Nancy and Ginger 

  What You Need to Know 

  Now That You've Decided to Get a  Pet

  Written by guest writer, Jessica Body

 

According to the American Pet Products Association, 84.6 million U.S. households own a pet. That includes cats, dogs, and fish as well as less common pets like reptiles, birds, and other small animals. If you’re thinking about joining the ranks of America’s pet owners, here’s what you need to know.

How to Choose the Right Pet

The first question all future pet owners must answer is, “What kind of pet do I want to add to my family?” Dogs and cats are the most common pets, but many families opt for a smaller animal for their first pet. If you’re thinking of adopting a bird, reptile, or small mammal, realize that just because they’re compact doesn’t mean they’re low-maintenance. On top of routine cage cleaning, many small animals have social needs that shouldn’t be overlooked.

 

Dogs and cats are, by far, America’s most popular pets. Cats are great for families with a busy lifestyle because they have fewer exercise needs than dogs. However, cats still need daily interaction to be friendly, well-trained households pets. They also require less space, making cats the better choice for apartment-dwellers and others without a backyard.

 

If you love being active and spending time outdoors, a dog may be the pet for you. Dogs require 30 to 90 minutes of exercise each day, making them one of the most high-maintenance pets, but owners are rewarded with unconditional affection and a companion that’s always ready for an adventure. When choosing a dog, it’s important to consider breed. Different dog breeds have different exercise, grooming, and dietary needs; preferred activities; and personalities. Rather than buying or adopting a dog based on looks, consider your own lifestyle and how you’d like a dog to fit into it.

Preparing Your Home for a Pet

According to CNET, pets cause an astonishing $3 billion in electronics damage every year. And that’s only one of the ways a pet can wreak havoc on your home. Thankfully, pet-proofing is fairly simple. Store medications, cleaning products, and other household poisons up high or behind locked doors; keep trash cans covered or behind closed doors; keep wires and cords out of reach; and block access to small spaces like uncovered air vents. You should also get in the habit of keeping toilet lids closed, cleaning up anything you don’t want chewed on, and checking the dryer for a napping pet before turning it on.

 

If the previous homeowners had pets, there could be odors lingering in the carpets. Another animal’s urine can trigger inappropriate toileting in dogs and cats. To be safe, thoroughly clean carpeting to eliminate odors. Even if your home has never housed pets, it’s a good idea to keep carpet-cleaning products on hand; even the best house-training experiences involve a few accidents.

 

Of course, you’re not fully prepared until you’ve purchased the necessary pet supplies. Before bringing your pet home, purchase a bed, food and water dishes, food, toys, and treats. If you can, buy the same food your pet is currently eating to avoid an upset stomach. It’s best to transition gradually if you want to switch foods.

Helping Your New Pet Adjust

Moving to a new home is a big change for your pet. If you can, take time off work so you can be home to help your pet adjust.

 

Rescue animals, in particular, may experience anxiety upon joining a new family. Unfortunately, that anxiety and stress often leads to misbehavior. Avoid showing anger or frustration when your pet urinates on the carpet or chews something he shouldn’t, as it could make your pet afraid of you. Instead, focus on being a gentle, calming presence and using positive reinforcement to encourage desired behaviors.

 

Your pet may not want to play or be affectionate at first. Rather than forcing attention on him, give your pet his own space in a quiet room and let him come to you when he wants to interact. As your pet builds trust, your relationship will grow stronger.

 

Bringing home your first pet is an exciting time. However, if you want the transition to be a success, you can’t afford to make impulsive decisions. Spend time as a family discussing what type of pet is right for you and how life will change once your new family member comes home.

 

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