment and sacrifice that pet ownership brings. Here are three signs you and your sweetheart are ready to get a pet together:
You two (mostly) have your shit together
Before welcoming a pet into your home, be honest when reflecting on your current lifestyle. Ask yourself: Are you and your partner responsible enough to get a pet? Can your home comfortably accommodate the animal you want to have? What would happen if you moved? How much do you travel? Would you be happy to give this pet the amount of physical activity it needs?
Be sure to also consider how things might change throughout your pet’s expected lifespan. For examples, if you become parents, would this animal be a good pet for families with babies and children? “Bringing home an animal is a big change in of itself so the closer your animal fits into your lifestyle, the easier the adjustment is going to be,” says Buckingham.
You’ve both got extra money in the bank
Taking care of a pet can get expensive. It’s not just about pet insurance or unexpected medical costs (FYI: for dogs and cats, the rule of thumb is to save $500 to $1000 in veterinary fees for cats and dogs annually). Expenses like the monthly costs of your pet’s food, grooming needs, obedience training and accidental fees (for things like a new carpet if your puppy had one too many potty training mishaps) all add up, so it helps if you have a cushion in your savings.
You’re in it for the long haul
Getting a pet together shouldn’t be like convincing your significant other to start a new Netflix series with you. It’s crucial that both partners are 100 per cent on board with sharing the commitments your pet will need and deserve.
While nobody wants to think about the worst-case scenarios of your relationship ending, there are a few important things to know about pet custody. If a couple is living together and aren’t married, pets will most likely be viewed as someone’s property, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. This means that it’s up to the couple to determine whether one person wants to have sole responsibility of the pet, or if shared custody is something that both partners can agree on, no matter how awkward it might be. After all, your pet’s health and happiness should always be top priority.
But don’t fret too much about the possibility of a breakup — studies show that getting a pet can benefit your relationship in the long haul. A 2016 study found that couples who are pet owners are happier and more invested in the relationship than couples without pets. Researchers believe that this is because pets allow you to practice empathetic abilities, which is a crucial trait in maintaining a positive relationship.