Owning a pet, whether it’s a dog, cat, or bird, can be a joyful experience. Having companionship and love throughout the day can be fantastic for pet owners, and it also has health benefits, like decreases in both blood pressure and loneliness.
Not only that, but pet owners often have increased opportunities to socialize with others. In an always-connected online world where we often neglect face-to-face socializing, you can see why this is an excellent bonus!
It’s worth emphasizing that our guide to pet ownership is for everyone. It’s for those who are considering getting a pet, brand new pet owners, and seasoned ones who might need a quick brush up on some essential tips. The guide will focus on pets in general, but there’s special attention given to our beloved cats and dogs. What would we do without our furry friends?
We will talk about everything from how to choose a pet, to creating a home for it and the essential safety tips that every owner needs to know.
Let’s dive in!
Choosing a Pet
The first question potential pet owners must ask themselves: is a pet right for me? While it can seem like the right thing to do, an impulse purchase even, your lifestyle always comes into play.
You need to think realistically about whether a pet suits your life. For example, do you travel frequently? Maybe you have kids taking up all of your time? Remember that pets need care, attention, and lots of love (just like humans do). They’re a serious responsibility.
If you think you’re able to care for a pet and have the time to make them feel special, then you can expect a better quality of life and lots of smiles. Below we’ve listed everything you need to consider:
Consider Your Lifestyle
Different pets and breeds require various levels of investment and care. For example, dogs require high-quality food, frequent walks, a good deal of socializing, and a stimulating, positive environment. Cats need a clean environment, their own private space, a healthy and regular diet, and lots of stroking.
You should handle lizards just the right amount, fish need their water changed frequently, and birds need a specially formulated diet. With kids, travel, or work to factor into the mix, you really need to consider whether you have the time to care for your pet correctly.
You might have a chronic health condition or injury. This can make it difficult, or even impossible, to care for an energetic pet. If you have a disability, you could consider getting a trained assistant dog, providing you with both a companion and helper.
Of course, personal preferences can shape your decision too. Some people can’t be without dogs, while others are more inclined towards cats or even fish. Think carefully about which pet is right for you!
Weigh Various Needs
It can be helpful to weigh various needs—both yours and a potential pet’s—and how they fit into your life. How vital is companionship for you? How much time do you have to dedicate to the animal’s needs?
Perhaps most important of all is how the pet gels with your personality. Maybe you’re looking for a companion you can observe most of the time? Then hamsters, mice, or gerbils are an excellent option for you. They require food and water, and often exercise via a wheel, but are low maintenance overall.
Cats are also a good choice because most of the time, they look after themselves. They need food, water and somewhere warm to sleep, and while they love attention, they are very much independent animals.
Dogs, on the other hand, require consistent attention, care, exercise, and a generous helping of social. They are the perfect companions for those that have the time to look after them. Just be aware of the effort involved.
Visit Potential Pets
A sensible idea is to shop around and see what potential pets are like before you commit.
For example, try visiting shelters, pet stores, or even your friends who already have pets. By doing this, you’ll acquire a sound knowledge of what pet will suit you the best. Knowledge is power, as they say.
Create a Budget
Money is an ongoing concern throughout our lives, but it doesn’t have to be a worry if we budget wisely. The same goes for pets. Always be aware that different animals come at different costs. For example, it’s much cheaper to look after guinea pigs than it is dogs.
While budgeting and planning, you should include both upfront and ongoing costs for your potential pet. Ongoing costs include food, visits to the vet, and things like bedding, leashes, collars, and toys
Rescue an Animal
While the idea of buying a pet might be firmly in your mind, it’s always worth considering adopting a pet from a shelter or rescue organization. Fostering a pet is a great option, too, and comes with the bonus that you’re saving a life. That’ll undoubtedly leave you feeling warm and fuzzy inside!
The other benefits of rescuing a pet include most of the upfront costs already being paid, you’ll likely end up with an animal that is already house-broken, and you’ll avoid puppy mills.
Creating a Home
A significant part of pet ownership is creating a new home for your friend that satisfies and serves their needs. Different types of pets, of course, have different requirements when it comes to their ideal homes.
From accessories to creating the right space, here are four key points you need to think carefully about for your pet:
Consider Home Size and Type
The size of your home impacts your pet’s comfort. For example, some dogs are well-suited to small spaces, while other pets, such as tortoises, usually benefit from freely roaming around in a yard. Some dogs need adequate space to run around and play in, too, so think carefully.
Be sure to consider the type of home you live in as well. If you’re renting a flat, for instance, there may well be strict limitations on what pets are allowed, if any. Or, maybe you’re a bit of a nomad. If so, do you have the permanent accommodations necessary for a pet? Traveling with pets is far from easy or advised (as this writer has witnessed!).
Choose the Right Space
Apart from just the size of your home, you also need to think about creating the correct space for your new pet.
Puppies benefit from crates that are safe, secure, and comfy. Turtles, on the other hand, require a terrarium that provides 12 hours of daylight and they should not be kept directly in the sun. Fish need certain types of aquariums, and often bigger tanks are better for new owners until they’ve gained some experience. Have you thought about the right space for the pet you desire?
Of course, pets need more than just a safe space. Many of them need additional accessories, including toys, heat lamps, and food bowls.
Dogs might need training pads, baskets, collars, and a tasty variety of toys to keep them entertained. Cats need bedding, litter trays, scratching posts, scratching boards, and brushes. Microchip feeders are somewhat essential if you have multiple felines, as this helps to prevent greedy cats from turning each feed into a feast! It’s time to get accessorizing.
Meet their Needs
The very basics that pets need are stimulation, exercise, affection, and care. Different animals have varying requirements.
