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A Quick Guide for First Time Pet Owners

So you’ve decided to get a pet -- congratulations! Years of warmth and happiness together await. However, there’s a lot to organize before your pet finally arrives home. Here’s a quick guide to help you get started.

Determining What Pet You Want

First, you’ll need to determine what kind of pet you want, if you don’t know already. From cats and dogs to gerbils and birds, there is a wide range of animals available to suit your needs. Are you buying a pet for yourself, or for your family? Some breeds, like Labrador retrievers and beagles, are ideal for families with small children, as they are large, huggable, and easily trained. Small dogs are more delicate but can be carried. Dogs, as pack animals, generally require a lot of time for walking, play, and general sociability.

If you are a busy family with a tight schedule, an independent (yet cuddly) cat might be right for you. Keep in mind that your choice depends not only on the breed’s general characteristics, but also on the temperament of the particular animal. There is a vast amount of variation in personality, so, whether you are adopting an animal from a rescue organization or buying one from a store, the staff can match your family with a suitable pet.

Another point to consider is cost -- cats and dogs require maintenance (leashes, litter boxes, etc.) in addition to just food and water. If you’re looking for a less expensive animal companion, you may want to look at caged or aquarium-based animals, like fish, gerbils, or rabbits. Finally, be sure to consider any allergies your family may have when choosing your pet.

Companion Animals for Addiction Recovery

If you are in addiction recovery, you may want to consider a more active pet, like a medium or large dog. Companion animals can contribute to treatment by providing recovering addicts with a deep bond, a daily routine, and lovable support. Routine is important for addicts to stay on the path to sobriety, and having a loyal support system is key for addicts to feel less isolated. Taking the time to spend with your pet each day deepens the bond; you can even take your dog along on a hiking or camping trip to spend some time together outdoors.

Animal-assisted therapy is also effective at helping physiological healing, as well. The act of loving on a dog releases dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins in your brain, chemicals tied to feelings of positivity, self-worth, and well-being. These chemicals also help to reduce pain, benefitting the immune system while lowering blood pressure. Finally, a companion’s unconditional love can be an effective tool for healing.

Bringing Your Pet Home Safely

Before you bring your pet home, you should prepare the house first. Just as with a human baby, you’ll want to pet-proof the house to make it safe for them. Anything toxic, whether it’s a household cleaner or a plant, should be put away and out of reach. The same goes for toys or other implements with small pieces that can be swallowed, as well as electrical cords that can be chewed. Purchase and prepare food and water dishes, a litter box and scratching post for cats, a carrying crate for trips to the vet, leashes and collars, and a range of toys. Once you’ve brought your pet home, help them acclimate by keeping them in a single room, fully stocked with their bowls and other requirements.

In general, start slowly. Don’t expect them to be comfortable immediately -- give them time and space to get used to their new home. Rescue pets, in particular, may be nervous for several days, so supervise them as much as possible, and begin establishing a regular routine for them to expect.

As you get to know your companion animal, bonding will happen naturally over time. Spend time with them, show them love and affection, and keep them engaged with play. Congratulations on your new pet!


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