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Tips and Advice for First-time Pet Parents

So, you finally decided to add to your family. And while you’re not quite ready to commit to kids, you feel pretty confident that you can take care of a fluffy, furry, or flying companion. However, please take a moment to consider your lifestyle and budget before you make a decision. Remember, the amount of time and attention you can give your pet determines their quality of life; the amount of love they give you in return affects yours.

Dog, Cat, or Something Else?

For most people, the choice of pets comes down to a cat or a dog. But keep an open mind that there are many other animals you can bring into your life, and some require less hands-on care than others. When making your decision, take a look at how much time you have to devote to your pet every single day. You’ll also want to be aware of the overall cost. Many pending pet parents considerably underestimate this. For example, according to, most people think the lifetime ownership of a dog tops out at around $6,400. In reality, you may wind up spending $20,000 or more on a dog that lives for 12 years.

Cat Care

Cats are soothing to have around, and when compared to a dog, they are pretty self-sufficient — for the most part. The occasional grooming and a clean litter box, along with healthy food and veterinary care, are the foundation of having a healthy cat. PetSafe also asserts that you’ll need to keep your cat well hydrated. You can do this by providing them a cat water fountain; cats don’t like to drink stagnant water, so a plain bowl isn’t a good option. Remember, just like humans, animals need plenty of water. Other accessories that can keep your cat entertained and out of trouble include toys and a scratching post.

Dog Care

Dogs are a huge responsibility. While cats can usually be left alone for a day or two, your dog needs constant companionship. It’s a 10- to 15-year commitment that requires a major life change (for the better!). But you can’t just go down to the shelter and choose a dog because you think it’s cute. Before you sign the adoption papers, find out all you can about the breed(s). Some animals are big couch potatoes (think mastiff) while others, like a Keeshond, are bundles of energy that require a lot of exercise and mental stimulation.

No matter what kind of dog you ultimately choose, you need to be prepared to provide them exercise every single day. If you live in a house, you can have a fence installed for anywhere from around $24 to $40 per linear foot, according to estimates from Inch Calculator. This way, your perky pup can run, jump, and play off their leash.

Keep in mind, too, that you will need to clean up after bathroom breaks, especially if you have a small lawn or live in a warmer climate where odor tends to stick around. Lastly, expect your pup to have the occasional indoor accident too, so be equipped with top-rated enzyme cleaners and get a referral to have your carpet steam cleaned, which can run between $120 and $230.

What About a Bird?

Birds are some of the easiest pets to care for, and if you weren’t already aware, they can be just as loving and interactive as a dog. Birds are extremely intelligent animals and need lots of mental interaction to stay happy and healthy. You also want to ensure they have a cage large enough to move around freely with fully stretched wings. Food and water bowls are also important. Last but not least, one thing you must absolutely be committed to doing is clean their cage thoroughly at least once each week.

At the end of the day, there is no wrong pet. What it comes down to is your lifestyle, situation, and whether you have allergies or health conditions that might make it more difficult to care for one versus another. Owning a pet is a great responsibility and comes with so many rewards. Good luck finding the right companion for you and remember, a pet is for life, if you are not ready for that commitment, don’t bring one into your home until you’re ready.

Author: Cindy Aldridge

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