It’s always a thrill to bring a new member of the family home for the first time! However, whether you’re an experienced pet parent or a beginner, it never hurts to brush up on the basics of responsible pet ownership. Remember that your new friend is completely dependent on you for all of their needs—both physical and emotional. Use the following tips to prepare your family and your home for the new addition, and to keep your pet happy and healthy for many years to come.
Choose an Animal That Will Align With Your Lifestyle
It’s tough to walk through an animal shelter and resist the temptation to bring home every cute little ball of fluff. However, as much as you may fall in love with a particular animal, it might not necessarily be the best pet for your lifestyle. If you’re choosing a dog, for example, and you’re drawn to a large, active breed, you need to first ask yourself:
- Will I really have the time and inclination to walk him and play with him as much as he needs?
- How much do I like my furniture and couch cushions?
- Will I get upset if they get chewed up?
- Will this particular animal be a good match for my young children and other pets (if applicable)?
If you have a less active lifestyle or not much time on your hands for long walks, then choosing a cat or small dog breed may be best for you. Animal shelter staff members are typically trained to help match animals (both breeds and individual personalities) to families to ensure a good fit, so don’t be shy about asking for help.
Research the Animal’s Needs Ahead of Time
If you’ve never had a particular species of pet before—whether dog, fish, or parrot—or if you haven’t owned that species since you were young, you should take the time to research the animal’s needs before you adopt. Explore reputable websites (e.g., SPCA chapters) to find reliable pet care guides. You can also ask your veterinarian for guidance. Make sure you have everything you’ll need to care for your new friend before bringing them home, such as food, a leash, appropriate housing for pocket pets, and so on. Basic first aid supplies are also advisable to have on hand, such as styptic powder and nail trimmers.
Discuss the Breakdown of Pet-Related Responsibilities
Unless you’re a one-person household, talk to your other family members or roommates about pet-related responsibilities. Discuss task-sharing and make a plan to ensure that the pet’s needs will be fully met. It’s a popular parenting tactic to get kids a pet in order to teach them about responsibility. Unfortunately, this can backfire—and the animal will pay the price. It’s best not to get kids a pet unless you or other adults are also prepared to take care of the animal—and to very closely supervise the kids’ efforts at pet care.
Bring Your New Pet to the Vet Promptly
When you do bring your new friend home, enjoy it! Take lots of pictures and offer plenty of reassurance as your new pet gets used to their new home. But don’t forget that they’ll need medical care promptly. Every new pet should see a veterinarian shortly after going to their new home. This is particularly true if you have other animals, owing to the potential risk of contagious diseases and parasites. Take your new friend in for a wellness exam and any shots they may need. Be sure to follow your vet’s guidelines on follow-up appointments.
Spay or Neuter and Microchip Your Pet
Dogs and cats need to be spayed or neutered when they reach a certain age. Spaying and neutering offers health benefits for your pet and it can cut down on troublesome behaviors. When you bring your pet in for the surgery, this is also a good time to microchip your pet. Even if you have an indoor cat, it can be a good idea to microchip them—just in case they get scared and escape out the door, or in case of a house fire or natural disaster.
Meet Your Pet’s Ongoing Care Needs
Every animal has certain needs—high-quality, nutritious food, unlimited access to fresh, clean water, safe housing, and a clean home to live in (with a regularly cleaned place to relieve themselves). Bringing home a new pet is exciting, but it’s also a major responsibility. Remember that meeting your pet’s physical needs is only the start. All animals need lots of love and attention, and interactive toys to keep them happy.
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