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How to Choose the Perfect Pet If You’re a First-Time Owner

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Whether you’re single and looking for a furry companion or you want to add a four-legged member to your family, owning a pet for the first time is an exciting milestone. However, it doesn’t come without its share of responsibilities — starting with cost. The average expenditure for a dog the first year is between $1,314 and $1,843 depending on size, whereas cats are approximately $1,035. After that, you’ll be committed to spending between $580 and $875 for your pooch and $670 for your feline friend. Keep in mind that these costs do not include emergency situations or illness. It’s important to make sure that you feel financially fit to take care of an animal, as returning it to the shelter is a traumatic experience for everyone. If you think you’ve got what it takes, here’s how to find and care for the perfect pet.

Finding the Right Match

Basing your choice on looks alone is perhaps one of the worst things you can do, as you may wind up with a pet that doesn’t gel with your schedule, kids, allergies, or temperament. Ask yourself some key questions and be 100 percent honest with your answers.

  • What’s your schedule like? Are you gone for most of the day? Many pets get separation anxiety — cats included.
  • How much space do you have? Do you live in a home with a fenced-in yard, or a small apartment or condo? This will greatly affect the size of pet you should consider.
  • Do you have any allergies? Many people still have an animal despite allergies, but are you willing to make that sacrifice?
  • Do you have children? What type of personality do you want in a pet? These types of questions will help you determine which types of breeds to consider, so make sure you conduct thorough research before choosing the first furry face at the shelter.
  • Would you consider adopting a senior or a pet with a health issue? You have to make sure you have the time to commit to providing extra care.
  • Do you have the time to housetrain and/or take your dog for daily walks? If not, perhaps a cat is a better choice.

Home Care

 Along with making sure have all of the necessary supplies such as litter box, bed, food and water bowls, food and treats, collar and leash, crate/carrier, identity tags, and toys, you’re going to want to pet-proof your home. If you have a garden, secure beds with chicken wire and section off an area where your dog to play. Avoid using toxic fertilizers and plants (lilies, daffodils, tulips) that could be deadly to your pet. Spread cedar chips to ward off fleas and gravel to keep muddy paws clean.

If you have a cat, place scratching posts near any furniture you absolutely love to prevent it from becoming scratched up. Safely store away any favorite personal belongings that can be chewed or broken if you have an energetic pet.

Be prepared to regularly deodorize your carpet with white vinegar or a mixture of baking soda, borax, and cinnamon. Make sure to regularly vacuum your carpets to avoid odors for penetrating. In the case of a stubborn and stinky urine stain, absorb the mess with weighted, wet towels and repeat as necessary. Next, re-wet the spot with a bit of cold water before applying an enzyme-based spray — you can also make your own with water, brown sugar, and orange peels. Add another weighted towel (a protected book works) and let it sit overnight. If all else fails, consider hiring a pro to steam clean your carpets.

Bonding with your pet is one of the best aspects of ownership. Note that cats need space and time to adjust. Get down on the floor so Fluffy doesn’t feel threatened, and make sure you’re devoting plenty of time for play. Dogs also need a lot of attention and activity, but they tend to adjust quicker. Whatever type of pet you choose, exercise patience and have confidence that they’ll come around.

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