No doubt, having an animal changes your life for the better. Studies have shown that owning a pet is good for your mind, body and soul. Still, with great love comes great responsibility. Will a pet fit into your life? Here are a few things to consider.

Work: Do you work part time or full time? Do you work a regular eight-hour day, or can a typical day easily stretch to 12 or 14 hours? Remember that you'll have someone at home who's counting on you. If you feel like your work life is too unpredictable, consider using a dog walker or pet daycare to help fill in the gaps you're gone during the day.

Allergies: Do you or someone else in your household just happen to sneeze whenever you're near a dog or a cat? Worried about whether you'll be able to breathe with a pet at home full time? Do some research and find allergy-friendly pets. If you're still concerned, consider consulting an allergist before making any decisions about expanding your family.

Physical Needs: Can you physically handle the pet you're considering? There's a big difference between handling small dog breeds and large dog breeds. Will the pet you're considering need to be lifted? Are you strong enough to hold it if it's anxious or trying to go after something? Remember, even the cutest, tiniest, most cuddly puppy can grow into an animal that's taller than you!

Children at Play: How kid-friendly does your pet need to be? Whether you have kids now, have nieces or nephews who frequently visit or are considering kids in the future, everyone will be more at ease if you know your pet is good with children.

Must Love Dogs...or Cats: Do you have other pets? You know your current pets pretty well by now. How are they around other animals? When thinking about bringing a new pet home, try to observe the new addition around other animals. If you're introducing a cat and a dog, for instance, do some research and get the best ways to have them become friends.

Moving Out?: How many years have you lived in your present home? Do you expect to move anytime soon? Just like humans, moving creates a lot of stress for animals. Are you in a profession that requires you to move frequently? Finding a place to live could prove more difficult with a furry friend in tow, so be fully aware of the long-term commitment you're making to your pet.

Help Wanted: Will you have any help? Do you live alone, have a roommate or a spouse? If you're running late, will you have someone else available to let out the dog or feed the cat?

The Age Question: Puppies and kittens sometimes need a little more attention and training. Are you experienced enough to handle it? Or would you rather help an older dog or cat looking for a home? Animals who are a few years old are sometimes less excitable and may already know the basic skills you'd have to teach a puppy, including the most important one—how to love their owners!

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do: How stable are your relationships? Are you living with someone or married? Keep in mind that breakups and divorces affect pets too. If things are a little rocky, think twice about adopting a new member of the family. If you were to separate, could you afford to keep the pet? Would you have to share custody? Do your best to avoid heartbreak all around.

Become a Foster Parent: Still not sure if you're ready for the responsibility of a pet? Consider fostering a dog or cat. Reach out to your local shelter to see how you can make it happen—it's a great guilt-free way to see how owning a pet fits into your lifestyle. Who knows? You may find out that you two are a great fit!


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