You've picked out the perfect breed, you're checking animal shelter listings daily, and you've already chosen a name. You're ready to adopt your first-ever pet — or are you? Before you bring your pet home, make sure you're prepared to deal with these five pet care musts.
For most dogs, one quick walk per day isn’t enough. While a specific dog's exercise needs vary based on breed, age, and health status, most dogs need between 30 minutes and two hours of exercise daily, according to PetMD. In addition to walking your dog, play games in the backyard, let your dog run along as you bike, or take him to the dog park to mingle with other canines.
Cats need exercise too. Rather than letting your cat roam outdoors where it can get hurt or harm native wildlife, spend 10 to 15 minute a few times a day playing with your cat. Experiment with different toys to see which ones capture your cat's interest. Some cats even enjoy playing fetch or walking on a leash outside!
Pets that don't get enough exercise are more likely to have behavioral problems. They can also become overweight or obese, which is a major threat to your pet's health.
Some pets have higher grooming needs than others, but all dogs and cats require some grooming by their owners. Keeping nails trimmed prevents joint problems and keeps your hardwood floors scratch-free. Medium- and long-haired pets should also be brushed regularly to prevent matting of the fur, which is both unsightly and uncomfortable for your pet.
Some dogs also require haircuts. If you're considering a dog breed marketed as hypoallergenic, know that because these breeds don't shed, their hair must be trimmed regularly.
Flea, Tick, and Heartworm Preventative
No one wants a flea infestation in their home, but that's not the only reason to keep your pet on flea, tick, and heartworm preventatives. Fleas and ticks cause discomfort for your pet and transmit parasites like tapeworms and serious illnesses, including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Primarily a concern for dogs, heartworm disease is a potentially fatal condition that's expensive and difficult to treat once contracted.
When purchasing flea and tick preventative for your pet, be wary of over-the-counter options. While some OTC products are effective, others are ineffective at best and dangerous at worst. Follow your vet's recommendations and never use a product designed for dogs on a cat.
As exciting as adopting a pet is for you, it can be a confusing and scary experience for your dog or cat. As Dogtime explains, new-home nerves may manifest in urinating indoors, barking or crying, gastrointestinal upset, or inappropriate chewing. These are normal behaviors for a pet in a new environment, especially if your pet is experiencing separation anxiety.
Be patient with your new pet and make it feel as safe as possible in your home. Start by keeping your pet in a quiet, pet-proofed room with a bed, toys, litter box, and other necessary items. Interact with your pet in short but frequent sessions, providing lots of positive feedback and treats. If behavioral problems don't decrease with time, talk to a vet or trainer for advice.
Keeping a Clean House
Pet hair is part of life when you have a dog or cat, but it shouldn't take over your house. Before bringing your pet home, make sure you're prepared for cleaning up after your new pet. You'll want a quality vacuum that can properly handle pet hair and dander. If an upgrade is needed, make sure to read reviews on vacuums built for this particular job, since not all vacuums were designed with pet hair in mind. Consider purchasing enzymatic cleaners for cleaning up urine and setting up a clean-up station near the front door for wiping off muddy paws. Also, don't forget about cleanliness outdoors: a pooper scooper is ideal for the backyard, while pet waste bags that hook onto a leash keep your neighborhood sidewalks and yards clean.
These may not be the most glamorous or exciting aspects of pet ownership. Nevertheless, they're key to living harmoniously alongside your dog or cat. Have a plan for taking care of these five tasks before you adopt your first pet.