Things are pretty blissful between you and your significant other. Maybe you’re in a newish relationship that’s moved quickly in all the best and healthiest ways: You’re living together (or about to), you’re sharing your finances, and you’re ready to pour some of the overflowing love you’ve been feeling into a pet. Or maybe you and bae are married or have been together forever, and you’re thinking it’s time to finally take that next step into pet parenthood. This is big stuff! We’re serious animal lovers over here, and we fully support you making this decision… assuming the timing is right. And don’t be so sure that it is! Before you start calling shelters or browsing breeders online, consider the advice we’ve collected from animal and relationship experts. If you find yourselves identifying with the examples below, it’s probably not quite the right time (yet).

A couple snuggles with a fluffy dog on a bright green lawn

1. You thrive on spontaneity. Do you and your S.O. love having the freedom to book a last-minute flight and enjoy a weekend away with just a few hours of notice? Do you find yourselves regularly heading straight from the office to an impromptu happy hour that lasts late into the night? “Having a pet is a real commitment,” notes marriage and family therapist Heidi McBain, “and you often have to be thinking about them more than your own social life if they are going to get the care and attention they deserve from you.” Being a free spirit can be fun, and we’re all about you living that life — but not when there’s an animal relying on your care and attention at home.

2. You debate whose turn it is to do the dishes. If you’ve experienced animal ownership before, you already know that being a pet parent comes with a lot of work. Bringing a four-legged (or two-winged, or finned, or slithery) family member into the home you share with your partner will introduce a brand new scope of responsibilities to be split between the two of you. “Pets are unpredictable, and you can’t always schedule the responsibilities to make sure their care is a fair split,” Chewy‘s resident pet expert Caitlin Ultimo reminds us. “A couple should equally want to care for their pet and do anything for them. If that means taking your dog for a walk at noon even though you already did the morning run, you have to be ready and willing.” So if you already struggle to delegate chores, you might want to wait until if and when that’s been become a comfortable routine.

3. You’re not comfortable talking about finances. It’s natural to get a little squeamish about money conversations (stressful!), but sharing a pet will require you and your partner to figure out how to accommodate a host of new expenses — from initial investments like gear, bedding, toys, and housing, to routine expenses like food, to an emergency fund to cover unexpected vet visits. This is not going to go well if you can’t swallow your discomfort and talk through an arrangement you can both live with. “If you can’t talk about finances or have wildly different philosophies, it’s not the time to bring a pet into the mix,” asserts Aimee Gilbreath, executive director of Michelson Found Animals Foundation.

A couple plays with a pair of kittens in their living room

4. You’re thinking about moving. If your living arrangement — with or without your S.O. — is up in the air, pump the brakes on picking out a pet. Ultimo accurately observes that many shared living spaces like apartments and condos have restrictions on animals. Until you have a bit more clarity on your long-term living situation, you run the risk of having to surrender your sweet furry friend should you end up moving to a place where they aren’t welcome. Not to mention the stress that relocation can have on an animal, especially if it happens relatively soon after first settling into their new home with you.

5. It’s still TBD whether you’re in it for the long haul. Sorry to bring the mood down to this level, but it’s important that you quite seriously consider the future of your relationship before you add a pet to the mix. “No one wants to think about breakups, but if it happened or you’re not quite sure, who would get the [pet]?” certified dog trainer and Rover Dog People Panel member Nicole Ellis asks us to consider. “It’s worth having this discussion to make sure your pet would have a home should anything happen to your relationship.” Now might be the perfect time to have a DTR talk with your partner and to put some plans in place for your potential pet just in case things don’t work out. (If you can’t even broach the topic, it could be a sign you’re hiding legitimate concerns about the relationship from yourself.)

6. You feel like you should get a pet. We’ve all been there: Mere moments after completing one major life step, and suddenly we’re feeling the urge to start working toward the completion of another. But it doesn’t have to work that way, and it definitely shouldn’t work that way when a living, breathing animal hangs in the balance. Phil Tedeschi, Rover‘s expert on human-animal connection, reminds us that there’s no need to rush into pet parenthood simply because you’re happy with your significant other. “Often, the pressures of having a new romantic relationship with an interest in adding a new pet can make the decision feel urgent,” Tedeschi admits. “Take your time. Pets can add significant joy, shared time, health, and improved quality of life, but they should not be expected to fix a situation.” A pet should not be considered the logical next step — or a magical problem-solver — in an adult relationship.

How do you know when it’s time to share a pet? Tweet us @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)