Written by guest contributor, Jessica Brody.

Are you thinking about adding a new pet to your life? If so, get ready for all the love and cuddles you can possibly handle! Pets are a great source of comfort, but you also should make sure you, and your home, are ready for your new friend. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re a first-time pet owner.

Picking the Right Pet

 When you’re thinking of what kind of pet to get, you really need to consider your home and your lifestyle. Have a big backyard and love to get outside for walks everyday? Think about getting a dog and look for an active breed that can keep up with you. If you like to travel or live in a smaller house or apartment, a cat or a smaller dog may be a better fit. It’s also smart to think about any allergies and the need to minimize dander. Investing time in finding the perfect pet can help you avoid any unnecessary stress later on down the road.

Making Your Home Pet-Friendly

 Bringing your new pet home will be much easier if you prepare your house beforehand. Take a trip to the pet store and pick up some essentials. If you’ve decided on a cat, you’ll need to add at least one litter box, litter, toys and a scratching post to your shopping list. For dogs, it’s best to go ahead and pick out a leash, a bed and toys, among other supplies. Set up a safe, cozy spot in your house for your new pal as well. Cats are big fans of hanging out in high spaces while dogs tend to prefer the coziness of a crate. Getting your home ready can help your new pet settle in much quicker.

If you haven’t already done so, put together a pet preparedness plan in the case of an emergency or a natural disaster. In addition to assembling an evacuation kit (litter, pet food, etc.), you should designate an emergency contact and make a list of relocation options. Also, look into pet-friendly hotels in your area should you need to spend some time away from your home for an extended period of time. By getting ready beforehand, you won’t have to waste time and energy scrambling should something happen.


Re-Working Your Routine

 Having a cat or a dog means adjusting your daily rhythm to their needs. First, figure out a feeding schedule that works for you. Free feeding may seem like the easiest solution but can lead to obesity, so twice a day is best. You’ll also want to set aside time for walks and play. If you work, try to take some time off to help your new pet settle in properly. It may also be a good idea to look into a pet sitter or dog walker, so you’ll have a plan for those days when you get stuck in traffic or caught late at work.

Bonding with Your New Buddy

 For some lucky first time pet owners and their pets, it’s love at first sight. In many cases, however,  it takes time and a little work to really form a bond with an animal, especially rescues. Go out on hikes or to dog-friendly restaurants with your pup. Think about setting up a catio for cats, so you can lounge together. Training with treats and rewards is also a great way to connect with your pet, while helping them adjust to the rules of their new life. Be patient and stay positive, and the two of you will be best buddies in no time.

Being Patient with New Pets

 Change is hard for animals, no matter their age. A puppy or a kitten may spend their first few nights with you crying and confused. Even older pets, from the shelter or a rescue, take time to settle into a new home. The shelter is exhausting for animals so don’t be surprised if a rescue just sleeps for a couple of days. Animals that have been abandoned, abused or neglected may suffer from anxiety and often end up taking their frustrations out on your belongings.  Consider using positive reinforcement to train your new pet to feel safe and calm in your home, and enlist the help of a professional trainer to correct severe behavior issues.

If you’re a first-time pet owner, you shouldn’t stress about how to take care of your new pal. With a little patience, some planning and a lot of love you can feel good about caring for your pet and helping them settle into your new life together.