Pet ownership is a big deal. While the thought of a furry companion is comforting, taking care of an animal is a lot more work than people realize. In fact, about 6.5 million companion animals are sent to animal shelters in the United States every single year. In order to avoid being one of these statistics, you should thoroughly evaluate whether you’re ready for a pet or not. Not sure if you’re ready? Here are a few tips to help you decide.

Your current situation

Before going out and adopting a puppy, you’ll need to take a good hard look at your current living situation. When taking on an animal, you’ll need a stable income, proper housing, and enough free time to give the animal the attention it deserves. On average, the annual cost of owning a dog is around $1,250 and a cat is $1,070. Obviously, different animals will require different food, equipment, veterinary check-ups, and more. All of these factors will contribute to regular expenses in your budget. If you don’t have a lot of disposable income at the moment, pet ownership isn’t for you. Animals cost money to house, feed, and keep healthy. If you can’t support an animal financially, do not take on this responsibility. In addition, your current living situation will also contribute to whether you’re ready for pet companionship. For instance, if you move a lot for work, pet ownership probably isn’t a good idea. Pets, regardless of their species or breed, need consistency. What’s more, attempting to relocate your animal every time you decide to move will add unneeded stress to your life. If you happen to live in a small, studio apartment, buying a Great Dane from a breeder probably isn’t a good idea, either. It’s important to be realistic about how much room you can provide for your potential companion. If you don’t have much space, save pet ownership for another time in your life.

Perhaps the most important aspect of potential pet ownership – after disposable income, of course – is time. Depending on the type of pet you want, you may need to devote most of your free time to training and loving your animal. For this reason, full-time students or workaholics should hold off on pet ownership. While companionship from furry friends is invaluable, you’ll be doing your pet a disservice if you can’t spend time with them.

Your pet and your personality

Finally, if you’ve concluded you’re prepared to find your pet, you’ll need to decide which type of pet fits your lifestyle. Different types of animals require certain forms of maintenance. Reptiles, for instance, are often thought to be low maintenance because they are usually kept in tanks. In reality, these animals require a lot of equipment, such as warming lights, to keep healthy. Dogs require a lot of time for potty training and physical exercise. Cats, while normally autonomous, require routine litter box cleaning. Before taking the pet plunge, do your due diligence and thoroughly research the needs of any pet you’d like as a companion. You may realize one type of companion will fit your personality better than another.

Finally, before shopping with expensive breeders, do your best to adopt. Millions of animals are sent to shelters every year, and they need homes, too. Not only is adoption cheaper than going through breeders, but you’ll also be giving a home to a pet in need. In addition, older animals need love, too. Consider adopting a full-grown cat or dog as your companion. Often times, these animals are more mature and require less maintenance than kittens or puppies.