Getting Your First Pet? Here are Four Things to Think About
Congratulations on the decision to make a four-legged addition to the family! According to Harvard Health, not only is owning a pet great fun, it’s great for your health, too. However, to get the most out of your new relationship you’ll want to pick the right breed, do some preparation work and get your own behavior right early on. Here’s what you need to focus on.
Dealing with Allergies
If you have allergies to pets, you should be aware that no breed is completely hypoallergenic. If you have intense allergies, you may not be able to tolerate a pet at all, but if they’re not too intense, you may be able to get by with less allergenic pet breeds. The American Kennel Club has some suggestions here for dogs, while Healthy Pets has some recommendations here for cat breeds. Pet allergies are mainly triggered by proteins found in skin cells, so you can also minimize your reaction through regular cleaning. Clean the covers on the sofa regularly, get a HEPA air purifier and consider switching out carpets for hard floors. It can also help to make your bedroom off-limits to your pet and keep the door closed, so you’re more able to get a good night’s sleep.
Help Rescue Pets Feel Secure
Rescue pets come from a range of backgrounds, some more difficult than others, and they may need a little extra care and patience on your part. Your local rescue groups Mid West Cat Shelter and Geraldton Dog Rescue are inundated with animals waiting for forever homes and can help match you up with your perfect rescue pet. For dogs, give them a “den” — a crate or space of their own to which they can retreat if needed. If they want to stay in their den, let them. You should start establishing rules and boundaries early, and make sure all family members enforce them consistently. This structure will help the dog feel more comfortable.
If you’re adopting a cat, give them a single room to live in at first, with several hiding places, a litter tray and a scratching post. Spend time with her in this room so she doesn’t get lonely. Don’t chase her or try to pick her up, but you can coax her to you with toys, or by sitting near the food bowl when she’s eating so she gets used to you being nearby. As she warms to you, extend her living area to another room.
Consider an Older Pet
Elderly pets have many advantages because they are already socialized and housetrained, are much less likely to display destructive or aggressive behavior. They have lower energy, which might suit your own energy level better than a puppy. However, you will need to take some extra steps to prepare for an elderly pet. Don’t buy food until you know what brand your new pet was previously eating at the shelter — sudden changes can cause digestive troubles.
If your pet has arthritis or joint issues, you might want to buy steps leading to couches, your bed, or other areas they’ll need to access. Also note that some older pets have incontinence issues — don’t punish them for this, because it’s not a behavioral issue. However, do be prepared to clean up occasionally, and give older dogs more bathroom trips.
New pets may be stressed out in the move to a new home, even though your home is much more comfortable and peaceful than the shelter. So to start the bonding process, start by giving your new pet some space and independence. They might spend some time by themselves in their den or other hiding place. This is fine as they are just making sense of this new place with new people, sights, sounds and smells.
When they are more comfortable and approach you, play with them so they associate you with fun, and pet them so they get used to you handling them. With dogs, don’t forget to take them out for walks. This is a great time to bond, establish your leadership and teach some simple commands.
As your pet settles in, they’ll see that not only do you mean no harm, but also you’re the one feeding and taking care of them. Each pet is different, and while some may settle in quickly, some may need a few weeks to really feel comfortable. Just be patient and caring, and they will warm to you soon enough.
Photo Credit: Pexels