By Victoria Heuer
Some of the greatest moments in life include the day we met our pets for the first time, and the day we adopted them and they came home with us. Here are 10 things to consider before bringing a new dog or cat home.
#1 Can You Commit?
Will you have the time to walk your dog three times a day? Will you remember to exercise your cat every evening? If the answer is no, and you have no one who can perform those essential tasks, you should stop right here and consider a fish or a parakeet as a low-demand animal companion.
#2 Will Your Pet Fit Your Lifestyle?
Choosing a pet based on how popular or cute it is, is probably one of the worst decisions people make. Too often these pets are unceremoniously dropped at an animal shelter when they show themselves to be too high energy, too needy, too intolerant … the list is endless.
Get to know the breed you are interested in and be open to changing your mind if it doesn’t fit your ability to provide for its temperament. Ask lots of questions from the people adopting the animal out, maybe even find a breed specific group to ask questions of some of the members. A great example is the recent Chihuahua craze. Sure, they’re adorable and can live in any size home, and they’re very low maintenance. The catch is that they are not usually very tolerant of children and are one of the breeds that are known for biting children without much provocation. A pet cat should also match your personality. Some cats, for instance, require a lot of attention and interaction while others are mostly independent. Do your research and choose wisely.
#3 Interview Veterinarians Before the Adoption
Before you have settled on the type of pet that will suit you, ask your friends for their veterinary recommendations. A veterinarian can be an excellent source of information to help you choose the best pet to suit your lifestyle and needs. Not all vets are the same, and you want a veterinarian that best matches your needs. This will be a lifelong relationship and as such, the choice is very important. Again, do your research. Read online reviews of the vets in your community (with a grain of salt), ask groomers in your area who they recommend, and make interview appointments with them.
Our tip: Don’t rely entirely on a vet’s friendliness toward humans (i.e., you). A good veterinarian often has better skills relating to animals than to people. It is also your prerogative to ask the vet if she/he can provide a few references.
#4 Make Your Home Pet-Friendly
Did you know that something as simple as chewing gum can be deadly for dogs, or that ibuprofen is toxic to cats? It is highly important to go through your home now, before you bring a new pet home, to search out hazards and get them out of the way or out of the house. This includes cabinets at pet level, counter tops, bottles of chemical on the floor, small toys, electric cords and curtain cords. And it doesn’t stop there. You will also need to check your home and yard for toxic plants for dogs or cats, and if you carry a purse or bag, you will need to find and discard any potential dangers – like sugar-free gum, which often contains xylitol.
#5 Choose an Age and Breed Appropriate Food
Not all pet foods are alike. Some are better than others, and some make claims that are not always backed by facts. It would be easy to just grab the pet food bag or can with the nicest design on the cover, but that is not what is going to guarantee our pets’ long term health. Choose the best food for your dog or cat and always look for a diet labeled complete and balanced. From the time they are young until the time they are seniors, your pet food choices should be guided by the pet’s specific needs, life stage, and lifestyle. You can do some cursory research to get a good idea of why it is important and what to look for, but for the best advice, consult your veterinarian.