If you’re hoping to add a little love to your life in the form of companionship, getting a pet can be just the ticket. Pets make wonderful partners for just about anyone -- from young families to senior citizens to people recovering from addiction -- and while they require a lot of time and responsibility, the unconditional friendship that you will form is well worth it. Here are some tricks of the trade for anyone looking to become a first-time pet owner.
Decide on the best pet for you
There are many factors to consider in order to determine the kind of animal and breed of pet that’s most suitable for your lifestyle. As BestFriends.org points out, “Each type of pet is different in terms of care, feeding, behavior, cost, housing and demands on your time.” Think about how large your home and yard is, any allergies you or your family may have, the amount of cleaning you are willing to do, the energy level you can keep up with, who the animal will be interacting with, and so forth. Additionally, be prepared for the costs of routine vet care and emergency visits that may pop up.
Having a puppy or kitten, for example, is a great bonding experience, but means that you will have to potty train and watch over them nonstop until they are trained. A fully-grown cat or dog, on the other hand, is likely to be set in their ways but calmer in nature. Other options include horses, birds, ferrets, rabbits, and pot-bellied pigs.
Prepare your home
Before you bring your pet home for the first time, you’ll want to make sure you have everything you need to properly care for him or her. This may mean purchasing a cage, leash, collar, toys, bedding, food, bowls, litter box or carrier. If they’re already on a particular diet, you’ll need to wean them off of it slowly. Additionally, make sure your address is on their collar somewhere so they can be returned to you if lost.
You should also pet-proof your house in order to protect them and your belongings. Make things like the trash, toilet paper, shoes, food, plants and any small objects that can fit into a mouth scarce. Animals shed, so part of preparing your home is making sure you’re ready to clean up after your new pet. If you don’t already have one, a vacuum cleaner can be a big help in picking up pet hair, and there are many quality models available.
Bringing home an animal is going to be an adjustment for both of you. This is especially true if it is a rescue pet that may be nervous or fearful at first due to prior experiences. As long as you have patience and show love and understanding, they will come to trust you and accept their new surroundings. Let them have their own space to retreat to and come to you on their own terms. It’s also important to start them on a routine as far as feeding, walks, bedtime, and potty breaks are concerned. Offer encouragement in the form of treats, tone of voice and pats, as this will help them learn appropriate behaviors, such as walking on a leash and interacting with new people.
Follow through with your commitment
Make sure you are able to spend time with him or her and don’t just leave them penned up or on a chain. While you’re at work, consider hiring a dog walker, dropping them off at doggy daycare, or getting them another pet to play with. There are tons of activities you can do with any pet during your free time, such as walking, snuggling, traveling, singing and playing.
If you decide to adopt a pet, be sure to ask a staff member at the shelter to help you find the right one for you. Chances are that they know each animal’s temperaments, and can even give advice on their likes and dislikes. Just be patient with your pet, and know it may take time to see their true personality.