First-Time Pet Ownership: What You Need To Know

First Time Pet


So, you’ve decided to get your first pet - congratulations!  Pets can provide you with companionship, adventure, exercise, and unconditional love.  Some preparation is required, so here are a few of the most important questions to consider before adopting your new family member.

What kind of pet would you like?

If you’re in the early stages, you may not even know what kind of pet you’d like to adopt.  This is a critical decision, as you’re not just choosing a piece of hardware or a grocery store melon - animals are living beings with highly-individual personalities, preferences, and needs.  Start off by looking at the size of your house and yard - is there plenty of space to run?  Cats, for instance, sleep frequently, but can be very active in the hours they’re awake. Many dog breeds will need adequate yard space, parks, or walking paths to exercise.  For small houses or apartments, smaller animals, like gerbils or fish, might be more suitable.

Also, take age into account - do you have the time and attention to raise an impressionable kitten/puppy?  Kittens are adorable and give you the opportunity to help develop their personality; adults are more independent, but can still bond powerfully with you. Finally, are you allergic to cats or dogs?  If so, there are plenty of other options - birds, rabbits, fish, mice, chinchillas, and reptiles are all equally lovable in their own ways.  Plus, there are several breeds of dogs and cats that are less allergenic than others, like Kerry Blue Terriers, Poodles, Cornish Rexes, and Balinese.  Be sure to do your research beforehand to ensure your home will be a happy, healthy one for all its residents!

Preparing your home for your pet’s arrival

You’ll probably want to bring your new family member home immediately.  Before you do, though, go through your home and pet-proof it to protect them.  Move cords and plants out of reach, pick up small objects (like rubber bands and hair ties), and clean the floors.  Put trash cans in cabinets and make sure any toxic items, like household cleaners, are inaccessible.  Determine the ground rules - will your pet be allowed on the couch?  How often will you brush or bathe your pet?  What words will be used to tell your pet, ‘No?’  Finally, acquire food and water dishes, litter boxes for cats, a roomy crate for dogs, tanks for fish, and everything else needed to keep your pet comfortable.

Bringing your pet home

Pets are very individual when it comes to stress responses.  In a new place, some will immediately start claiming their territory, while some will hide under whatever’s available.  Some will want to be by you constantly as a reassuring presence, some prefer to be in a crate away from the stress, and some are more confident, quickly adapting to the new area.

Many animals, particularly rescues, are highly sensitive to new environments and can become stressed easily.  If you’re bringing home a rescue pet, try to take a few days off of work so you can be home for the acclimation process. Provide a set of consistent rules to follow - dogs, for instance, need an established pack structure to feel truly comfortable.  Overall, try not to overwhelm them with too much stimuli at once, but provide a concrete foundation and lots of love to maximize bonding.

Benefits of companion animals

Due to the number of positive effects animals have on people, many therapists have started using ‘animal-assisted therapy’ for people in addiction recovery.  Having a companion animal helps to decrease loneliness and depression, while helping patients connect with the world outside of themselves.  Hugging a pet releases positive chemicals in the body that improve moods while decreasing stress, which helps addicts overcome the need to use. 

Now that you’ve gone through the list and decided what kind of pet to get, prepared your home, and gently acclimated your pet to his new life, you are free to enjoy your new companion! 


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