What Every First-Time Pet Owner Should Know

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Adopting your first pet is one of the most exciting times in life. You get this newfound sense of purpose, warmth, friendship, and unconditional love. But bringing home a pet also comes with added responsibility and a lifelong commitment to making sure that living thing is provided for all his/her basic needs and wants. Before you actually make the jump to pet ownership, here are some things you should know:

Pet Ownership Costs Money

You might already know this fact, but what most people don’t know about or aren’t prepared for is exactly how much it costs to own and care for a pet. In fact, according to a Credit.com survey that asked people how much they expected to shell out for a dog or cat for the first year, the majority of participants greatly underestimated the cost. According to ASPCA, one of the largest non-profit animal rescue organizations, the average first-year cost of pet ownership ranges between $1,300 and $1,840. This accounts for adoption fees, spaying/neutering costs, medical exams, harnesses and supplies, etcetera.

Pet Ownership Takes Up Time

Having a pet, especially if you decide to adopt a relatively higher maintenance pet like a dog, means that you’ll have to invest time and effort. Pets, similar to their human companions, require physical exercise and ongoing training to maintain a healthy physique and weight as well as good behavior. If you get a dog, especially a puppy, you’ll need to visit dog parks or go on long walks to burn energy so they don’t become destructive or develop aggressive tendencies indoors. Depending on how old your dog is, you may have to take him/her outside every couple of hours either for exercise or bathroom breaks.

Pets Get Sick

It’s all too common for people to only focus on the positive impact of having a pet. The small everyday pleasures of their companionship are indeed things to look forward to, but it also behooves any potential pet owner to acknowledge the responsibilities, one of which is keeping your pet sick-free. Dogs, cats, hamsters, birds, and other domestic animals can get sick. When they do, it is often a stressful time in both pet and pet owner’s lives. You can expect to spend a lot of time, money, and worry when your pet shows even the slightest symptom of an underlying health problem. You can alleviate some of that stress by considering pet insurance. Understanding pet insurance plans and what they cover can help you make the right decision as to which one best suits your pet’s needs.

It’s a Two-Way Adjustment

Your pet will definitely need to adjust to their new home, but you are also required to adjust your own behavior and lifestyle to incorporate your new pet. For instance, if you’ve lived a sedentary lifestyle prior to getting a pet and you’ve decided to adopt a highly active dog breed, you’ll have to be more physically active to match your pet’s energy level. This adjustment also bleeds into other life decisions, including travel, child care, and budgeting. You’ll also need to take into consideration certain habits that you have that might endanger your pet’s health and well-being, such as leaving toxic chemicals or food in countertops that they can easily reach.

Final Thoughts

Perhaps the easiest way to know whether or not you are actually cut out for pet ownership is to foster a pet. Foster programs assign you a rescued animal, usually a dog or cat, that you’ll care for until they can find a permanent home for said pet. This allows you to experience the day-to-day routine of an actual pet owner without having to fully commit to the role.

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