Many first-time pet owners are nervous about somehow getting everything wrong. The good news is that being nervous is definitely a good sign! If you are not worried at all about getting your first pet, you are not treating it as the responsibility it is. That said, being a good pet owner is actually quite straightforward as long as you take the time to think about how you can make your new friend feel happy and welcome in its new home.
Choose the Right Pet
First of all, you need to make sure you are choosing the right animal for your home and lifestyle. It may be tempting to make your choice based on cuteness alone, but this is not responsible. Research the space, time, and healthcare needs of your preferred breeds, and make sure you are compatible. This quiz by British charity PDSA is a great place to start.
If you want to adopt, try to spend some time in the shelter to get to know the animals before you make a decision. There are some key behavioral signs which might indicate that you are not the best choice for them. This article from Reader’s Digest discusses what these are in the case of dogs, but they may apply to other animals as well.
Know Your Costs
Owning a pet can be expensive, and there are costs beyond pet and food bills that you may not expect. For example, pet owners often find themselves having to pay for upholstery cleaning services due to “accidents” or smells their new friends leave behind. It may seem like a small, occasional cost, but these can build up over time. And if you have welcomed an older animal or smaller dog into your life, he or she might need stairs and/or ramps to get up onto furniture or the bed when it’s time to snuggle in. Before shelling out for an expensive ramp or set of stairs, make sure to find one that fits your pet’s needs and comfort levels.
Prepare Your Home
Your home should be ready to receive your new furry (or scaly, or feathery) friend before they arrive. What is going to be their space in the house? Where will they eat, sleep, and do their business? Mapping this out ahead of time saves you stress and avoids later confusion for the animal. You also need to identify hazards, such as small spaces they could be trapped in or plants that are potentially harmful to them, and take steps to mitigate any risks.
Get the Right Kit
Get everything you need to make them comfortable in their new home, but don’t go overboard. Dogs probably involve the most kit, as they are relatively high-maintenance and you need to be able to take them outside safely for walks. Check out this list of the essentials from the folks at Bark Post to give you an idea of what you need.
Give Them Time
When it’s time to bring your new pet home, give them time to adjust. This is especially important with territorial animals like cats, who may feel overwhelmed by too much space. It is especially important to manage your expectations with rescues, shelter pets, and older animals, who may not take to the new home immediately. This short guide by the Humane Society has some good advice and helpful information for such cases.
Bond with Your New Friend
Once you are sure that the animal is comfortably settled in, you can start focusing on developing that bond. Play with them often, give them physical affection, but respect their boundaries if they do not look like they want to interact.
It is also important for you to understand that the human-pet bond differs depending on the animal. Cats rely less emotionally on their humans than dogs, while small pets often need a lot of reassurance until they are not scared of humans. Reading up on your chosen pet or breed is the simplest and most effective way of making sure you are bonding with them right.
Overall, a good pet owner is simply one that prioritizes the happiness and well-being of the animal above all else. A pet is a very big responsibility, so you need to act responsibly. Don’t worry too much about the day-to-day logistics of it all — as long as you are dedicated to making the animal feel happy, safe, and healthy within your home, you are on the right track.