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So you’ve decided to get a pet, and you’ve never had one before. Pet ownership is a massive responsibility, but it is one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have. A pet can provide companionship and unconditional love and support, and pet owners are typically healthier and happier and live longer lives. Choose wisely, and you’ll make a friend that lasts a lifetime.
It’s a Big Decision
What kind of pet do you want to have? Start by examining your lifestyle. Do you want a companion for exercising and going outdoors? Or are you looking for a quiet companion at home? How big is your home and yard? Do you have sufficient space for a larger pet? Does anyone in your home have allergies? What about your finances? Pets can be expensive to care for properly, so make sure there’s enough in your monthly budget for vet visits, vaccinations, tags, licenses, food, bedding, and toys. It’s also a good idea to spend some time volunteering at a local rescue or animal shelter so you can learn about the personalities of different animals, to help you find the one that’s right for you.
Once you’ve narrowed down the species, consider the age and breed of the animal. Puppies and kittens will need additional attention and training. Breed specifics give you a general guideline to the temperament and personality you can expect. If you can, get to know potential pets before deciding to adopt. Learn about their past homes and medical history.
Prepare your home in advance. Make sure your yard is secure and decide what parts of home and yard your pet will have access to. Consider putting away breakables and limiting access to rooms with delicate furnishings. Find a veterinarian and make an appointment for shots and certifications. Your vet will be able to advise you on equipment, such as leashes, flea collar, bedding, toys, and feeding dishes, as well as on food selection. A new pet needs time to acclimate to a new environment, so if you can schedule some time off work to be home with him, it may help ease his initial discomfort.
The Big Day
When you bring your pet home, introduce him to the household with patience. Know that some cats will hide for hours, or even days, in a new location. Some dogs, even those who are house-trained and well-behaved, may have toileting accidents or engage in chewing or other destructive behaviors. These are normal reactions to the stress of a new environment, and while you should respond to them constructively, they’re not a clue to your pet’s normal behavior. Patience, time, and training are key to getting your pet to follow the house rules.
If your pet is coming from a difficult environment, he may have trust issues and may take longer to warm up to you and your family. Try to get him on a schedule. Animals like the comfort of knowing what to expect. Establish a routine that gives you ample time to bond with your new addition. If you’re behavior training, make sure you’re consistent and using positive reinforcement, with lots of treats and affection.
Pet Ownership Inspires Healthy Behaviors
People who are dealing with a life crisis need extra support. The love of family, friends, and pets can make a big difference in how they respond to stress and trauma. For people in recovery, pet ownership is a great way to relearn responsibility. The act of caring for another living being can help us start caring for ourselves again. Pet therapy is one way to strengthen emotional bonds and connections, and help to prevent relapses.
The only way to build a relationship is by spending time together. Be hands on and play with your pet and groom and pet him every day. Go out walking in the neighborhood or running around in the yard. Talk to him. The more verbal you are, and the more you respond to his vocalizations, the better you’ll understand each other. Over time, you’ll grow together, the newcomer will become a valued member of your family, and you won’t be able to imagine your life without him.