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Shopping for a new home is complicated enough when you’re dealing with humans. When you start factoring in your family members from the animal kingdom (no, we’re not talking about your Cousin Howard), things can start to get a little bit hairy. Will your yard meet your dog’s tastes? Is there enough space indoors for your cat to roam? With pets, you have to take these questions and more into consideration, just as you would with human roommates.

Is Your Pet Welcome?

Buying a house is certainly much different than renting. You make the rules, so no more strict guidelines on whether or not you can have your companions. However, you still have to comply with local regulations, or risk some severe consequences.

Familiarize yourself with local law on pet regulations. Laws on how many dogs can reside in a household vary not only between countries, states, and provinces, but can even vary from county to county. Thus, even a move a short hour away can potentially mean that you’ll have to apply for special permits to keep your animals around. Cats generally aren’t subject to laws as strict as canine regulations, but if you have a more exotic species than these, you’ll want to confirm that you’re not running afoul of any legalities. You may need to apply for licenses and permits, and be subject to inspections by state organizations. Be prepared, and reconsider the area if laws are too draconian.

Get the Facts on Whether the House Is Up to Standards

Some homes are better-suited for pets than others, and you should keep this in mind when house-hunting. Before you hit the pavement, make a list of some necessities that your pets will need in a home, and note whether or not they’re must-haves.

For example, if you have a dog, inspecting a prospective house’s yard is a must. Fencing is all but a necessity, and you’ll need to make sure that the fence is up to the task of keeping your dog safely inside. Is it tall enough that your dog is unable to jump it, and installed well enough that your dog can’t dig under? If you’ve fallen in love with a house that has a miniscule yard, you may be tempted to excuse away the flaw – after all, you can take your dog on walks, take them to the dog park, and so on – but if you’re not dedicated to following up on those promises, your pet will suffer for it. Sometimes, you can pick up the slack on a dream home by making the missing pieces into a home improvement project. Fencing can be installed, kitty windowsills can be built, and other pet-friendly amenities can be implemented after you’ve moved in. However, you don’t want to bind yourself into a potentially lengthy and expensive project right after you’ve signed that mortgage contract, and have your pet be bored and stressed while you try to get their new home up to speed. In a pinch, you might consider having your pets stay with a friend or relative while you fix up the place – it’ll keep them from being underfoot while construction is underway, and will let you introduce them to a fully settled home.

See Who Your Neighbors Are

When you’re considering a new home, you’ll need to consider the area around it, as well – and this goes double for if you have animals. See who your neighbors are, and see if your pet will receive a warm welcome…or if you’re going to be biting off more than you and your pets can chew.

A neighbor with pets may wind up being your new best friend if approached correctly, but can just as easily become a huge thorn in your side. Approach your neighbors and introduce yourself without any pets in tow. While you may want to have your pets be part of your welcoming crew, it’s just not a good idea: you don’t know if neighbors have pets that are flung into a frenzy at the mere whiff of another animal, you don’t know if neighbors are phobic of your pet, and you don’t know if your neighbors just plain don’t like animals. Tell your neighbors that you’re considering moving in nearby, and are feeling out the atmosphere for you, your family, and your pets. If you establish a good rapport with a neighbor, you may be able to ask if there are any households with problem animals around. As an example, if a neighbor has a dog that’s poorly-trained, aggressive, or a constant barker (or, heavens help you, all three), you may want to seriously reconsider moving in next door. If your neighbors aren’t interested in keeping their dog under control with proper training and restraints, you, your pets, and even your family members can wind up facing real and present danger.

Poorly-behaved neighbors and the pets that love them aren’t just limited to the canine stripe. A neighbor who lets an aggressive cat wander the outdoors can pose just as much a danger to you and yours – anyone who has owned a dog and cat at the same time can attest that cats are no slouch in a dog fight. Beyond cats and dogs, your neighbors may wind up owning something more exotic. While individuals who own unique pets (such as chickens, goats, alpaca, etc.) are generally in-touch with their care and will go to certain lengths to make sure their oddities don’t affect their neighbors, there are some things you have to accept as someone living next door to a chicken coop: a certain amount of clucking, and free eggs if you play your cards right. Know what you’re getting into, and bow out if it’s not something you can safely handle.

Researching a new home takes a lot out of you, but when it comes to having the best place for you and your family – pets and all – your efforts will be richly rewarded in the end. Do your homework, make some neighborhood friends, and have patience. Your pets will adapt to the change of scenery, and will come to love their new home.