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Should You Adopt a Pet Together?

A couple in a relationship with a puppy they just adopted.

Deciding to co-parent a four-legged furball is a huge step in a relationship; adding a new member to your party of two automatically ups the ante. Adoption implies commitment to each other and shows that you’re ready to rely on each other for bigger responsibilities. To make sure that adopting a pet is something you and your partner can handle, ask your yourself the following:

Do you have flexible schedules? While certain breeds need more than others, all dogs and cats need exercise and attention. If you and your partner share long work days, your new pet will feel neglected. “You should think about how many hours of the day your pet will be left alone,” says Stephanie Scott, Director of Communications for SPCA International. “If you leave them home alone too long, you are asking for trouble because you can foster bad behavior if they aren’t getting the stimulation and attention they need.”

How will you split the responsibilities? Are you planning to handle the am duties so that your partner can leave the office in time for the pm shift? Or, is someone taking the lead on pet care entirely? To prevent relationship frustrations, make sure you’ve both discussed your expectations.

Can you afford it? Even if your pet remains healthy and injury-free, you still need to pay for food, training, licenses, vaccinations, toys, and grooming. To lessen the blow, Scott recommends a little extra disposable income: “Veterinary bills can be unexpectedly costly so make sure you have some wiggle room in your monthly budget. You should also consider signing up for pet health insurance.” Talk about the financials–will pet care be a joint expense or will this expense fall on the primary breadwinner?

Is your living space pet approved? Unfortunately, some insurance companies will not provide homeowners or renters insurance to people who own certain dog breeds. Make sure your house or apartment is open to your choice of dog breed before heading to the shelter.

Have you talked pet custody? Adopting a pet will most likely bring you and your significant other closer, but it’s important to consider the animal’s plans should the relationship not work out. To prevent unnecessary drama when things get tense, discuss a pet prenup before adopting when you’re both able to think clearly. “If you are a new couple thinking about adopting a pet, you should be willing to sit down and have a hard conversation about who will take custody of your pet in the event of a breakup, or how you will share custody,” says Scott. “It’s best to have that decision made ahead of time and to put it in writing.”

The rewards from sharing a pet together will far outweigh the hard work of caring for your furry family member.  You’d be surprised just how much you stand to learn from a new family member. In fact, your new addition might even teach you a thing…or eight…about love.

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