Tips for First-Time Pet Owners

September 29, 2023

Animal companions have been a source of satisfaction, security, and comfort for thousands of years. But occasionally they can also be time-consuming, expensive, and messy, leading to what should be a joyful new member of the family causing frustration and anxiety 

If you’ve never had a pet before and you’re experiencing first-time pet owner anxiety, remember: The best pet for a first-time pet owner in South Charlotte is the one that fits their needs and lifestyle. Taking the time to carefully consider the pet’s new home as well as your own expectations can pay off immensely. Bringing a new pet home

Researching Your Ideal Pet

Aspiring pet owners looking to adopt a new friend should expect significant front-end work to ensure a smooth and happy transition for all household members. Finding the best type of pet for your lifestyle requires careful consideration and thorough research. 

Prospective pet owners should be honest when assessing which breeds best fit their lifestyle, wants, and needs. 

Understanding Breed Characteristics 

Although they may belong to the same species, two dogs or cats of different breeds can require completely different types of care. First-time pet owners in Ballantyne should consider several factors before committing to an animal:

  • First, consider breed size and living space. If you live in a studio apartment, it’s less than ideal to adopt giant breeds such as an Irish Wolfhound or a Great Dane, which can weigh over 120 pounds.
  • Next, first-time pet owners should consider specific breed characteristics like activity level, grooming needs, trainability, lifespan, and common medical issues before settling on a particular breed.  You also have to account for the fact that each pet will be an individual, and while most Golden Retrievers are sweet, easygoing, and excellent with kids, there are some that may not possess these characteristics, and it is important that a first-time owner realize that a pet may not fit the stereotype perfectly.
  • Finally, the health and personalities of the two-legged family members need to be considered as well. If people in the home have allergies, a low-allergen dog breed, like the Bichon Frise or Poodle, or the Russian Blue or Sphinx cat breeds, can be a good option. 

Assessing Your Lifestyle and Activity Level

A good pet for first-time owners is a pet that fits their lifestyle. Once a prospective pet owner has researched potential breeds, it’s time to assess how well each breed would suit their specific household. 

Will the owner need to travel for work regularly? How long are their average working hours? Do they have the time, patience, and resources to train a puppy? Are there or will there be children in the household? Are they looking for an adventure buddy who can go hiking or a cuddly friend to watch movies with? 

Be as honest and realistic as possible when answering these questions. Don’t forget that owning a pet is a long-term commitment, so it’s essential to consider what you want your life to look like in the future when choosing a pet.  

Budgeting for Your Pet

Owning a pet is a financial as well as an emotional commitment. According to Petfinder, the average cost of ownership for dogs and cats ranges from $326.00 to $2,285.00 per year. 

Costs in the first year tend to be higher due to one-time expenses like adoption fees, spaying/neutering, microchipping, and initial vaccinations. Ongoing expenses include food, grooming, vet visits, pet insurance, and incidentals like toys or pet sitters. 

Maintaining an emergency fund for unexpected health issues is also a good idea. USA Today recommends at least $5,000 per pet, but first-time pet owners can also talk to their veterinarian about average health costs in their area for a more specific recommendation. 

Pet insurance to help with health care costs can also be a good option to consider. It does not work exactly like typical insurance for people, so being aware of exactly what is and is not covered is important. Most plans cover either little or no routine health care (routine exams, vaccines, dental cleanings, etc.). Some plans will exclude coverage for certain health conditions, or charge extra for them.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that pre-existing conditions for any pet absolutely will be excluded from coverage. If a condition is diagnosed for any pet who is not covered for it, adding coverage later will not help with costs related to that condition, for example, if your pet has had one surgery for a torn knee ligament, adding coverage afterward will not pay to have the other knee surgery done if that one tears. It is always best to talk to your vet and do your own research before deciding on a plan for your new family member.

Preparing Your Home for a New Pet

Once a pet owner has decided what pet they want, it’s time to get ready to bring them home. First-time pet owners may need to rearrange things at home to accommodate the new arrival and create a safe and pet-friendly environment. 

