Adopting a pet is a milestone for many families across America. In fact, almost 80 million households in the country own some type of pet, including a cat or dog. For many people, bringing an animal into the home is one of the most incredible moments of a lifetime.

But adopting a pet is not something that should be done on a whim. Bringing a living, breathing animal into your home is a huge responsibility. Be sure you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into before you make a decision that could negatively affect the rest of your new pet’s life.

For the purpose of this article, let’s take a look at what you’ll have to look forward to when adopting either of the two most popular pets in the US: dogs and cats.

Dogs

Our canine buddies come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but one thing is for sure: They really are man’s best friend. In fact, over 56 million households own at least one dog, making them the most common pet in America. And it’s no surprise why.

Dogs are incredibly loyal, and become emotionally attached to their owners. Though dogs understand humans are, in fact, not canines, they do think of their owners as members of their family. They’ll be just as excited to see you after a long day of work as any kid would be to see their mother or father.

They’re also incredibly intelligent (despite some of the ridiculous situations they get themselves into). With time and effort, you can teach them to obey commands, and, of course, to do all sorts of fun tricks.

However, dogs are incredibly high maintenance animals in many different ways.

Dogs get used to a certain schedule, and they stick to it. Of course, this schedule is their own, and might not exactly jibe with your human timetable. If they’re used to going out to relieve themselves at a certain time, you better be able to let them out—or they won’t hesitate to leave a mess on your rug.

Speaking of messes, have you ever seen a dog wipe his feet after coming inside from the rain? They don’t. So, again, you need to be there with a towel to clean your buddy off before he tracks paw prints all over the house.

Most importantly, dogs require a lot of attention. I mentioned they are emotionally intelligent, which is a bonus when you need a friend to pal around with. But they can also be pretty needy (and nosy), especially during times when you might want to be left alone.

Basically, owning a dog is like having a toddler—for twelve to fifteen years. I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing, but you should definitely know what you’re in for if you’re thinking of adopting a puppy.

Cats

Cats come second in popularity, with over 45 million households owning at least one feline friend. Not surprisingly, however, many of these households own more than one cat, since over 95 million belong to specific homes.

Many people tend to think a cat is a cat is a cat, but that’s simply not true. Much like their canine counterparts, cats differ greatly among breeds.

While each breed has its quirks, cats in general all come with similar pros and cons to be considered before bringing one home.

Unlike dogs, cats are pretty low maintenance animals. As long as they have food, water, and a place to do their business, they can be left alone all day—or even longer if need be.

Well-nurtured cats are usually very affectionate and playful. Even when their claws come out during play, they likely won’t go into full attack mode unless they feel overtly threatened.

Amazingly, recent studies have shown cats’ purrs to be therapeutically beneficial to other animals around them. They may seem like lone wolf-type animals, but it seems cats do care about their owners in some way!

Of course, owning a cat isn’t all rainbows and cuddle sessions.

Though cats are playful, as mentioned, if they feel threatened, they can immediately get aggressive if they feel the need. This could lead to you or your children getting bit or scratched with fairly little warning.

Cats also shed constantly. Whether accommodating to fluctuating temperatures, or simply ridding their bodies of dead hair, cats seemingly never stop leaving clumps of fur around the house. They also don’t make it brushing them an easy process, either.

And, of course, there’s the litterbox. If you have an indoor cat, be prepared to clean out their box at least once every two days—and even multiple times in a single day. If you neglect to do so, your little furry friend won’t think twice about using a different surface as their personal bathroom.

At any rate, cats are a great pet for those who don’t have the time for a dog, but still want an affectionate, individualistic pal to keep them company. Just remember: if you bring a cat into a home, the home belongs to them now.

Making a Decision

Clearly, a lot more goes into adopting a dog or cat than simply wanting one around. Adopting a pet can be a rewarding experience, but it can easily turn into a nightmare if you’re not careful. Think long and hard about what you really want out of a pet-owner relationship before you take on a responsibility you’re not ready for.

Featured photo credit: get a room, you guys by jeffreyw via flickr.com

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