Getting a new pet, whether a dog, cat, ferret or a new freshwater aquarium, is always an exciting, milestone moment. It also requires a lot of time and thought — or at least; it should. After all, pets are a long-term commitment with a lot of different needs. While we often understand the joy and love having a furry friend brings, it’s essential to remember the age-old parental advice: Pets are a lot of responsibility.
Before taking the pet parent plunge, here are some key things to keep in mind:
Adoption is a great first option to consider. According to the ASPCA, approximately 6.5 million companion animals end up in shelters across the U.S. every year. 3.3 million are dogs and 3.2 million are cats. They also explain that sadly each year, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized — 670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats. Adopting is an excellent option for your first pet as certain animals do best when they’re your only companion, which means you can save one of those animals typically passed over by current pet owners.
Another important factor to keep in mind when it comes to adopting is cost. Adopting is significantly cheaper than buying from a breeder. Furthermore, your adoption fee often covers a lot of other financial pet costs such as:
- Spaying and neutering
- Full veterinary exam
- Heartworm test
- Intestinal dewormer
- Flea and tick treatment
- Some may also receive blood work, x-rays, or dental work
- Some may receive a microchip
- Sometimes extras are included like I.D. tags, collar/leash, and food
Adoption fees are around $25 to $200 with many of the things listed above included. When buying a dog from a breeder, the cost is usually double, if not triple, and without the bonuses shelters provide. Granted, most responsible breeders will ensure the puppies are kept up to date on their shots as they grow, but that’s usually it. If the adoption fee is still too high, follow your local shelters and wait until they announce a special adoption discount (typically during those high-traffic months like kitty season).
The Adjustment Period
Another important thing to consider is how your new pet will adapt to their new home. Sometimes our homes are simply built without pets in mind (steep staircases for example, or nooks and crannies that you can’t reach but a curious puppy mouth can). It can be quite the challenge moving them in, but luckily, there are some worthwhile tips and tricks worth studying before welcoming your pet to their new home.
One of the biggest challenges new pets face is the unfamiliarity. The majority of pets grow accustomed during their first moments of life to their mom, their bed, their siblings, etc. When you bring them home, they ultimately leave all of that behind, and they can feel scared or stressed about all the new, overwhelming surroundings. Of course, your pet will grow to love and adore their new home with you, but those first few days can be tough.
To help your new pet adjust to its new home, Direct Energy suggests, “it is best to keep your pets secure and not let them roam the house immediately … If possible, [keep] them in a single room or secluded area … Be sure to check for open windows, improperly stored chemicals, loose cords, pest-control poison traps and repair any open holes where your pet can get stuck.”
It’s also worth putting in a few distractions like new toys, treats, and even a nice, warm bed. You’ll also want to spend some time in the room with them, but don’t crowd them. Give them space, let them come to you, and eventually, they’ll be feeling happier and excited about their new start with you.
Once your new pet has started to feel comfortable in their new home, there are some essential safety measures to know and practice. With that in mind, apartment living with a pet presents different challenges than a house. While a house has its own safety factors, apartments can get pretty tricky.
Considering most apartments are above ground level, apartment-living pet owners don’t exactly have the luxury of opening the door and letting their pet do their thing in the yard. With that in mind, consider finding an apartment-friendly pet like a hamster, bird, or iguana. Cats are also great for apartments as they don’t need to be regularly taken outside like dogs. If you have your heart set on a dog, however, there are a few things you’ll have to adjust to ensure your pets are safe and healthy:
You’ll need to allot time for one to two walks a day for your furry companion to ensure they get plenty of crucial exercise (and potty breaks) each day. Most dogs need a good hour of exercise throughout the day, whether it’s distributed evenly throughout the day or done in one fell swoop.
2. House Training:
Getting your new dog house trained is pretty different when living in an apartment given the limited access to outside. Try pee pads or a bell system on the door so your dog can let you know when they need to go, reducing the chance of accidents.
Balconies can be very dangerous. If the bars on your balcony are big enough for your pet to fit his head through, you run the risk of serious injury, so it’s crucial to always supervise your pet when they want to enjoy the balcony.
