Tips for First-Time Pet Owners

America is truly a nation of pet lovers, with around 68 percent of households in the United States being home to a pet. If you’re thinking about becoming part of this trend, that’s good news for you and for your lucky new friend! However, you need to do some planning and preparation to successfully integrate a new pet into your family.

Find the Right Pet

Don’t choose your pet based on appearance alone. Different breeds can have vastly different temperaments, personalities, and needs, so do some research on the right breed for you. Think about the following factors:

  • Lifestyle: Will you be out of the house for long periods? Cats, true to the stereotype, are more independent and can tolerate more time alone. Dogs, however, vary from breed to breed, so make sure you get one that’s happy being home alone. Need some advice? Barking Royalty lists a few good choices here.
  • Energy Level: Some breeds of dog, mainly larger dogs and work dogs, need lots of exercise, so make sure you’re willing and able to meet this need.
  • Interaction: Are you looking for a pet to snuggle up with, or are you happy with a more aloof companion?
  • Allergies and Grooming: Some pets shed — a lot. For such breeds, you’ll have to spend a lot of time brushing and vacuuming up after them. If you have allergies, look for a hypoallergenic breed that sheds very little hair.

Prepare Your Home

Although animals have their own personalities, you should assume your new family member will chew, scratch, and eat everything within reach  — at least until proven otherwise. Keep choke hazards, food, and dangerous materials like medications and cleaning products in places your pet can’t access. Some cats knock items off of surfaces — sometimes deliberately, sometimes accidentally — so don’t leave anything out that will break if it falls, even on high shelves. Electrical cables and outlets are another risk and should be safely covered; you can find some inexpensive electric outlet covers at retailers like Lowe’s. American Humane has some more tips on pet-proofing your home.

Helping Your Pet Settle in

Moving to a new home is stressful for a pet, so try to keep some consistency with their routine at first. Find out what brand of food they ate, what their exercise times were, and other aspects of their routine. Match this routine to begin with and gradually switch to your own schedule. You can also provide comfort and a sense of security by getting a new bed for your furry friend. Making the new addition to your family feel relaxed is important, especially they’re sleeping, so select one that’s perfect for their shape and size.

It’s best to let cats get used to a single space for around three weeks before letting them roam. Let them live in a single room to start with and gradually allow them into more of the house. For dogs, start house training as soon as you get home by taking them to the yard or another elimination spot straight away. Keep them on the leash as you show them around your home. Also, keep visitors to a minimum for a few days to avoid overwhelming them.

Create an Emergency Plan

As soon as possible after bringing your pet home, get them microchipped, register at a local vet, and put together an emergency plan. Find out which vaccinations, if any, they have already received, and make an appointment to get the remainder done. Find out the emergency line you can call in case there is a problem with your pet, and keep it where you can find it easily. If you live in an area at risk of disasters, make sure you include your pet in your preparedness plans. Have carry-crates and leashes in easily accessible places, and make a list of pet-friendly hotels or animal shelters on your evacuation route so you know where you can go should you ever need to leave your home in a hurry.

Many people find that the reality of owning a pet doesn’t live up to their expectations. This is sometimes for reasons outside of their control, but in many cases, it could have been avoided with some prior research and preparation. If you do your homework and start preparing before you get your pet, you’ll have a much better chance of success.

Content Provided by Jessica Brody of


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