Here’s What Military Families Should Think About Before Getting a Pet

(Photo: US Marines, Lance Cpl. Dave Flores)

From dogs to cats to birds, there are so many benefits to having an animal in the home. Having a pet as a military family can be the right choice, but there are a few things to think about before making this important decision.

Are you moving soon?

Moving with a pet can make a move a little more complicated, especially if you are moving overseas. There will be restrictions on how many pets you can bring with you and what types you can have. You will also be limited by dog breeds and size. The cost and the requirements to bring a pet with you are also something to keep in mind. There are many families that must find temporary–or even permanent–, families, for their pets because they received orders overseas.

Can you have the pet you want in military housing?

Military installations have different regulations when it comes to the pets you can have in military housing. This should be something you think about before deciding on a pet. At some point in your military career, you might want or have to live in military housing. Dog breeds such as Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, and American Bulldogs may be banned in housing. While you can have most caged animals such as hamsters and guinea pigs, rats and exotic pets are not allowed.

Can the spouse handle the pet during deployment?

You need to think about what the spouse who is not in the military can handle when the service member is not at home. If you have three young children, adding a dog to the family can be too much. Older children can help in the pet duties, but younger kids won’t be able to offer as much, and the care of the pet will probably be left to the spouse.

Do you have the extra money?

Pets cost money. There will be food costs, kitty litter, and extra vitamins to buy on a regular basis. There will also be vet fees, regular check-ups, shots, and emergency visits to plan for. The costs of owning a pet can be worth every penny, but if you don’t have the extra money at the moment, waiting until you do would be best.

Can you make your home pet-friendly?

When you bring a pet into your home, you will need to make your home pet-friendly. If you have a dog, you will want to ensure that your yard has a fence and that they can’t get out of it. Fish require space for an aquarium. Hamsters need space for a cage. If your house already feels too small, waiting until you move to a bigger place is a good idea. Adding pets to a smaller home can cause unwanted stress.

Can you commit for the long haul?

When you bring a pet into your home, you want to do so for the rest of their lives. This could be just a few years. . . or over 10. Some pets even live up to 15 or more years.

Can you and your family commit to this? What happens when military life gets too hard? Think about if adding a pet is the right decision for your family at this time. Talk about what would be the right pet for you and your lifestyle and make a decision that would be best for your family. Pets can add a lot of good things to your home. . . but only if it is the right time.