Have you decided to add a new (four-legged) member to your family?
Congratulations! There’s nothing like the unconditional love and companionship of a pet.
If you’re a first-time pet parent or it’s just been a while, here’s a quick course on what to expect, from picking your pet to making them feel at home:
Choosing the perfect pet
Let’s focus on the two most commonly adopted pets: dogs and cats. If you opt to adopt at your local shelter, be sure to get as much background on your pet as you can. Do your research! Consider the breed, age, former owners, living conditions, temperament — anything that might impact how you and your family interact with your new friend.
If the dog you have your eye on is skittish around kids and you have toddlers, it’s probably not a good fit — no matter how cute he might be. If your kids are begging for a cat, but Dad’s allergic, maybe roll with a low-shed, low-key dog instead.
This pet will be a big part of your everyday lives for years to come! It’s a huge decision, and one the whole family should be on board with. After all, everyone gets to help care for and love the newest member of the family.
Paw-fect tip: Ask your friends and family for vet recommendations right off the bat. One of the first things you’ll do after picking up your pup or cat will be a wellness visit for necessary immunizations, possible health insurance and an overall care plan.
What you need first
Once you choose your pet, you only need a few basic things before bringing them home. To help, consider what they do most:
Make sure you have plenty of food for your pet, plus bowls to feed them from. Keep in mind that puppies need different nutrients than adult dogs, and the same goes for kittens and cats. Just ask the vet or your local pet store for help! And don’t forget to offer fresh water every day.
Paw-fect tip: If you plan to store their food in the garage and don’t want to invite any other animals in, choose a solid container — mice and other rodents can burrow into the bags when they want a snack.
Whether it’s a bed, mat, blanket or luxury cat condo, make sure your new friend has a spot to claim for those long daytime naps.
This one’s for dog parents: Until you house-train your pup, and to help him feel safe and secure when you’re not at home, you’ll likely need a crate. Be sure to choose one that’s not too much bigger than your pup — you don’t want to give him enough space to live on one side and do his business on the other. If you start with a puppy, you may need to upgrade your crate as he grows. Whatever you spend on crates, you’ll probably save on chewed-up shoes and soiled rugs!
Paw-fect tip: If you have small kids, don’t let them play inside your dog’s crate. Teach them to respect his space. He needs a place to retreat from those loving little hands now and then.
Find the perfect spot in your house for a litter box for your cat, and be sure to guide her to it on Day 1. Keep plenty of kitty litter on hand and a slotted scoop for cleaning. If you’re bringing home a pup that still needs to be housebroken, stocking up on puppy pads and clean-up bags wouldn’t hurt.
You don’t have to buy out the whole toy aisle at the pet shop, but this is a great opportunity to build a new bond with your pet! Pick up a new toy or two — or let your kids choose — to help your pet feel at home. Think balls or ropes for tug-of-war with your dog, or a catnip mouse or laser pointer for your cat. Then, go outside together and play!
Cats groom themselves, but they still occasionally need a good scrubbing. Dogs need baths at least once every few months. Make sure you choose a gentle, pet-friendly shampoo, because the wrong ingredients can be harmful to their sensitive skin. If you have a long-haired dog, a detangling spray will help make brushing easier. And for all those in-between times when your dog needs a refresh, choose a pet-friendly, scented deodorizer and start spraying. It’s not too hard to keep your pet looking sharp and smelling fresh!
Settle in at home
Once you introduce your new pet to the family — and to the family home — it will be no time at all before you can’t remember life without them. Life is so much better with a pet!