dopting a pet is one of the most rewarding things you can do as an adult. Not only will you be giving a home to an animal who will surely love to have one — who doesn’t like sleeping in a cozy bed, after all — but you will be teaching yourself how to be more responsible at the same time. 

You’ve heard it before, but it’s worth saying again: pets are a huge responsibility. They require tons of time and care in order to thrive, and it’s no small commitment. But that commitment is more than worth it. Chances are if you adopt once, you’ll keep doing it for the rest of your life. Once you get your first pet, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them. 

Before getting a pet for the first time, you’ll want to be prepared. Because of the aforementioned responsibility that pets require you have, it’s important to have all of your ducks in a row so that you are ready to face the challenges as they come. 

So check out our handy guide that will tell you everything you need to know and prepare for prior to adopting your furry friend. We’ll be covering preparing for dogs and cats so keep reading to find out the 411 on pet ownership. 

But first, why should you have a pet?

Having a pet is such a rewarding experience, and for many more reasons beyond their cuteness! Spending time with pets can lower your stress levels and anxiety, which is much needed in today’s hectic world. 

Beyond the psychological benefits, pets can also help you become more active. People who have dogs, for example, are much more likely to meet the minimum daily exercise requirements than non-dog owners. 

Pets also help you get out of your own head. When there is another living being in your home, it’s pretty impossible to ignore their needs and lay around in bed all day. Caring for another being can inadvertently help you care for yourself, or at the very least, help you get outside more. 

But if you’re reading this article, you probably already know about many of the great effects pets can have. So let’s get straight to what you need to know as a first-time pet owner. 

What to know about adopting a dog 

Dogs are the go-to pet for some people. They are fun, sweet, and playful — traits that are wonderful to have in almost any setting. But they require a lot of work. Here’s what you need to know before getting a dog. 

1. Know how much you can handle 

Think about your lifestyle. Are you home a lot or away? Will you have the time and the energy to train a dog? Considering questions like these will help you determine what you can handle before you adopt a pup. The answers should dictate which dog you choose to take home with you. 

2. Understand how much exercise a dog needs. 

While every dog needs a good walk each day, some need more than others. Australian Shepherds, which are very popular dogs, need at least two hours of exercise every day. If you know you can’t devote two hours each day to walks or dog park time, it might be better to consider a different breed of dog to adopt. 

3. Be prepared to train your pup — or pay for someone else to do it

Training an animal is no small feat. It takes diligence and hard work, but training is essential so that your future dog can feel safe and comfortable with you and their new environment. Training your dog includes socializing them, teaching basic commands, and managing potential environmental triggers, like loud noises. 

If you are worried about your ability to train, don’t be! Anyone can learn to do it, it just takes patience. But if you think a professional could train your pet better, there’s no shame in that either. The important thing to remember is that your dog needs to be trained so they can live their best lives. 

An image of a woman with her dog
Having a dog can be a great experience, but it won’t be without its challenges. Some of these challenges might be dealing with a dog’s separation anxiety or fear-based tendencies. 

4. Know that there will be bumps in the road 

Having a dog can be ruff sometimes (sorry, we couldn’t resist). 

When you adopt, especially an adult or senior dog, the animal already has experienced lots of life without you, and sometimes those experiences may have been traumatic for them. Dogs may often struggle with separation anxiety, restlessness, and fear-based tendencies. 

Most, if not all, of these struggles can be dealt with through training. But it won’t happen overnight. Make sure that you understand the potential hurdles you may have to jump through to get your dog to a place where they feel comfortable and relaxed. And if you need help getting your dog to that place, ask! 

There is a wealth of information out there about how to help your dog when they are struggling. You only have to know where to look. Your veterinarian is a great place to start, but there is also the handy thing called the internet that can be an invaluable tool as well. 

5. Be familiar with your dog’s medical history, and know when they will need care

Dogs need regular checkups just like humans do. When you get your pup, make sure you plan on getting them routine medical care. And while you’re at it, make sure all of their shots are up to date. 

Knowing your dog’s medical history is incredibly important. It may sound silly to remind you of this, but it’s worth saying: dogs can’t speak for themselves and rely on you to be their advocates. If they are hurting, they will count on you to make it better. And knowing your dog’s medical history and needs will help you do that. 

What to know about adopting a cat 

Cats are often touted as a more low-maintenance option than dogs when it comes to pet ownership. And while it’s true that cats don’t require quite the same effort as dogs do, taking care of a cat is still a big deal and should be treated as such! 

1. Make sure you have the right supplies 

One of the best things about having a cat is that they are low-maintenance. But cats are still one step up from being as low-effort as a plant. Make sure that you have the proper toys, litter box and litter, and food for them. If your cat is a house cat, this is especially important because you’ll need to make sure that they have enough enrichment at home. 

A woman with cats
Cats often need a companion, and so it’s worth considering adopting two cats instead of one. They can keep each other company, snuggle, and have fun together when you’re gone!

2. Learn about declawing and why you shouldn’t ever do it 

Declawing a cat is luckily much less common than it used to be, but it does still happen. If you are getting a cat and considering declawing, we urge you to learn about why declawing is bad for your animal. There are many other options to work with a cat that has a penchant for scratching, and declawing shouldn’t be one of them.

3. Know that cats like to hide their pain 

Similar to the importance of knowing your dog’s medical history, you want to be aware of your cat’s medical history, too. But with a cat you need to go one step further. Cats are notorious for hiding their pain, and it can be difficult to tell when something is wrong with your animal. Learn the signs of pain in a cat so that you can be there for your furry friend when they are hurting. 

4. Think about adopting two cats instead of one 

Getting two cats instead of one doesn’t necessarily mean more work. When you adopt two cats that get along with each other, it can be a great way to give your pets companionship when you’re gone. They can teach each other to play, snuggle, and keep each other entertained throughout the day. We often think of cats as solitary creatures, but they can greatly benefit from a playmate. 

5. Find out if your cat is an indoor or outdoor cat 

Some cats you may adopt might only be indoor cats. Some might be more used to being outdoors. It’s important to know what type of environment your cat is used to so that you can keep them as safe as possible. Letting a cat that has grown up indoors outside with free range of the yard might be a lot for them, and it could even be dangerous if they were to escape into the street. If you know what type of environment your cat is used to and can provide it, your cat will be happier and healthier. 

Two animals playing together
Adopting an animal is a big commitment, but if you’re prepared as you can be before you take the plunge, things will go much smoother. 

Pets are phenomenal additions to our lives and can make us much happier, but they do need to be taken care of appropriately. If you know what you’re getting into prior to adopting your furry friend, you and your pet will be happy and healthy for the long run. 

Apr 21, 2023