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With their ability to love unconditionally, never judge you for your actions, and provide stress relief, pets can be an invaluable source of comfort. They can even provide a much-needed sense of responsibility, giving those recovering from addiction a reason to practice discipline and stay sober.
But being a first-time pet owner can be an intimidating prospect. Your relationship with your pet will be one of the most important in your life and you want to make sure you get off on the right foot. With a little bit of thought and planning, you can make sure you are setting the best foundation for a long, happy life with your new best friend.
Choosing Your Pet
The very first thing to consider is what pet is right for you. You probably already have an idea of what animal you want, or whether you are a dog, cat, or hamster person. But of course, there are plenty of choices.
The PDSA, a British charity for sick animals, outlines the things you should consider when getting a pet as P-E-T-S: Place, Exercise, Time and Spend. Some animals need more space to run free, while others can live in a small apartment. Some will need far more exercise than others and will require more grooming time. And some will cost you a lot more than others.
Compile a list of breeds you like and then carefully research the requirements of each one. Be completely honest as to how much time, money and attention you are willing to dedicate to your new pet. Then make a choice that is informed and responsible: your pet will thank you for it.
You also will need to consider whether you want to buy or rescue your animal: rescuing is a wonderful thing to do – and it is cheaper – but it limits your choice. You could also consider adopting a slightly older animal, although it will be harder to train.
Preparing Your Home
Before you bring your new pet home, you need to make sure that your house is ready to receive them. First of all, buy all your pet stuff before bringing the animal in, including bowls, food, toys, leashes, and a litter box if you are getting a cat.
A good way to do spot potential danger is to get on all fours and look around. Look for any choking, electrocution, poisoning and strangulation hazards, and try to see your surroundings from the perspective of someone who doesn’t understand them.
Tape down cables so they can’t be chewed, store any dangerous chemicals well out of reach, and get a pedal-assisted trash can that your pet can’t easily get into and eat something bad for them. You also need to consider whether any houseplants you have are safe. Search the ASPCA’s database to see what plants can pose a threat to your pet.
Helping Your New Pet Acclimatize
Once you have brought your new pet home, they will have to take some time to get used to their surroundings. Let them explore the house at their own pace, and give them some space and plenty of attention. Always try to get your pet at the beginning of a weekend, so you have time to spend its first few days with them.
Bonding With Your New Pet
For many people, bonding will come naturally as you spend time with your pet and learn more about each other. Dedicate plenty of playtime to your new friend and show them love and affection; however, you also need to provide a space to let them be alone when they need it.
One common mistake to avoid is sending mixed messages and being inconsistent. Decide on what your rules and boundaries are right away and stick to them. For example, do not let your dog lie on your bed ‘as a treat’ if you don’t intend to let him do it all the time. This will only cause confusion and hurt for him when you scold him.
Getting a new pet is exciting. If you carefully consider your choice, make all the necessary preparations and take time to bond with them, you will be rewarded with a loyal friend and a source of comfort and motivation.
Author Jessica Brody is a dog lover and creator of OurBestFriends.pet. She created the site to offer a place for animal lovers to share their favorite pet photos and stories about their furry pals. Jessica believes dogs are the best creatures on earth.