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Home Articles Ask Amanda Ask Amanda: Are We Ready to Adopt a Pet?

Ask Amanda: Are We Ready to Adopt a Pet?

Survivor mom wonders if six months after abuse is too soon to adopt a pet

Ask Amanda: Are We Ready to Adopt a Pet?

Q: I left an abusive husband six months ago and moved into a fairly small apartment. I’m so much happier and things are getting better every day. I have two young children and they’ve been asking if we can get a pet for a long time now. I feel like it would be something happy to add to our lives, but there have already been so many big changes this past year, plus, I don’t know when we’ll be able to move into a house again. Should we wait? – Anonymous 

Dear Anonymous,

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So glad to hear you got away from the abuser safely—I’m sure it wasn’t an easy feat, and all that change can be emotionally draining for both you and your children. I hope you’re prioritizing self-care and taking all the time you need to go through the healing process. 

On that note, research actually shows that pets can be amazing healers. Pets can lower blood pressure, heart rate and cortisol levels (your stress hormone). Animals also provide a soothing, calming energy to kids and are often used in trauma therapy to help little ones feel more comfortable and open up more to therapists. Just petting a dog or cat can help a child (and an adult!) feel safe and protected. 

 Of course, you’re right to question if it’s a good time to adopt a pet, since this isn’t a decision that should be made on a whim. Adoption should be for the life of the pet—which could mean 10 to 20 years—so you want to be sure you and your family are ready to take on that level of responsibility. Here are some questions to ask yourself from The Humane Society of the United Statesthat might help you make the decision:

  1.  Can you have a pet in your apartment? Make sure your apartment allows pets, and ask if they have size, weight or breed restrictions, which will narrow down what type of pet you can adopt. 
  2.  Do you have time for a pet? Will someone will be able to feed and exercise the pet every day? Dogs who aren’t exercised regularly can start to have behavior issues (chewing, barking, digging), so daily walks are important. 
  3. Can you afford a pet? Will you be able to afford the adoption fee (sometimes $100 or more), veterinary care, food, toys, bedding and other supplies?
  4. Are you prepared for the extra challenges a pet can bring with him or her? This is a big one for survivors who may still be dealing with and healing from after-effects of trauma. Will you be able to handle another stressor? As fun as pets are, they may also scratch up your furniture, go to the bathroom on your carpet or need training, especially around kids. 
  5. Is it a good time to adopt? If you’re planning on making a move soon, taking a vacation or traveling a lot for work, you might want to wait until you’re more settled before adopting. 
  6. Have you researched the type of pet you want to get? Different animals are good for different situations—some pets are better with small kids and some better with bigger kids. Some pets do well in apartments while others really need a backyard to run around in. Some are chill and others hyper. Before adopting, talk to pet-owning friends, shelter staff or a veterinarian about the type of animal that would best fit your lifestyle. 
  7. Will you be a responsible pet owner? That means getting your pet spayed or neutered, obeying pet laws (like picking up after them when you go for a walk or getting them licensed), and making sure they’re taken care of when you are away.

    If you can confidently answer yes to all of the above, then it’s time for the fun part—what type of pet are you going to adopt? Consider your options: Puppy or dog? Cat or kitten? Bird, rabbit, ferret, gerbil, guinea pig, snake, fish, lizard … horse? OK, we can probably eliminate a horse considering they’re not exactly apartment pets. However, you can read about all of your other options on the Best Friends Animal Society website, here

    Good luck, and hopefully four paws [or fins, scales or feathers] are in your future!

    Have a question for Ask Amanda? Message us on FacebookTwitter or email AskAmanda@DomesticShelters.org.

    Ask Amanda is meant to offer helpful resources and information about domestic violence. If in crisis, please reach out to your nearest domestic violence shelter for the guidance of a trained advocate.