Tips for When You’re Ready for Your First Pet
Pets fight depression, boost the immune system, keep you active, and even help you make friends. Not to mention, they’re pretty cute. But is a pet right for you? Adopting a pet is a big decision, so it’s important to plan your pet ownership carefully.
What type of commitment do you want to make? On average, cats live 12-18 years, dogs 8-13 years, birds 5-25 years (with some large parrots living 65 years or more!), and rabbits 7-10 years. Think about your plans over the coming years. If you’re a renter, are growing your family, or plan to travel extensively, factor those plans into your decision-making. Remember that you don’t have to adopt a young animal. Older pets are popular companions for first-time pet owners thanks to prior training and calmer temperaments.
Consider the day-to-day duties of pet ownership as well. The fun stuff—walks, playtime, and training sessions—as well as the not-so-fun stuff—cleaning up after pets, grooming, buying supplies, and scheduling vet appointments. Most types of pets love interacting with you, so it’s important to have time for them! If you have a partner, kids, or roommates, make sure everyone understands the rules and responsibilities before bringing your new pet home.
Different pets bring different things to the table. Dogs are the go-to pet for active owners who love to spend time outside, and they’re equally adored by people who appreciate the mental health benefits of pet ownership. Cats are great companions at home, and some cats can even be trained for outdoor adventures. And according to Scientific American, rabbits are a favorite of introverted animal lovers. Think about what you want out of a pet and what type of activities you enjoy. Don’t forget to consider how much space you have in your home and yard; a smaller pet will be much easier to accommodate in an urban apartment than a large dog!
Once you have your heart set on a type of pet, start saving up! If you adopt a dog or cat from an animal shelter or rescue group, it will probably be spayed or neutered and vaccinated when you get it—that means hundreds of dollars in savings! You may have to pay for booster vaccines soon after adoption. It’s also a good idea to get some pets microchipped.
You’ll need to buy everything for your new pet to be comfortable in your home. For small, caged pets, that means an enclosure with enrichment opportunities and comfortable bedding. Dogs need a crate, toys, leash, and a comfortable dog bed. Large dogs in particular should have high-quality orthopedic dog beds. For cats, add a litter box and a cat tree to serve as a window-front perch. Don’t forget food, treats, and litter or bedding while you’re at the store. If you can, learn what your pet ate pre-adoption and switch to a new food gradually. This advice from Hill’s will guide you through the process.
When you bring your pet home, it’s time to bond and make your pet part of the family. Take it slow at first. Pets easily get overwhelmed in new environments, and too much attention only makes it worse. Give your pet some space for the first few days by setting him up in a quiet room. Gradually increase your interaction, always giving lots of praise and reinforcing the behaviors you want to see.
It’s tough to beat the unconditional love of a pet that’s always happy when you walk in the door. However, it’s important to be ready for the short-term and long-term realities of pet ownership. By ensuring you’re ready for your pet, you’re ensuring years of companionship and joy.
~~Jessica Brody is a dog lover and creator of OurBestFriends.pet. She created the site to offer a place for animal lovers to share their favorite pet photos and stories about their furry pals. Jessica believes dogs are the best creatures on earth. She enjoys writing about and sharing photos of dogs (and other pets!) on her website.
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