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New to pet ownership? Here are some things to consider

It seems like everyone today has a pet in their lives. But what if you’ve never had one? Perhaps you’d like to bring home a dog, cat or hamster? Where do you begin? There are some ideas you should consider before you make a decision.

Pets bring us an unlimited amount of joy. They make us laugh, help us relax and give us total unconditional love. That said, they do require a bit of work. If you’re considering getting a pet, you should know exactly what you’re getting into and be prepared for what’s to come. Many animals end up in shelters because their owners weren’t prepared for the commitment.

If you’re in recovery for an addiction, a pet can help you manage your recovery. Having a pet helps calm anxiety, boost your mood and make you feel better in general. Pets help your brain release mood-boosting chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine. It can also boost oxytocin, which helps lower blood pressure. Pets also foster a sense of commitment and responsibility because you have to care for them. Plus, they can help you learn to calm your stress and anger, which can lead to a relapse.

What is my lifestyle?

Are you an outdoorsy type who loves to hike, camp or swim? Or, are you a homebody who just likes to read or watch TV? Do you travel a lot or are you mostly living in your home? Do you live in an apartment or condo? Do you have a yard? Do you have nearby family, friends or roommates? Do you or your family members have allergies to consider?

If you’re active and outdoorsy, a dog would likely be your best bet. While some cats enjoy going on adventures, mostly they like to stay home and cuddle. But if you travel a lot, you might be better off with a cat, rodent or lizard. Cats require a lot less work and attention than dogs. With a cat, you only need someone to come by and feed him if you’re out of town, and maybe scoop a litter box depending on how long you’re gone.

Dogs would require someone to keep the dog full time or be boarded when you aren’t home. Hamsters, gerbils or lizards can be fed daily and have their cages cleaned once a week. Fish are even easier. You can buy weekly fish feeding tablets for when you leave town.

What do I like?

Maybe you already know what kind of pet you want, but you should do your research first. If you want a dog, you should consider all aspects of a breed. Every dog breed is different, with different needs and personalities. A dog with long or thick fur will require daily brushing and a lot of vacuuming. There are some breeds that shed very little, but they often need a haircut, which can get pricey. Some dogs are more energetic than others, and some are more suited to guard dog duty.

Cats come in different breeds, too. Most you’ll find in a shelter will be mixes, often known as domestic shorthair cats. But if you want a specific breed, do some research there, too. Cats also have unique personality traits that make them more loveable, more independent or even hyperactive.

Bringing them home

Before you bring your pet home, make a trip to a pet supply store to find out what you need. You’ll need beds, food bowls and leashes, for sure. But pick up some toys that are suited to your new pet, too. A new dog needs to sniff his new home and make sure it’s safe. It’s not a good idea to let your dog run loose in your home while you’re gone until you know he won’t eat things he shouldn’t. Train your dog to stay in a kennel.

When you bring home your new dog or cat, start slowly. If they’ve been in a shelter, they might be a little extra fearful at first. Don’t force your love on a new pet. Give him or her time to come to you. If you have a cat, start him off in a small, quiet room with his food and litter box. He’ll likely hide at first, but you can sit there and offer treats and toys to give him a chance to check you out.

With some patience and time, your new pet will love you as much as you love him. He’ll consider your home his home, and your family his pack. You’ll be able to enjoy being a pet owner, and you can look forward to all the love and laughs. Your new life with your pet will be a long and happy one.