Be Prepared! Three Important Tips for First-Time Pet Owners

If you are thinking of becoming a pet owner for the first time, there are likely dozens of questions flashing before your eyes.  What kind of animal should you get, and what kind of breed? How will you bond with him or her? How can you get your home ready?

Whether you are getting a dog, cat, bird or reptile, caring for another life is a big responsibility. Before you make the choice to open your home and your heart to a new animal friend, there is a lot to consider.

Bringing a new dog or cat into your family can be as exciting as it is stressful. Even with all the information out there, pets don’t come with an owner’s manual detailing every nuanced behavior. Many first-time pet owners anxiously strive to get as much information as they can to help a new pet adjust. We have got you covered; here are three tips to ease those fears, quell those concerns, and make sure you’re ready for your new best friend.

Examine Your Lifestyle

Are you an active person looking for a dog to go on hikes or runs? Or, do you prefer a quiet night in with a cat on your lap and a movie on the TV? These questions might seem trivial, but understanding how a pet will fit into your life will help you find the pet that fits right. If you know that you will be gone for 8-10 hours most days, for example, you’ll need to find a trustworthy dog walker who can help you make sure your pet is getting enough exercise. If you want an animal that will rely on you and be excited to go with your every whim, then you may want to choose another pet than an independent cat.

Your research shouldn’t stop there. Different animal breeds are known for different personality traits. Not all dogs are active, and not all cats are independent. Age plays a role, too. A young kitten will be more playful and engaging, and more likely to claw up furniture. An older cat may be more standoffish at first but will have gotten many of those problematic habits out of his system. Dogs, although arguably more predictable, also have major discrepancies between behavior and age.

Take an Allergy Test

If you are a first-time pet owner, you may not have been around animals enough to know what kinds of allergies you might have. This can get kind of complicated. For example, you sweep and sweep, but still sneeze and sneeze. It turns out, the type of fabric your couch is made from collects and holds onto pet dander more easily. Even if you aren’t allergic to that animal, their hair often carries pollen and dust, which you might be allergic to.

Even if you don’t think allergies will be an issue, pet hair can build up pretty quickly, so your cleaning habits will need to change to keep up. Some dog breeds, like the American Hairless Terrier and the Bichon Frise, don’t shed much or at all. These are often called “hypoallergenic” dog breeds. No pet has ever been proven to be completely hypoallergenic, but several have been shown to irritate allergies less.

Create a Budget

Cats and dogs are expensive. Even if you lovingly open your home to a rescue or shelter animal, which might have a lower adoption fee, there is still food, vet bills, medications and other regular bills associated with pet ownership. The age of your pet is an important factor, too. Young animals, especially dogs, typically need vaccinations when they’re brought home, while older pets may require minor home modifications to keep them comfortable. Take a close look at your finances and decide what you can spend each month on owning an animal. You can estimate routine veterinary costs, like vaccinations, but don’t forget to factor in an occasional emergency vet visit. Food, water, leashes, toys, litter, collars, tags -- they all add up, and none of them are a one-time expense.

Owning a dog or cat isn’t going to break your bank, but it is essential that you are prepared. Almost 50 percent of rehomed dogs and cats are given up due to financial problems such as medical bills. It’s heartbreaking to have to rehome a beloved animal, so knowing what you can, and cannot, afford from the beginning can save a lot of pain.

When you take on a new pet, you’re also taking on new responsibilities. However, you are also taking on a newfound joy. A new pet means challenges, but the experience is rewarding. Your best bet for a positive experience starts with an open heart, mind and plenty of research.