Getting a pet together
Who’s guilty of inviting their partner on a "casual picnic" only to reveal that it's actually a very serious dog-watching trip? And that instead of cheese, you’ve brought spare balls and doggie biscuits? It's understandable: much as we love them, pets can cost us a pretty penny in food and upkeep. Here's what you should know before you make the switch from pet-petter to pet-owner.
What to expect
Honestly? Mostly, bliss.
The love of a good (and furry) boy
There's nothing quite like it out there.
With a pet by your side, you can expect a drastic upwards tick in the general quality of your life.
Say goodbye to chilly winter nights and hello to your new hot water bottle, Boris the Persian longhaired cat. Where once you might've exercised alone, now you can benefit from the personal trainer-like yaps of your corgi, Corilla.
Or to sum it up in the words of a popular 90s theme song, so long as you're there for your new best friend?
🎵 They'll be there for you. 🎵
... and an increased grocery budget
But unlike say, a pot plant, pets can cost you up to $1000 per year in food and vet bills alone.
They'll also require a fair amount of your time—time you might've otherwise spent recharging by yourself. That's right. Expect a considerable reduction in your Minecraft hours in favour of cleaning your lizard's teeth or moisturising your Sphynx.
What's good to do
Research, research, research
First things first. What kind of pet are you going to get?
It’s important to make sure the pet you pick up is one that’ll thrive in both your lives. Make sure to discuss how much free time you'll have to look after a pet and what your respective responsibilities will be.
It's also worth checking if your partner has any pet pre-conditions, like allergies, you should know about. While they might seem chuffed about your Balthazar the Third (the Netherland dwarf rabbit), if they can’t pat him, how likely are they to clean him?
... then research just a little more
Are you going to adopt or shop? There’s pros and cons to both sides.
Adoption generally comes at a much lower cost, and as a special bonus means you’ll have the feel-good glow of saving a life. By contrast ‘shopping’ for a pet will cost you more in terms of time and money, but could give you greater control over your needs for a pet.
Calculate your prospective pet's allowance
A pet is a big financial commitment—a big, long-term financial commitment. Besides the initial purchasing cost, your furry friend will also cost you in regular feeding ($), toys or equipment ($$), habitat upkeep ($$$) and medicine, vet bills or pet insurance ($$$$) every year.
It’s best not to eye that kitty in the window until you feel sure you can take care of it, through all the stages of its life. That means you're prepared to set aside enough money for your pet's needs, on an ongoing basis.
Sites like Moneysmart offer budget planners where you’ll be able to crunch the numbers and see what you can manage on your income.
Discuss your co-parenting style
When it comes to dividing responsibilities, it's best to play to your strengths.
Say your partner works long hours and rarely has time or energy to walk a dog. This might fall to you instead. In return, they might be the one to pick up the pet food on the weekends.
Discussing your pet-parenting responsibilities also means discussing a less fun, but equally important topic: custody. While it hurts to discuss breaking up a family before it’s even begun, it can help to have a quick chat about what you'll do in terms of arrangements should you need to dissolve your little family.
Let's put it all together.
Have you ...
Found a pet that works for both of you?
Researched your pet's upfront and ongoing costs?
Agreed on your co-parenting responsibilities, including how you'll budget for things and separate chores?
Set aside time and budget for your pet's first few weeks?
Links & resources
Here's some information on how much pets can cost, and how you should budget.
Fostering a pet is a good way to see if pet-parenting is a good fit for you.
Registering a pet is a legal obligation and comes with a fee. Here's some information on what your state requires.
Find out how to know if the breeder you're talking to is legitimate or not.
Let’s take it from the top, and get it straight. What should healthy financial behaviour in a relationship look like?
You're willing to talk about your money
The good, the bad, and the under-the-bed cash stash: when it comes to talking about money, you're willing to bare it all. While some topics might make you squirm or others leave you searching Google for answers, you ultimately recognise that money's far too important a topic to remain silent about.
You share or understand each other's financial values
While you don't need to see eye-to-eye on every little detail, sharing or respecting each other's financial values is important. It means you'll understand each other's financial habits and how they fit into the broader picture.
You make and manage financial decisions together
Good relationships are founded on equality. That means you should have an equal say on all things, no matter whether it's where you go for dinner or when you leave, but especially when it comes to how the two of you manage your finances.
Sometimes, what looks like a fair or normal way of dealing with money together might just be the opposite. Here are three major red flags - but be warned: they're often subtler than you'd think.
Your partner shuts down every money conversation
Communication is the lifeblood of relationships. If your partner's not willing to talk to you about debts, savings or income flow, even when you're splitting the rent, it's not a positive sign.
They make you feel like a fool
No-one likes being made to feel incompetent, especially about something as important as money. If your partner makes you doubt your financial ability - or worse, openly mocks it - it could be a sign they're trying to make you rely on their support.
Money responsibilities feel unfair
While we all want to support our partners, taking on too much financial responsibility can be a burden, both logistically and emotionally speaking. Moreover, it could negatively impact your own savings and financial future.