Owning a pet is basically bringing a untrained two year old into your house that doesn’t speak your language. They are adorable, but take time, money and work. Even ‘free’ animals cost, on average, $1000 per year. My boys, River and Cooper, ran at about $350 a month. While LeeLoo and Cooper only come in at about $100. There are more and less expensive pets but all have an expense that must be paid for good health and happiness.
If your pet has health problems or there are emergencies, expect that number to double or even quadruple rapidly. Get pet insurance, a savings account or some type of credit plan in place and hope you never need it.
Before You Bring a New Pet Home
Take the pick-up day off.
Try to clear the house so it’s just you and your new friend to reduce stress and distraction. Let them focus on adapting to the environment before you challenge them with roommates.
Make a Welcome Room/Den:
Find a quiet place in your home that is easy to clean and fits your new pets size. A small bathroom is perfect for a new cat or little dog, but just wont work for a Great Dane, who may need a spare bedroom to settle into.
If you are going to a shelter to adopt (please) and aren’t sure what you’re going to get, go ahead and choose a small place. Then at least you will have all the supplies handy if you need to move to a larger space.
Make sure your pet always has access to fresh clean water. Always. From the first day to the last day, fresh water should always be available.
You can put out a little food too, if you know what they have been eating, but water is a must have.
Make it Cozy
Provide a warm blanket or bed to rest on and one or two toys for entertainment. For dogs provide a potty pad. For cats provide a litter box and perhaps a scratch pad by the door to prevent digging under the door.
I don’t recommend you actually buy food until your vet visit, but either way, check out the pet food section for help choosing. Then you can pick up the pet food if you don’t get a vet visit set, or have good talking points to help you and your vet settle on a good food.
Set up an appointment with your veterinarian.
Make and appointment that coincides with your pick-up time so you can take your pet straight to the vet after pick-up for a meet and great as well as an initial exam. If you don’t have a veterinarian, this is the perfect time to meet one and get to know them.
Things to take to your first vet visit:
- Bring all your records. Everything. Your vet will need vaccine history most especially, but any information on spay/neuter date, past heath concerns and current eating habits will also help them out.
- Bring a fresh fecal sample. Yes. Poop. New pets, especially puppies and kittens, need to be checked to make sure they aren’t bringing any unwanted friends (parasites) into your happy home.
- Pen and paper (or note app if your tech savvy) to take notes. It’s easy to forget in the excitement. Write the important parts down to help refresh your memory later.
Things to ask at your first vet visit:
- Verify age, sex and health of your pet. It’s amazing how often these are incorrect. Age is always a guesstimate but a close approximation will help you. Your vet can also explain and assist with any health issues that may come with your new friend.
- Ask about food. Veterinarians will rarely choose an exact diet for you but can give you directions, especially if your new friend has some health issues. Ask what they recommend. Something special? How often?
- Ask about prevention: Heartworm disease is so much easier to prevent than to treat. Heartworm treatment is expensive and HURTS so much we hate to do it, but it saves your pet’s life so we do it. Save your money, and their pain, and prevent it from ever happening. Prevention tips will vary depending on your location. Ask. Listen. No prevention in the world will help if you don’t provide it.
- Ask about weight. Good weight? Bad weight? It’s a sensitive subject for some, but a healthy weight will save on joint and health issues later.
Hopefully your vet visit is short and sweet and you can take your new buddy home!
Some pets enter your life like a freight train.
That welcome room you set up? Who cares! They are running around, happy as can be, sniffing everything and loving every minute of life. They already have a favorite spot on the couch. Favorite person and favorite place to be. They are low maintenance dreams. If you have no worries after bringing a pet into your life, congratulations! That is awesome. Skip to first week and be done with introductions.
For the rest of you… please be patient.
First impressions matter (but are not set in concrete). Put your pet in the welcome room. Close the door and open the carrier so they can come out in their own time. Sit in there with them but just watch. Be there. Be observant. Pet them if they come to you but don’t force interaction. Just let them be with you awhile.
If they are really scared or agitated, leave them alone to rest and settle in. This would be a good time for a shopping trip to get the food and supplies you discussed with your veterinarian and then move on to the first week guides.
If a cat or dog adopts you or you find a stray: (Guide Incoming)
Interested in getting a new pet, trot over to our Where to Get New Pet article.
If you’re looking at getting a cat but aren’t sure if you want one yet, scurry over to our article on living with a cat.
We even have a bit of information on Parakeets.