For instance, dogs, while they do need devotion and care, also need to see structure and leadership. They need to know the rules and boundaries, and they will test this as part of being a pack animal—it’s in their very nature.
Cats with lots of energy need time to exercise and interact with toys, and you should groom those with long coats every single day. You’ll also need to observe your cat mindfully. As independent animals, they can be somewhat aloof, but they still need you to watch out for them. Specifically, look for any changes in their behavior that might be uncharacteristic.
It’s essential to meet your pet’s needs. The good news is that they’ll be delighted you did so. As a result, so will you!
Pet Safety Tips
Pets are a part of the family, and we tend to value them like a loved one. Just like keeping our family and friends secure, you also need to take steps to keep your pets safe from harm.
We’ve listed below some critical steps to ensure your pets remain as safe as they can be:
ID your Pet
Any pet that goes outside must wear a collar and ID tags. While it’s tempting just to put the name of your pet on the tag, it’s more sensible to include the following:
- State that your pet is micro-chipped, (if it is)
- Your address, and, of course, your phone number so people can reach out
- Add a personal touch by mentioning that the pet is a part of a loving family
With these details, it should be much easier for others to help you if your pet runs away or gets lost.
Vets can also microchip pets, and mobile apps exist that help you to track them. Prepare for the worst, and the worst will be manageable!
Choose a Veterinarian
You shouldn’t wait for a pet to become ill before you take them to the vet. Regular visits to a veterinarian allow them to detect any problems at an early stage. Vaccinations, routine deworming, and heartworm prevention are all key components to ensure your pet stays fit and healthy; for as much of their life as they can.
It’s also worth advising that a vet can recommend wellness programs based on the breed of your pet. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and always explain to your veterinarian any worries or doubts you may have. We promise you won’t sound foolish.
Pet-proof your House
In a similar sense to baby-proofing, pet-proofing will keep your furry friends from getting involved with things that they shouldn’t. For example, cleaning chemicals and choking hazards are dangerous, as are electrical cords that your pet may decide to play with for fun.
Depending on how adventurous your pet is, childproof latches can be helpful to keep your companions from opening up cabinets. When it comes to cleaning chemicals, always leave them up on high ledges and shelves, so your pet doesn’t have the chance to create a hazard. Put away children’s toys and games after they’re finished with, and move electrical wires out of reach.
Be aware that plants can also be dangerous, especially lilies, and are poisonous to cats. Be sure to remove them from your garden.
Pick Healthy Food
Just like all animals, your pet needs the right nutrition to live a healthy and happy life. Forget giving them scraps and low-quality food; a proper balance of nutrients is paramount. Excessive amounts of food are harmful, just as food deficiency is. In fact, cats require 41 essential nutrients and dogs 37.
In general, you should avoid feeding your pet the following:
- Chocolate, coffee and other forms of caffeine
- Milk and dairy
- Certain types of raw fish
- Xylitol (sugar substitute)
- Chives, garlic, and onions
- Yeast dough
- Undercooked meat
- Salty snacks
Dogs should ideally feed on a mixture of dry food, wet food, treats, and dental care products. Cats, on the other hand, need meat and quite a bit of it. The protein from the meat provides a healthy heart, good vision, and a strong reproductive system!
Training Your Pet
While not all pets require earnest training, it’s necessary for certain animals. Be aware that training them is a significant time commitment—as you might expect. That said, it’s undoubtedly worth doing in the long run, so stall that hesitation!
We’ve listed some vital pet training tips below to get the journey underway:
Different animals and breeds have various training needs, and it can help to understand their underlying behaviors.
For instance, puppies three to twelve weeks of age need the appropriate early socialization that allows for healthy behavior. If this doesn’t happen, there’s a risk the dog can grow up to be aggressive, shy, or anxious simply because of fear.
It’s always important to be mindful of what a different breed entails. For example, Labrador Retrievers require more exercise than, say, a French Bulldog.
Cats, meanwhile, still need to be trained to some extent, despite their independence. Training cats to respond to vocal cues is both helpful for you and beneficial for them. Getting cats to use the family toilet also means you can remove the litter box entirely, although the merits of doing so are somewhat debatable!
In a nutshell, it pays to think about different behaviors and how, as a pet owner, you can combat any issues with the correct training—regardless of the breed or animal.
House Train Right Away
Dogs and cats should be trained to go to the bathroom in certain areas as soon as possible. We’ve already mentioned how cats can be trained to use the toilet, but leaving them to use their litter tray is a valid option. Fortunately, cats, by instinct, expel their bodily waste and cover it up with little training.
Dogs require more training, but as long as you get them into a good routine, it should be quite straightforward. Puppies need to urinate after they’ve woken up from sleep, and they usually defecate within half an hour of eating. Training them to go in the garden as soon as possible is a wise option, as is using cue words as they perform each action. This can be as simple as saying something like “be clean” or “be busy.”
The trick for both animals is consistency. Keep it constant and routine, monitor it carefully, and everything should go smoothly as a result. Remember that training should be positive, not frustrating.
Socialize your Pet
Just like humans, your pet, whether cat or dog, needs to meet other people and animals so it can learn about the world around it. Encourage as much socialization as possible from an early age.
A well-socialized cat will be loving, affectionate, and trusting. It’s especially important to get cats used to young children to prevent their rather defensive biting and scratching habits.
Dogs that have a pleasant social life will be at ease in both the family home and out in public. Dog training classes are a compelling option too, as your pet will learn to interact with other humans, as well as other dogs. Just be aware of the costs.
If you’d like to know more, then you can check out our other pet resources here: