Welcome to pet parenthood! Adopting an animal can bring years of joy, but sometimes the first few months are stressful. You want to give your animal the best care possible, and at the same time, you’re still learning about each other. Understandably, there will be a few bumps along the way!
Pet parenthood isn’t all playtime and trips to the park – there is a lot of work involved, especially in the beginning. But engaging with your animal during the first couple of months helps build a strong bond and promotes positive behaviors. That’s a recipe for lifelong companionship!
To alleviate worries and help you feel more comfortable in your role as a pet parent, we have four tips.
Before you bring your animal home, research veterinarians in your area. Ask friends with pets which vet they use and ask what they like about him or her. Like human doctors, some vets have specialties, so you want to choose a vet whose practice fits your needs. Your first few appointments will ensure your pet is up-to-date on vaccinations, is spayed or neutered, is regularly taking preventive treatments, and is microchipped for their safety. During these appointments, build a rapport with your vet. You want to trust them fully and know you have an advocate that’s a phone call away during the first few months of pet parenthood.
Fun fact: If you adopt an animal from the Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby County, your animal will be fully vaccinated, spayed or neutered, have their teeth cleaned (if needed), and microchipped before you adopt! You still need to find a vet near you to keep your vaccinations up-to-date and get preventive care.
Often, when we talk about pets’ schedules, we focus on a puppy or kitten’s needs for regularity. But all animals need schedules, no matter their age! When animals understand their schedule, they’re much more likely to behave in positive ways. For example, if an animal knows dinner is served at 6 p.m., they’re much less likely to beg by their bowl throughout their day. And if an animal knows they go outside at 7 a.m. each morning, they’re less likely to wake you at 5 a.m. on a Saturday. Setting schedules for things like walks, feedings, bathroom breaks, and other everyday activities helps your animal understand when they’ll get sustenance and relief – which is essential for any living creature! Regular schedules will also tip you off to behaviors that might indicate a potential health issue. For example, animals on a bathroom schedule who suddenly whine to go outside more frequently, or increase trips to their litter box, might have an underlying health concern to investigate.
Have you ever wondered why there are so many brands and flavors of animal food? Not all foods suit every animal! Some animals have allergies, sensitive digestive tracts, or other needs that require a specific diet. When you adopt an animal, evaluate their eating and digestive habits. Watch for things like soft or infrequent bowel movements, throwing up, or a decreased desire to eat. Once you find a food that works for your animal, stick to it! Animals don’t need varied cuisine as the people in your home do – but a scoop of wet food as a treat is OK for special occasions! The consistent food will help promote digestive health and will alert you to any potential medical issues if their digestive habits change.
Do you want your animal to stay off of furniture? Are you working on crate training? Are you emphasizing general manners? Many first-time pet parents find it helpful to enlist the help of a trainer or to join a training course. This helps teach your dog basic skills and also teaches you training tactics. If you adopt from the Humane Society, your dog will already have completed basic training to help quell bad behaviors and to master basic obedience skills. Whatever your behavior goals are with your animal, you have to be consistent from the start. You may feel mean at first to call your dog off the couch, but by doing so consistently, you’re setting an appropriate boundary that your animal will learn to respect. Then in the future, they won’t exhibit behaviors you deem as unacceptable. Clear and consistent boundaries build trust between you and your animal and endear you to them as they start to demonstrate positive behaviors.