Photo by Winsker
So you’ve decided you want to be a pet owner. That’s great! Owning a pet can be a fun and fulfilling experience for you, your family and the animal you decide to take into your home. They can also be good for your health. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), owning a pet can help decrease blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and help reduce the feeling of loneliness.
But deciding on your first pet can be a challenging task. Key points to consider before choosing an animal are: space, time, financial resources, allergies and personality type.
You want to make sure—especially in the case of dogs—that you have enough house and/or yard space so that they are comfortable. To an extent, the same is true for cats. Be prepared to set aside time to give your animal attention. See to it that you have the financial capacity to take on your desired animal. In the case of cats and dogs, this is mostly food and accessories, but animals in aquariums or caged animals are going to need all of the necessary equipment and routine maintenance. If there is a veterinary emergency, be certain you have the money set aside for medical costs. Make sure you and your family don’t have pet-specific allergies, and that everyone in your household will get along with your new pet. If you have children, make sure the animal is a safe choice.
Before going out and adopting a new kitten or puppy, please consider adopting an older pet. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) reports that nearly 6.5 million animals enter U.S. animal shelters annually. A great deal of them become euthanized. They could use a loving owner or family like you!
In the case of dogs, it is important to consider the size of your dog in relation to your home and yard size. Also consider the amount of time and energy you are willing to give to a new dog since they can require more attention, including frequent walks and playtime. Think about getting a breed that is friendly towards children, if you have any.
If you have a busy schedule but are dead set on getting a dog, consider hiring a professional pet care service (like Top Dog Pet Sitters) so they get the exercise and attention they need. There are plenty of services for dog walking.
If you don’t have a large house or yard, consider a smaller indoor breed of dog. The Spruce recommends the Yorkshire Terrier, Dachshund, and Poodle as the best indoor dog breeds that are also friendly with children. Border Collies and Beagles are also popular choices—but be sure to take them on plenty of walks!
If small dogs aren’t your thing, consider a larger, more protective canine. Bullmastiffs, Doberman Pinschers, and Giant Schnauzers are recommended by the American Kennel Club as the best guard dogs. German Shepherds, Pitbulls, and Rottweilers are also popular choices, but make sure you have plenty of energy and space. These more aggressive breeds tend to be less child-safe.
But maybe you prefer a soft purring cat to a dog. In this case, the main decision is between getting a new kitten or an older cat. Although kittens are cute, they are also require higher maintenance than an older cat. You also don’t get to see what kind of personality a kitten will have (besides being kitten like) until they are more fully grown. The Humane Society recommends that you do your homework in terms of breeds—Persians and Maine Coons tend to be more laid back, while Siamese cats tend to be more vocal. Also, consider how much you want to groom your kitty. Long-haired cats require a little more care.
If you prefer caged animals such as rabbits, rats, birds, or aquarium animals such as fish, turtles or lizards, do your research. Animals like these can require special equipment. Tropical fish and turtles require aquariums and routine maintenance, while most lizards require ultraviolet lamps. Some birds, such as parakeets, do better in pairs. If you are renting an apartment be certain that the animals you intend on getting are not prohibited by your lease agreement. The good thing about caged or aquarium animals is that they are relatively easy to take care of, although they’re cages or aquariums may require frequent cleaning and costly equipment.
Once you have decided on an animal (or animals), make sure your home is prepared and safe for your pet. If you have a puppy or kitten especially, make sure that valuables are stored and safe, and that electrical wires are in a place where they cannot be chewed. One helpful practice is to go around the house at your pet’s eye level and look for any hazards. Be sure to stock up on necessary food and supplies, including leashes and harnesses, toys and treats. If you are getting a caged animal, make sure you have all of the proper equipment and space to keep them. You would be wise to also set aside an emergency fund you can use for unexpected expenses. If your pet happens to chew through the legs of your favorite table, for example, be prepared to pay around $170, which is the national average for furniture repairs according to HomeAdvisor.
Although it doesn’t take much for a caged animal to adjust to a new home, cats and dogs can have a more difficult time. Adopted cats and dogs can have past trauma, so it is essential to be patient with them while they adjust. Give your new animal a comfortable space where it can feel safe if it gets overwhelmed. Bringing objects from the shelter or their old home can also help your new friend acclimate.
Once you have your new pet home and they are settled, it’s essential to set aside plenty of time to bond with them. Make time to go for walks, play or teach them tricks. If you have a dog and they are very active, make time to go to the park or go on a hike. For more docile animals, just setting aside time to pet them and show them affection is all they need. You are their parent now, so make sure they know they are loved and cared for. They will be sure to love you right back!
Cindy is a freelance writer and dog lover. She started Ourdogfriends.org as a fun side project for herself and to educate pet owners and potential pet owners about how dogs can enrich our lives. She enjoys writing about dogs and pet ownership.