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How to prepare for your first pet

For many people, having a pet brings comfort and happiness. However, bringing home your first pet on your own may seem a little daunting. Pets are a big responsibility and will likely require some adjustments to your routine, but there are some things you can do to help make the transition go as smoothly as possible.

Research the animal and breed

Whether you're a dog person, a cat person, or an all-around animal lover, getting a pet requires some research beforehand. If you're a cat or a dog person, you'll want to research different breeds. Even if you plan on rescuing a mixed breed from a shelter rather than purchasing from a breeder, it's still important to know what general traits and temperaments to expect.

For instance, if you fall in love with a husky mix at a shelter, you should be prepared for a high-energy, vocal dog with a lot of hair (Huskies are known for being escape artists too — so secure that fence!). If you're looking for an independent kitty who won't be too clingy or make you feel guilty for leaving the house, you may want to keep Persian cats in mind.

If you're starting to get overwhelmed by all the different breeds and traits, start with your needs. Evaluate your lifestyle and personality to figure out what traits in an animal would complement that. If you love to jog in the mornings and hike on the weekends, you may want a medium- to large-sized dog with plenty of energy, such as a Labrador retriever. If you want to spend your weekends watching movies and cuddling on the couch, consider a companion breed, like a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. If you work from home and want someone to keep you company, a more social cat, like a Maine Coon, could be a perfect fit.

Once you decide what breed is best for you, it's time to learn how to prepare for a new puppy or cat.

What you'll need for your new pet

There are quite a few things you'll want to have on-hand when you bring your new pet home. Being prepared will make bringing a new pet home much less stressful. After all, you don't want to have to bring your new friend shopping with you!

How to prepare for a puppy or dog

Whether you're bringing home a puppy or an older dog, you'll still need the same supplies for a smooth transition.

  • Food bowl
  • Water bowl
  • Collar
  • Harness
  • Leash
  • Identification tags
  • Dog bed(s)
  • Crate (if crate training)
  • Puppy pads
  • Food
  • Treats
  • Toys
  • Enzyme spray for messes
  • Grooming supplies

How to prepare for a kitten or cat

Things aren't so different for cats, but there are a few other things you'll need.

  • Food bowl
  • Water bowl
  • Collar
  • Identification tags
  • Cat bed
  • Litter box and litter
  • Food
  • Treats
  • Scratching posts
  • Cat tree
  • Grooming supplies

Preparing your space for the animal

If you're a first-time pet owner, you may be surprised at just how much preparation you'll want to do before bringing your furry friend home. As animals are adjusting to a new environment and learning your rules, it's a good idea to dog-proof some areas of your home.

Anything that your new pet might be able to chew on or knock over should be moved. Not only is it a bummer to have your new puppy chew up your favorite pair of shoes, it can also be an expensive health emergency for them. Also, keep in mind swatting cat paws and rogue wagging tails as you assess your space for anything breakable that can easily be knocked over.

Many house plants can be toxic to both cats and dogs, so be sure to research any plants in your home. If they are harmful to your pet, ensure they're out of reach or put them in a room that will be off-limits to your new pet.

One of the ways to create boundaries in your home and help with training is by using gates. If there are areas you want to keep your new pet out of or if you just want to be able to keep a closer eye on them while training, consider purchasing a few baby gates to set up around your home.

Of course, if you're bringing a dog home and you have a yard, make sure the area is secure. Double check the fencing and reinforce any weak spots to make sure your pup stays safe and sound. You may also want to check that none of your plants are toxic and fence off any landscaping you don't want your pet to play in.

Getting through the first week with your new pet

One of the first things you'll want to do when you bring a new pet home is get it an appointment with a veterinarian. Many vets are very busy, so you may want to call around a few weeks in advance to get an appointment. Your vet will perform an exam on your new pet and be able to answer any questions you may have. These might include:

  • What type of flea/tick preventative should I use?
  • What heartworm preventative should I use?
  • What are the signs for intestinal worms?
  • What are the signs of parvovirus?
  • When and what are puppies' first shots?
  • How much food should I give them?
  • How much exercise should I provide?
  • Are there any toys or foods that are dangerous?

Your new pet might be a little bit nervous during their first week in their new home, so be sure to give them time to decompress. The first few weeks may not be indicative of their true personality, as they're still trying to get comfortable. Try and give them space and time to warm up to you, even if it feels impossible to resist kissing that furry face!

Good bonding activities that can help build trust are training and grooming. These are also important for your new pet's quality of life. Try to set time aside every day to work on training exercises and start getting them used to brushes and nail clippers to make their days at the groomer less stressful.

What's more

Getting your first pet is such an exciting time. Try and prepare as best as you can to skip the stress and jump straight to the fun and joy that a pet brings to your home.