Puppy and pet-proofing are necessary for sanity and safety. Pet owners should remove delicate items like cords, fragile fabrics, and breakable objects from the pet's reach. Be sure to store harsh or dangerous chemicals (including any aerosol products like potpourri) in an inaccessible location. 

Pet owners should also provide their pets with a designated, quiet, relaxing space. Having a place to go when they’re anxious can help pets feel secure as they acclimate to their new home.  Dogs will benefit from having an indoor crate that is clean and comfortable for them to hang out and sleep in. 

New owners will also want to stock up on food, litter or pee pads, toys, flea preventatives, and other grooming necessities. 

The Importance of Training and Socialization for New Pets

The socialization period for puppies and kittens is the best time to establish positive behaviors and responses. Pet owners should take advantage of this period and introduce their pets to new sights, sounds, situations, and people. Proper socialization and early training can reduce pet anxiety and other behavioral issues later.

If training at home isn’t going well or you aren’t sure what to do, seeking professional help may be necessary. Ballantyne Veterinary Clinic can discuss behavior and point first-time pet owners toward good training programs or animal behaviorists in the area if necessary. 

Understanding Your Pet’s Health and Well-Being

First-time pet owners may not realize how much time and energy goes into caring for a companion animal. Pets rely on their owners to meet both their physical and emotional needs. Some critical elements of pet care include:

  • Regular grooming requirements: All pets need grooming, some of which can be done at home. Some high-maintenance, long-haired breeds may benefit from up to 20 minutes of brushing daily to prevent mats. 
  • Dental care and hygiene: A combination of at-home care, like special treats, toys, brushing, and professional cleaning, is the best way to maintain proper oral hygiene. 
  • Vaccinations and preventive measures: Staying up to date on vaccinations, flea and heartworm prevention, and regular vet checkups are all essential for keeping an animal safe and healthy. 
  • Recognizing signs of illness: Pet owners must observe their pet's daily habits. Changes in their behavior or routine could indicate underlying problems. 
  • Exercise and playtime: Pets need daily exercise, interactive playtime, mental stimulation, and quality time with their owners to stay healthy and happy. 

Easing First-Time Pet Owner Anxiety

Bringing home your first pet is wonderful but can also be nerve-wracking. Information and connection are the best ways to dispel first-time pet owner anxiety.

Before you bring your new pet home, contact local pet communities or seek out experienced pet owners and talk to them about your concerns. Additionally, finding free resources online or offline through services like the public library is simple. Many breeds also have specific communities and societies if you want more exact or detailed information.

Finally, spend some time choosing a veterinarian in the Charlotte area. Once you’ve read some reviews and researched office hours and pricing, you can schedule your new pet’s first check-up confidently. When at the vet’s office, never hesitate to ask questions, even if they may feel silly. 

First-Time Pet Owner Checklist

Prepare Your Home

  • Create a sleeping area
  • Move breakables, cords, and dangerous chemicals out of reach
  • Ensure the safety and security of outdoor spaces

Get Supplies

  • Food and treats
  • Toys
  • Collar and leash
  • Tags (with owner name and phone number)
  • Food and water dishes
  • Waste disposal supplies (pee pads, litter/litter box/scoop, dog waste bags, etc.) 
  • Bed or crate
  • Pet carrier
  • Grooming supplies (brushes, shampoo, allergen wipes, nail clippers)
  • Cleaning supplies (absorbent paper towels, enzyme cleaner)
  • Baby gate(s)
  • First aid supplies

Visit the Vet

  • Vaccines
  • Bloodwork
  • Fecal exam
  • Microchipping
  • Flea and heartworm preventative treatment

Taking the First Steps Toward Fulfilling Pet Ownership

If you’re considering getting a pet for the first time and you’re feeling overwhelmed, you aren’t alone. It’s okay to take your time. Do your research and think carefully about your current routine, paying close attention to the maintenance and activity levels of the breeds you’re considering. 

Pet ownership is a big decision that can have a lasting impact on many aspects of your daily life, both socially and financially. But it is also an enriching experience full of joy and companionship.  

If you’ve recently adopted a pet in the Charlotte area and have questions, need assistance, or just want to get a thorough checkup, contact Ballantyne Veterinary Clinic to schedule an appointment.

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