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Just when you think life with kids can’t get any more hectic, a dreaded request comes along. “Can I have a dog?” Or maybe it’s a cat, guinea pig or lizard. Whatever the animal, there are many concerns for parents when adding a pet to the family. How do you know when your child is ready to care for the pet’s every need as so sweetly promised?

Through veterinarian and parental advice come these guidelines:

Determine what type of pet best fits your family. You need to consider the cost of keeping and caring for the pets as well as the family lifestyle. A dog requires plenty of food and water, shots, and someone willing to take those daily walks. If your family’s activities and schedule will make such upkeep difficult, you want to may consider a lower maintenance pet like a fish or turtle.

What is your child’s responsibility level? If you know that you can’t or don’t want to do much of the daily care for Fluffy or Fido, you need to be sure your child is up to the task. Consider how self-disciplined your child is when it comes to schoolwork and chores. If a kid struggles to stay on task, bringing a pet into your home may just end up as another thing for you to nag about.

If you are unsure of your child’s ability to handle the pet tasks, consider a trial period before making a final decision. Offer to let your child pet sit for a neighbor, or track how he keeps up with a task that requires daily attention like helping in the garden with weeding and watering.

What can you reasonably afford? No matter how helpful your child is, there are the financial obligations to pet ownership that most kids can’t defray. Consider the vet bills, pet accessories, food, and the cost of pet care when you vacation. Just as the time obligation with various types of pets can vary considerably, so can the costs. Make sure the ongoing costs fit in your family budget.

Through all the plotting and pleading of your child, remember the ultimate choice is yours. In many ways, adding a pet is like bringing in a new family member. Make sure you and your child consider all the costs and obligations carefully before expanding your family.