Tips and Advice for First-Time Pet Owners

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Welcoming a new pet into your home can be one of the most exciting days of your life. But if you’re a first-time pet owner, you might feel a little unsure about what your new family member will expect of you, what you should expect from your new family member, or how to make the transition as smooth as possible.

I’d like to thank author Jessica Brody who wrote the following article for Dogs Dogs Dogs Forever. She provides advice that will give you confidence to enjoy your new pet-owning lifestyle to the fullest. Just keep in mind that you might find that your pet owns and trains you rather than the other way around. That’s how it is in my home.

Guest Post by writer Jessica Brody

The American Pet Products Association reports that Americans spent over $60 billion on their pets in 2015. If you’ve decided to bring a pet into your family—and you’re a first-time pet owner—there are a few things to keep in mind.

Consider whether your home and yard are a safe environment, and whether your house is large enough to accommodate the type of pet you want.

  • How much time do you have to dedicate to a new family member? A busy lifestyle probably isn’t suited to a dog—but a reptile might be perfect.
  • Will everyone in the family take responsibility for pet care? If your kids are helping, create and post a chart so pet duties are clear.
  • Don’t forget the expense associated with pet ownership: food, cages or crates, grooming, and veterinary care, for example.

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Find the pet/breed that’s right for you.

Dogs. These pack critters usually don’t like to be left alone—if you have a very active lifestyle, a dog might not be the best choice. Dogs can live 10 years or more, so this new family member will be with you for a long time. If you’re not sure which breed to choose, the American Kennel Club is a great place to start.

Cats. While some cats are more aloof than others, they’re still social animals that need your love and attention. They can live 15 years or more, so they’re another long-term commitment. They also have other habits, which might not work with your home, family, or lifestyle. Learn more about each breed here.

Birds. Live in a small space? Birds don’t need much room, and they’re good pets for people with allergies. Parakeets are super friendly; cockatiels are active and cheerful. Larger breeds like Amazons, African Greys, macaws, and cockatoos have fun personalities and are easily trainable. Depending on the breed, birds can live between five and 30 years. AVMA is a great resource if you’re considering a bird.

Hamsters. These fuzzy animals can provide hours of entertainment, especially if they’ve got a good temperament. They usually live between two and five years, which is good if you’re not looking for a long-term commitment. Here are tips on buying a hamster.

Reptiles. Snakes, turtles, lizards, and frogs are fun, but many people underestimate the amount of care a reptile or amphibian requires. Check out Petplace’s guide to choosing a reptile if you’re into scales and creepy crawly critters.

Prepare your home for a new pet

Each type of critter requires a different set of supplies, toys, food, and equipment. Common supplies include:

  • Good quality food and treats
  • Food and water bowls
  • Beds or bedding
  • Collars and ID tags
  • Pet-safe toys
  • Crates (for dogs)
  • Cage (for reptiles, birds, small mammals)

You may also need to pick up some cleaning supplies to address any messes your pet might leave behind. For dogs, you might need small plastic bags to retrieve any surprises they leave behind during your walks. For cats, however, you’ll definitely need a litter box, be it an old-fashioned plastic container or something that cleans itself, which prevents you from having to take care of this chore on a daily basis. Of course, not all self-cleaning litter boxes are created equal, so read up on the best products before making a decision.

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Help a new pet acclimate to his new home

Once you’ve brought your new pet home, you’ll need to learn how to live together as a family. It’ll take some time for your new critter to adapt to his home, especially if you’ve adopted a shelter animal.

  • Give him some space—a place where he can hide if he’s overwhelmed with all the action.
  • Provide structure with a routine that includes feeding time, play time, or walk time.
  • Set up everything your pet needs (food and water bowls, bed, cage or crate, scratching post, litter box) before you bring him home.
  • Be patient! Some pets will take longer than others to acclimate. Give them time and lots of love.

How companion animals help recovering addicts

You may have read that pets have super healing powers. They help you relax and cope with stress better. Cuddling with fur-faces also lowers blood pressure. Pets require that you think about someone other than yourself because you have someone else to care for—and in return, they provide unconditional love and acceptance. Experts agree that animal therapy, when combined with traditional substance use disorder treatments, helps those recovering from addiction.

And so …Whether you choose a traditional pet or something more exotic, pets will enrich and change your life for the better. They’re fun and rewarding and make great companions. Just keep in mind that they won’t always act just how you’d prefer.

So, don’t hesitate any longer if you’ve been pondering bringing a pet into your family. What time is better than now?

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