Tips for the First Time Pet Owner

Thinking of adding pet ownership as a first on your list? That’s awesome! Becoming a pet owner for the first time is beyond exciting. It’s a new chapter, a journey in your life that comes with a world full of love…and responsibilities.

It’s definitely not a journey you start without information. It would be a mistake to just haphazardly go pick the first pet you see or get the cute animal you saw on social media.

It’s best for you, and your future pet, to do a little research. This ensures the two of you are the right fit for each other (and your family if applicable.)

I’ve had Little Man for over ten years now, he’s my first dog (my first pet was a rabbit—a gift from a boyfriend (don’t ask)), although, it wasn’t me who wanted a dog (fiancée wanted a dog—fiancée left, Little Man stayed.) Fiancée was not the same as boyfriend who gave me the rabbit. But, in both instances, the pets were around for much longer. In both instances, it absolutely would have benefited me to have done more research. On that note, don’t accept a pet as a gift.

Little Man My First Dog
Meet Little Man

Since this is the home of first times, allow me to help you get a strong beginning for this new journey of first time pet ownership!

Make sure Your Pet Matches your Personality and Lifestyle

Think of it this way, if you’re gone long hours during the day, an animal that needs lots of attention is not going to be right for you. On the flip side, if you’re home most of the time, a goldfish might be pretty boring if you’re looking for a companion.

Animals: cats, dogs, birds, turtle
who is the right match?

Making sure you and your pet are a match is one of the most important aspects of pet ownership and it goes a long way in creating a happy environment for you both. If a pet and owner are mismatched, both can become unhappy, and unfortunately, this often leads to the pet being returned, given away, or discarded.

Make sure to consider how often you are home, your daily activity level, and your living space.

Big breed dogs need a lot of exercise and a lot of space. So if you are sedentary and you have a small apartment and no yard. This isn’t going to be a pleasant situation.

Do you want a pet that’s low maintenance–for me, that’s key. Thankfully, Little Man needs very little other than food, bathroom, and lots of petting.

Or do you enjoy having something to take care of? Do you have any allergies, what about the others living with you? Do you want a pet you can train? Do you want to social animal? Do you want an exotic or rare pet?

Many places do not have exotic pet veterinarians, so if you intend to get a rare or “odd pet”, it may be a good idea to check and see if there is a vet in your area that cares for them.

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Get Googling to find out what the specie and breed of animal you want has to offer and will require.

Understand the Costs of Owning a Pet

Most pets, unless it is gold fish, aren’t cheap to own, so it’s important to factor in weekly and monthly costs for a new pet, to ensure you can afford owning it.

Food, supplies, and accessories all cost money, but it’s also important to plan for and consider unexpected costs. Animals get sick, they need shots, medicine, and check-ups at the veterinarian. All of this will cost money and sometimes when you least expect it. Certain breeds and species are more prone to certain sickness, disease, and ailments than others.

Animals also need grooming and maintenance. Dogs need their hair and nails trimmed, small dogs and small rodents can need their anal glands expressed (gross I know but it is a real thing), and many other types of pet have regular care needs as well. This all costs money.

Does your pet need training? Another cost to consider.

What about if you go on vacation, stay overnight somewhere, or travel? If you plan to place your pet in a kennel or animal hotel, there’s a cost associated and sometimes the price can be more than you’d expect.  

Calculate the cost per year for pet ownership—before you get your first pet.

Little Man goes where I go—which always makes the tab a bit more. In Europe, it’s much easier to take your pet with you, in the US, it’s harder and more expensive to find pet friendly lodging. It also hasn’t been cheap to fly him to where I go.

Little Man has been to more countries than most people. He’s been all over Europe and has driven across Canada, and the US with me.

Make Sure Your Home Is As Ready For Your New Pet As You Are

Can you have a pet where you live? If you don’t own your home, make sure to ask. And be aware, if you have to move, finding a place that allows pets is more difficult.

If you are allowed to have a pet then prepping your home before bringing home a pet is important, much like prepping before bringing a newborn home. It will save you and your new pet a lot of grief in the long run.

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Begin by researching what your new pet may need, making a list of supplies, and picking up those perfect new pet supplies.

Make sure you have food that is right for your pet’s age, size, breed, species, etc. Make sure to purchase things like water bowls, litter and litter boxes, toys, scratch posts, pee pads, etc.

If the animal you have chosen will have run of the house, like a dog or cat, make sure things that can be damaged are put away. Even if you have adopted an adult animal, they may still chew and break things, especially in times of stress (like moving into a new home with a new owner).

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Keeping your home pet friendly is a constant requirement. Little Man once got into one of my backpacks and ate a whole bag of trail mix that had chocolate and raisins in it. It could’ve killed him. If there’s food somewhere—he finds a way. Most pets are like that.

Decide Whether You Want to Buy, Rescue, or Adopt your New Pet

What does buying a pet mean exactly? This is when you purchase your pet from a breeder, private seller, or business (like a pet store). There are reputable breeders, but there are also puppy mills, so make sure you thoroughly research someone before handing over your money.

What Does Adopting a Pet Mean?

Adopting a pet is when you go to a non-profit, like an animal shelter. You’ll probably have to fill out an application form, which is designed to ensure the pet is a good match for you (and your family). Once you’re approve, you’ll be required to pay a fee, known as an adoption fee to cover the cost of chipping and neutering  your pet, then you’ll sign a contract. The contract usually states you will make sure to stay up to date on their care and to return the animal back to the shelter, if you can no longer care for it.

What Does Rescuing a Pet Mean?

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Rescue pet has a couple different meanings. One way an animal is considered a rescue is if it is “found.” Like a dog on the side of the road you take home or a kitten you find under your hood that becomes your pet. These are considered rescues because you rescued them.

Another meaning of rescue is when you find a place that is not a shelter or adoption agency that find owners for mistreated or abandoned animals. These agencies are usually run as non-profits by a few people or a small group.

Little Man was a rescue.

He was found wondering on a busy highway and was brought to an amazing lady who took in animals like him and found them homes. Little Man was house broken but not at all socialized. I didn’t know anything about socializing an animal, so we had a tough go at it, at first. Then, he got socialized, to me, but not to other people. This created issues when someone else had to look after him. Luckily, old dogs can learn new tricks. However, Little Man still has issues—whatever abuse or neglect he experienced before being rescued are still a factors to his behavior.

There is no way to measure which situation creates the best pets. All animals are different and all situations are different. You, as the upcoming first time pet owner, have to decide for yourself how/where you want to get your new best friend.

The Wrap-Up

So, in closing, there is a lot of information to consider before you get your very first pet. It is important to think about the type of lifestyle you have, the type of income you have, and the type of pet you want. Considering all of the aspects to pet ownership, as a first time pet owner, will save you and your new pet an immense amount of stress and worry.

Pets can be great additions to a home or family and bring a lifetime of joy to you. They can make you laugh, help you relax, and cuddle up right next to you right when you need it. There is nothing like having a pet, but a pet is a full time commitment, they rely on you for everything in their life from companionship, to health care, to food.

Your new pet is a part of your life, but to them, you are their whole life.

Little Man would totally choose food over me though. It’s his belly than me.

Do you have a first time pet ownership story to share? Did I forget anything? Comment and let me know.

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