Everything to Consider BEFORE Getting a Dog or Cat with Your Partner

Be on solid ground before adding to your family.
What to Know Before Getting a Pet Together
Photo: Marko Geber / Getty Images
Dina Cheney - The Knot Contributor.
Dina Cheney
Dina Cheney - The Knot Contributor.
Dina Cheney
The Knot Contributor
  • Dina writes for The Knot Worldwide, specializing in food, travel and relationships.
  • With more than 20 years of experience in service journalism, she also pens articles and recipes for publications, such as Good Housekeeping, Parents, SELF, Health, Men’s Health, Men’s Journal, Prevention, Fine Cooking, Weight Watchers and Diabetic Living.
  • Dina graduated from Columbia College, Columbia University and The Institute of Cul...
Updated Aug 15, 2023
We have included third party products to help you navigate and enjoy life’s biggest moments. Purchases made through links on this page may earn us a commission.

Your relationship feels secure and you're eager to add to your family. By getting a dog or cat, you figure, you'll stress-test your bond and finally bring home the furry friend you've always wanted. But before you pay visit to an animal rescue and return as a family of three, make sure the two of you are ready for this life-long responsibility.

To help you decide if you're prepared for this major step, we spoke with two experts. Marisa T. Cohen, Ph.D., LMFT is a relationship scientist, therapist and professor. And Diane Sanford, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist, Sanford Counseling and Consulting, and the co-author of Stress Less, Live Better: 5 Simple Steps to Ease Anxiety, Worry, and Self-Criticism.

Here's everything you need to consider and what to know before getting a dog or cat with your partner.

In this article:

What to Know Before Getting a Dog or Cat

Adopting a pet means more than just playtime and cuddles—it's a serious and long-term commitment, explains Dr. Cohen.

Although co-parenting a dog or cat is rewarding, it also requires a lot of work, cooperation between you and your partner, patience and financial resources, she adds. Plus, bringing a pet home will likely change your household dynamic and challenge your relationship.

How Will Getting a Dog or Cat Change Your Relationship

You'll need to collaborate on care and important decisions, says Dr. Cohen. This will involve negotiating household rules (like whether your pet is allowed on the furniture) and responsibilities (like who will walk the dog).

Unfortunately, many couples decide to take this step when they're already dealing with relationship challenges, observes Dr. Sanford. Generally, these issues will worsen with the adoption of a pet. But if couples work well together, a fur baby should hopefully increase their happiness, she's sure to note.

Signs You're Not Ready For a Dog or Cat

If your relationship isn't on strong footing, bringing home a pet could add more stress, warns Dr. Cohen. Here are some signs you should probably wait before adding to your family with a new fur baby.

1. You're not in sync about the pet

Maybe you desperately want a cat, but your partner is on the fence. If that's the case, don't move ahead, advises Dr. Cohen. One partner may be left with all of the responsibility, while the other may resent situation and be unable to provide the pet with all the love and care they deserve.

2. You've never had a dog or cat

If neither one of you has been a dog or cat owner, you might not realize what's involved, says Dr. Sanford. If this is the case, don't despair. Simply educate yourself on the ins and outs of pet ownership and consider certain limitations: Perhaps a more relaxed older cat is more conducive to your lifestyle and pet experience level, instead of a new puppy who needs a ton of training. Dr. Sanford also suggests trying fostering first. Reach out to local animal rescues to see if any foster pet parents are needed. Some may even offer pet-caring classes.

3. You don't live suitable lifestyles

If you travel a lot, now might not be the ideal time to bring home a pet, says Dr. Sanford. Even if travel isn't an issue, certain life stages and situations—like busy work schedules or even wedding planning—may prevent you from having the time or money to provide your cat or dog with the proper care. Additionally, your apartment building or homeowner's association might not allow pets or enforce certain restrictions (such as certain pet weight limits).

4. You struggle to communicate and work together

If your conversations aren't productive, you'll likely fight like cats and dogs (pun intended) when negotiating petcare. Co-parenting a fluffy friend will be very difficult if the two of you can't discuss your needs and figure out how you'll share responsibilities, insists Dr. Cohen. Plus, if one of you feels they contribute more to the household, it could lead to future resentment, adds Dr. Sanford.

5. Your relationship has been rocky

If you're experiencing relationship issues, such as frequent miscommunications or growing mistrust, it's not the time to take on additional responsibilities. Work on strengthening your relationship and connection—and consider exploring couples counseling or therapy—before adding a pet to your family.

Signs You're Ready for a Dog or Cat

If you are confident in your relationship, have discussed your future together and understand the gravity of the commitment, then you may be ready to parent a pet with your partner. These markers predict success.

1. You both 100% want a pet

Hopefully, you're aligned on bringing home a dog or cat, says Dr. Cohen. Ideally, you've discussed the type or breed of pet you're open to, reputable rescue organizations and how you'll handle care.

2. You share in household responsibilities

Although there's never a 50-50 split, notes Dr. Sanford, you should each feel your partner is contributing enough to the household. If you find that one of you is always picking up the slack when it comes to chores, that pattern will likely repeat itself in regards to pet ownership.

3. You communicate well

If your discussions tend to go smoothly, that's a good sign that you're prepared to get a pet together says Dr. Cohen. After all, your communication is going to go up ten-fold in order to properly ensure that the dog is being walked or the litter box is getting cleaned.

4. Your lifestyle allows you to get a pet

Evaluate whether you have the time, money and lifestyle to meet a dog or cat's needs. Your home should be large enough to accommodate them, your building or homeowner's association should allow pets, and—if need be—you have access to a park or dog run.

5. You're committed to each other

Since getting a dog or cat is a long-term commitment, the two of you should be confident in your future togetherl. Otherwise, if you break up, you'll need to figure out ownership and pet custody!

How to Choose the Perfect Name For Your New Pet

Congratulations if you've decided to move ahead on pet ownership! Now for the fun part: choosing a name! Try not to stress over choosing the "perfect" name. "What's actually perfect is what you agree on and what works for you," says Dr. Sanford, who suggests getting on the same page if you both care about the name. Taking your partner's feelings into account shows them you value their opinion, she explains.

When brainstorming, consider a name that matches your pet's personality, suggests Dr. Cohen. Or find a name that's meaningful to you both and makes you happy. Maybe you met in Asheville, so you call your cat "Carolina"; or you discussed the book, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, on your first date, so you choose "Huck" for your new beagle. Be sure to browse our lists of the 188 Best Names for Cats and 150 Best Names for Dogs for all the inspo you'll need!

Up Next
  • Couple embrace while watching a sunset at a rooftop picnic.
    50 Fun Things for Couples to Do Together