Picture the scene. You’ve always dreamed to have a pet, and suddenly you find no reason not to adopt an animal. You’re a homeowner and don’t have to ask any landlord for permission. You’re single, and you don’t need to convince your partner. Maybe your child has been begging you to adopt a puppy, and you’ve grown used to the idea of having a dog. Whatever the reason, becoming a pet owner is a fantastic experience that will significantly improve your life. According to science, petting your dog or your cat can lower your blood pressure and reduce stress. Besides, the comfortable presence of a loving friend who waits for you to come back home every day can dramatically improve your mood and even cure depression! In short, adopting a pet is by far the best thing you can do to improve your life.
But you have to be realistic. You can’t be selfish about adopting a pet. First-time pet owners need to remember that having a pet is a two-way road. It’s not only about making your life better, but it’s also about ensuring that your animal can have the best possible life too. When you fall in love with a puppy or a kitten, you need to accept the responsibility to care for, protect and love your pet.
1. You need to pet-proof your house. Period.
Your home is not safe. Just like parents need to child-proof their house for the safety of their babies, you need to consider some essential pet safety ideas at home. For a start, your kitchen is the major cause of danger for your pet. Certain types of food can poison or even kill your furry friend. While you may not want to change your diet – chocolate, for instance, is deadly to cats and dogs, but who would want to give up its sweet rush of happiness? –, but you need to be aware of what is potentially harmful so that you can keep these foods out of your pet’s reach. Similarly, a garbage container with a lid that no nosy dog or cat can open can save you from making panic trips to the vet clinic. Most pet owners often apply similar safety rules than parents, keeping cables and detergents at bay – which is a good idea. But don’t forget about houseplants. Several of your favorite potted plants might be toxic to your pet.
2. Having a pet for the evening while you work during the day is not a good idea
When you bring a dog or a cat home, you become its pet parent. As a result, you are responsible for its protection, entertainment, companionship and health. When you establish a close bond with your pet, they might find it difficult to be left for long hours during the day. While this is especially true for dogs, you can also find cats who struggle with separation anxiety. Your pet can misbehave as a result of their anxiety, through barking or howling or destructive tendencies. Instead of reprimanding your animal, you need to find ways to keep your pet quiet and calm during the day, such as therapy training or a hormonal diffuser.
3. Yes, you have to train your pet
You love your dog so much that you don’t want to train it. Don’t be fooled into thinking that training is unnecessary. In reality, the lack of training can encourage bad behavior and dangerous attitudes. Indeed, it’s a mistake to assume that your pet doesn’t require training. Your dog doesn’t think like a person and consequently, what would be natural behavior for a dog may not be suitable at home or in your community. Failing to teach your dog how to respond to doorbells, visitors or young children can naturally lead to your exclusion from friends and family gatherings, as your pet’s behavior might be a cause of worries.
4. When things get frustrating, violence isn’t an answer
So, your pet broke your precious vase or destroyed your favorite pair of shoes. These things happen. While it can get to you, you should think twice before reacting in anger. Indeed, punishing your pet through violence might only scare your dog or your cat off. Instead of punishing, you need to reinforce positive attitudes. Indeed, as violence engenders violence, punishing through a slap or yelling is perceived as a threat.
5. Do you speak cat/ dog/ parrot?
Your pet communicates with you through gestures and noises. A cat, for instance, will meow to greet you, for example, and arch to react to something scary. It’s essential to learn what each behavior means so that you can respond accordingly. Don’t be that owner who shouts at their pet to shut up. When your dog or your cat ‘talks’ to you, you need to listen attentively. It is your role to learn how they communicate.
6. You need to have a workout program
As a pet owner, you are responsible for your pet’s health. Aside from veterinary bills and treatments, this also means that you need to look after your pet’s weight. An overweight dog or cat is ultimately a form of animal cruelty. So, you need to make sure your pet doesn’t get too much to eat. More importantly, you have to keep your furry friend in shape. You can create a workout for your house cat, such as introducing a cat tower and keeping enough toys around. With a dog, you can get more active, as dogs are more likely to play with you. Going out for a walk once or twice a day is a brilliant idea to keep both of you fit!
7. You need to plan your holiday and theirs
Last, but not least, you can’t be spontaneous about going on holiday anymore when you’ve got a pet. Indeed, there are different options on how to best handle vacations with a pet. The most common solution is to have someone take care of your pet at home – a housesitter – but you can find kennels and catteries that look after your pet while you’re away. If you can, it’s best to take your pet with you – depending on where you’re going and for how long.
The bottom line is that adopting a pet means you need to think about their safety, health and happiness along your own. Don’t be selfish: Be a good pet owner.