Dogs, Cats, and More

Five Thing Your Family Needs to Know before Getting a Pet

If you’re an animal person, military life presents a whole set of interesting challenges. Adopting or purchasing a dog, cat, or other pet while you’re still on active duty is possible, of course, but the military lifestyle requires that that you consider a number of important factors before you bring your new furry friend home. 

  • 01 of 05

    What Type of Pet is Right for Your Family?

    pet store
    Getty Images/Barbara Alper

    If you’re looking for an animal companion for yourself or your family, you’ve got a ton of possible options.

    For example, cats, fish, and small dogs are great options for apartment dwellers. But if you want a large dog, you’ll probably need a bigger home and a yard. Keep in mind that your family’s living arrangements may vary as you move from duty station to duty station.

    You’ll also want to consider how much free time you have in your schedule. Certain dog breeds require attention and exercise to...MORE stay healthy and obedient. Other pets (iguanas, fish, and so on) need less one-on-one attention. If a family member is at home most of the time, a pet may be a great option. If everyone in the house is away during the day at work or school, think about the needs of the pet before you make your decision.

  • 02 of 05

    Can You Afford A Pet?

    dog owner
    Getty Images/Veejay Villafranca

    Pets can be expensive, some pets more than others.

    The average lifetime cost of raising a dog is more than $23,000. Unfortunately, that includes only food, supplies, preventative care (like shots and regular flea treatments), and veterinary fees. If you decide to send your dog to obedience school or some other specialized training so he’ll be easier to handle during multiple moves, you’ll probably need to add a few thousand more.

    Raising a cat isn’t cheap either. The lifetime cost of raising a cat ...MOREcan be anywhere from $7,000 to $18,000 depending on the breed and needs of the cat.

    Look carefully at your family budget and make sure you regularly set aside some money (some experts recommend $100 per month) just in case something unexpected happens to your pet. 

  • 03 of 05

    How Will You Handle a PCS with the Pet?

    Have you considered the housing regulations for your military branch? Certain pets aren’t allowed in base housing, and you don’t want to find yourself in the uncomfortable situation of having to rehome a pet that you and your children have become attached to. The Army, Air Force, and Navy branches all have unique pet policies for their on-base housing.

    Base housing also typically limits you to no more than two pets. So, if you’re considering a third one, you’ll need to put together a budget for...MORE how you’re going to house your pet at your next duty station.

    If your pet is approved, you’ll need to check the local regulations to make sure all of your animals are up to date on their vaccines and other health needs. Certain bases have quarantine requirements for household pets. You’ll also most likely want to (or be required to) get your pet micro-chipped in case it gets lost in your new neighborhood.

    As long as you’re thinking about expenses, be sure you take into consideration the cost of transporting your pet between duty stations. If you’re driving, that won’t cost much. But for longer or more complicated moves, the fees to have someone else transport your animal can add up quickly.

  • 04 of 05

    Are You Planning to Start a Family?

    pet and baby
    Getty Images/Jacobsen/Stringer

    Whether you have children now, or you’re planning to have some later, a baby in the house will be a major upheaval in your pet’s life. Pets often require extra time, attention, and guidance to help them figure out where they stand in the pecking order once a baby arrives. You may also need to consider the additional strain on your budget if you grow your family. Kids are a lot more expensive than pets. Will you still be able to manage the pet expenses?

    Many families adopt pets and grow their...MORE human family just fine. It’s always a good idea to plan ahead “just in case” so you’re not suddenly facing new issues while going through a major life change.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Are You Ready for a Long-Term Commitment?

    Pets are a wonderful addition to a family. They can be great companions and a source of comfort as you navigate the ups and downs of military life. They bring joy and character to any home. Studies have even found a strong connection between pet ownership and emotional stability.

    However, before you fall in love with big puppy eyes and floppy ears, remember that when you get a pet, you’re signing up for a 10-20-year commitment. Your family has unique needs and you’ll need to consider how they’ll...MORE handle having a baby-, adult-, or senior pet in the home.

    Will you have help? Do you have friends or family you can trust to watch your pet in case of emergency? Whether you’re planning a vacation or moving to a remote duty station, you may need someone to take the pet for a week or two--or even a year or two. That’s a lot to ask a friend or family member. Take an inventory of who's available to help you care for your pet if you’re not able to.

Sometimes, military life can force you to resort to pet fostering or re-homing while you're sent somewhere your animal can't follow. By planning ahead, you can avoid stress and heartache on yourself, your family, and the pet. Take the time to consider your situation, potential changes with the military, and the needs of the pet before you make the decision to bring a new furry friend into your home. Edited and updated by Armin Brott, November 2016