Pets are wonderful additions to any family. Humans have long held a strong connection with dogs and cats. They make us feel good, give us purpose, provide unconditional love and companionship. If you are considering getting a pet for the first time, congratulations! You are headed for years of joy with your new addition.
Pet ownership is a responsibility, though, so before you make that commitment, take a good inventory of your life. Make sure you are up to the task and prepare your house, family and life for your pet.
Understanding the obligation
When you own a pet, you are responsible for a life. It is similar, but also very different, of course, from the responsibilities of parenting. An animal’s happiness and health are solely in your hands. As a pet owner, you will have to feed and shelter your dog or cat, but that’s not all. In addition to food, you will have unexpected expenses such as veterinarian bills, grooming costs and obedience training.
If you plan to vacation without your pets, like most people, then you’ll need to make arrangements or pay for boarding. Although airlines and hotels have become more accommodating of certain pets, many trips are impossible with a canine or feline companion. If you are adopting your pet, you will likely be made aware of the many responsibilities of ownership at the time of adoption, as shelters and humane societies have a vested interest in making sure that their populations are low. They would prefer than you not adopt if it means you would consider returning the animal if the responsibility became overwhelming.
Determining the right breed for you
When adopting pets from a shelter, your choices are usually limited. Kittens are all essentially the same as far as requirements – although specialty cat breeds have difference grooming and care requirements. Dogs vary more in both size and temperament. If you have a small apartment, make sure you have access to a big field, dog park or jogging area before adopting a large, athletic dog breed such as a Labrador Retriever or Weimaraner that need a lot of exercise. Smaller dogs have less exercise requirements, but have different limitations and concerns.
Preparing your home
Once you know the breed or type of pet you are going to adopt, it’s time to make sure your home is safe and secure. Many household chemicals and some plants are extremely dangerous to pets. Cats often like to swat at plants, so if you have any that are potentially poisonous, make sure to remove them before you set your kittens free in your home.
Both dogs and cats need their own spaces in a home. A dog bed or crate in a quiet space is preferable for Fido, and cats need a clean and quiet area for their litter box. You’ll want it to be out of the way, but not so much so as to be a chore to clean.
Bonding with your pet
Once your home is made safe and your new pet has its own area, you can focus on bonding. By fostering a close relationship with your pet, you can ensure that their behavior is well-regulated. Both cats and dogs can act destructive if they are not content. Dogs can benefit from obedience training, which can also act as a form of bonding.
Bonding is a two-way street with your new pets. Companion animals provide many benefits to humans, including improving mental and emotional health. Pets also can play a role in supporting those in addiction recovery. Addiction survivors develop healthy routines and focus on caring for another living creature.
As a first-time pet owner, you may feel overwhelmed by responsibility. If you just remember to spend time with your pet and embrace the responsibility as an opportunity to enrich your life and the lives of your pets.
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