Bringing a pet into your life can be positive and uplifting, but it can also be stressful and hard. Think of a pet like a long-term relationship: it’s a large commitment that comes with sacrifice and dedication. Whether the animal in question is a cuddly cat, a slithery snake, or a gigantic German shepherd, be prepared for both huge rewards and hard work. Pets, like people, are unique. Each one has its own personality and preferences. Maybe you thought your cat was the type who would want to curl up in your lap at night, but, as it turns out, your cat is reserved and likes to keep a respectful distance. Embrace your pet for who they are and not who you thought they would be. Perhaps you had a pet throughout your childhood, so you’re already familiar with the ups and downs of caring for an animal. But remember, raising an animal by yourself poses a far greater set of challenges than raising one with your parents and siblings in the next room. And we’re here to help you meet these challenges, so here are some of the most critical things to know before you attach yourself to an animal.
A pet has to eat
Sounds obvious. Of course, your pet will have to eat. Like all animal species — including human beings — pets need food to survive. And, like all animal species, your pet will probably come with their own set of culinary preferences. Maybe your new cat will prefer wet food to dry food. Maybe your new dog will scorn their regular dog food and only eat chicken bones. It’s hard to predict what your pet will love and what they will loathe. So be ready for trial and error at the grocery store. Also, make sure you have room in a budget to feed another living and breathing creature. Pet food can get rather pricey, especially if you’re set on feeding your animal organic and/or fancier fare.
Keep healthcare in the front of your mind
What if your rabbit stops eating? What if your dog develops a mean cough? Like people, animals get sick. Sometimes it’s nothing to worry about and it goes away on its own. But on other occasions, it’s serious and requires doctor visits, medicine, and maybe even surgery. Research animal care and animal doctors (aka veterinarians) in your city and community. Make sure they can treat your pet and you can afford the inevitable bill. Look into health insurance for your pet as well. You don’t want to go bankrupt taking care of your animal, but you also want your animal to get better. There are lots of options when it comes to getting your pet the healthcare it needs. In big cities, there’s even mobile animal clinics that can treat your sick pet at a relatively low cost.
All you need is love
No, it’s not quite so simple. You do need more than love. As we already said, you’ll need food and a vet. But love is crucial. You should give your animal oodles of care and attention. Petting, cuddling, treats, exercise, baby talk — most animals are very sociable and thrive in loving, attentive environments. Even if you wind up with a shy cat who tends to keep to themselves, it doesn’t mean that you can just leave them alone for hours on end. Even if you’re not addressing your pet directly, pets still respond well to general human activity and noise, so, even if your pet doesn’t show it, it still appreciates you being around. If you’re not around — i.e. if you plan to take a Hawaiian vacation or go to a prestigious art residency — make sure you have someone who can look after your pet and give them love and care until you come home.
Keep it clean
Owning a pet can be a smelly, dirty job. Even self-sufficient pets who can clean themselves, like cats, get a little smelly from time to time. And it goes without saying that cat litter and finding cat hair on your nice clothes isn’t the most pleasant feeling in the world. To keep your abode a nice and fresh place, get ready to do some extra cleaning. Whether it’s emptying the litter box, the rabbit cage, or the fish tank, know that in order to maintain a sweet-smelling and welcoming place, extra work is coming your way. Vacuuming, scrubbing, and sweeping may have to happen at a much more frequent pace, but, hey, cleaning up after pets should be a small price to pay for years of heart-fluttering memories.