4. Cabinets and Shelves:
Cabinets and shelves are particularly easy to access for pets living in apartments. Consider installing childproof locks as a precaution. If you have a cat, those higher cabinets and shelves are not safe either, so make sure all cabinets are firmly closed at all times.
Many people spruce up their apartment with plants to make up for lack of a yard. Unfortunately, certain houseplants are poisonous to animals. A few common houseplants that are poisonous to cats and dogs are poinsettias, hyacinth, oleander, and daffodils.
Apartment living is undoubtedly possible with pets of all shapes and sizes, but it’s important to take extra steps to provide them with a safe, happy, healthy life.
This might seem obvious, but you definitely need more than a food and water dish these days to comfortably enjoy life as a new pet owner. Beyond your typical name tag, collar, and leash, you should keep in mind future plans with your pet. If you enjoy taking road trips and traveling, for instance, pets make great traveling companions! Of course, their safety along the adventure is the number one priority, so checking out travel accessories like folding food and water bowls, car kennels, and microchips are important before exploring together.
Furthermore, there are certain toys that can really help animals burn off all that energy. Consider getting both toys you can play together and toys that will keep them entertained when you’re busy or not at home. Depending on your pet and their particular needs, ask your vet what toys they recommend to avoid dangerous or harmful situations with the wrong toys.
When the day finally comes to say goodbye to that first home you and your pet shared, helping them transition is important to reduce their stress. Remember how it was the first time you brought them home? Animals thrive on routine and familiarity, so a move and new home can really throw a wrench into their usual attitude and demeanor. Just remember to take things slow and give them plenty of time to adjust.
Moving can also be stressful on you as well. Beyond making sure everything is packed up and squared away, there are few things to do before jumping into the moving van with your furry friends:
- State rules: If you’re moving to a new state, keep in mind that each one has their own laws and regulations for pet owners. It’s crucial to do some research on your new state via veterinary office or the Department of Agriculture.
- Local ordinances: Check with the City Clerk’s office in your new town to find out about local ordinances (leash laws, licensing rules, limits on the number of pets per household, “zoning laws that may prohibit specific animals in residential areas“).
- Apartments & Condos: Make sure that you know the pet policies at your new rental and if there are any extra costs for pets.
- Health certificates: Most states require a health certificate for dogs, and some require it for cats and other pets.
- Rabies tags: Do your research, some states require a rabies tag for cats, dogs, and some exotic animals.
- Permits: You might need to purchase a permit for your exotic pet before you can enter your new home state. You can always ask your current or future vet for help with the application process.
Another thing to keep in mind during the moving process is the delicacy it takes to move specific animals. Moving pets such as fish, lizards, and birds can be nerve-wracking. You’ll need to make sure you cover all your bases or they might suffer serious injuries (or worse) during the move.
For your fish and their aquariums, moving experts recommend changing 20 percent of the water in the tank every day for five days prior to moving, refraining from feeding your fish for 24-48 hours before the move, and contacting your vet or local pet store to board your fish if your move is expected to take longer than a week. You can also ask your local pet store for their oxygen-lined bags, AKA the perfect moving truck for your fish.
For birds, keep in mind they’re very sensitive to extreme temperatures, so avoid blasting them with the A/C and heater. Furthermore, they need to avoid getting wet so it’s recommended to pack hydrating snacks like citrus and cucumber instead of their bowl of water. You also should keep them in their carrier, in the back, with a seat belt over them in case airbags go off.
Of course, there are a number of pets with different needs and different stress factors. You can reduce the stress on you and your pet by making sure you have all the proper paperwork, equipment, food and water, and other moving essentials beforehand.
Welcoming a new pet into your life can bring so much joy and companionship. Whether you’re a veteran or are just starting out with your first pet, helping them adjust to their new life with you is easier than you think. Of course there are some essential factors to always keep in mind to ensure your pet’s safety and health — but remember, most of all, they want your love, attention, and care. Good luck!
About the Author
Frankie Wallace writes about a wide variety of different topics, from environmental issues to politics. Wallace currently resides in Boise, Idaho.