Here’s What 1st Time Pet Owners Need To Know

So you’re thinking of getting your first pet. Congratulations! A companion animal can enrich your home and your life in countless ways. At the same time, pet ownership requires lots of prep work on your part. Here’s what your head needs to know before your heart says “yes” to a furry family member.

Should Your New Friend Bark or Meow?

More than 97 million American households are home to a dog, cat, or both. It’s easy to see why. Both types of animals have lived hand-in-hand with humans for thousands of years. Plus, food and other care items are readily available. These factors make choosing a dog or cat a good option for first time pet owners. When you’re ready to choose, keep these tips to keep in mind:

  • Many purebred dogs are prone to health problems and require special care. For this reason, it’s best for newbie owners to choose a mixed-breed animal. These are often referred to (with affection) as “mutts.” Studies show that mutts are, in general, healthier than their purebred counterparts. They’re easy to find in almost any pet shelter, and adopting an animal is a great way to bring a new furry friend home.
  • The amount of space you’ll need for a dog varies. In general, larger and younger dogs require more space than smaller or older dogs.
  • A popular myth says that all cats are aloof and indifferent to humans. In reality, however, many felines are loyal, affectionate, and quite trainable. We should note that kittens, while adorable, love getting into mischief. They’re not for everyone.
  • Those who suffer from allergies may have to use special care in choosing a companion animal. This article is a great starting point if you fall into this category.

What about Birds, Reptiles, and Other Critters?

Birds, fish, and exotic pets often require lots of care to stay healthy and happy. Plus, their behavior can perplex or even annoy their owners; just ask anyone who has a screeching parrot. For this reason, we recommend first time pet owners stick with dogs or cats. One exception is the beloved goldfish. Bringing home a fish is a great way to dip your toe into the world of pet ownership.

Getting Ready for Your New Bundle of Joy

Okay, you’ve visited your local animal shelter and chosen your new pal. Before you bring her home, be sure to do the following:

  • Choose a vet. Your four-legged family member will require periodic care like shots and flea treatments.
  • Know that cats will climb to the highest point in a room if possible. They can leap pretty much anywhere. They’re unconcerned about damaging things like vases and picture frames. They also need a litter box, which you will need to clean at least once a day. Take note: kitties with claws need a scratching post.
  • It’s possible to train almost any dog to poop in a place of your choosing. You can teach them to hold their bowels and bladder until you let them outside. You can also train them to relieve themselves on absorbent pads laid across your floor, if you prefer.
  • Dogs must have social time, play time, and outdoor time. You will need to walk your pooch every day unless he or she has access to a sizable outside area.
  • Dogs are ingenious at escaping from fenced yards. Make sure they have name tags and locater chips just in case.

Special Circumstances

Abused and/or elderly pets have lots of love to give; however, they also have special needs you must keep in mind. When choosing an animal that has been abused or that is older, keep these tips in mind:

  • Abused dogs may take a very long time to bond with you. Some ways to gain their trust include talking to them in soft, calm voices and not yelling or scolding, giving them plenty of praise, and sheltering them from places or people that make them uneasy.
  • Sometimes you need to adapt your home a bit to accommodate an older animal. Here’s a great article to get you started.
  • Older cats can’t climb or jump as fast or as well as when they were young. You can help them to enjoy their golden years by keeping their food and water at ground level, providing them with cushy places to rest, and opening your curtains to give them a warm place to lay down and enjoy the sunlight.
  • In general, older animals would rather take it easy than bounce all over the place. Lively young humans (also known as “kids”) are best off with a younger, more energetic pet.

Adopting a pet commits you to caring for the animal for the rest of its days. So think long and hard before taking this step. Most pet owners will tell you the rewards they receive make the effort more than worthwhile. Good luck and happy pet owning!