I’ve had cats my whole life. My earliest memories are me playing in the driveway with sidewalk chalk and the neighborhood cats (and my parents, of course). I’m a total cat person, and it doesn’t take much for me to make friends with felines.
One of the hardest parts of being in grad school was not having an animal companion to come home to after class. I quickly decided that, once I had a job and was settled in a new place, that I would get a kitty.
Two weeks ago, I brought home the sweetest, fluffiest fuzzball of joy from a local animal shelter. Her name is Maggie, short for “Magnolia.” She’s so affectionate, and I love coming home from work and seeing her curled up on the couch waiting for me.
Being a new pet owner is exciting; nothing makes me happier than watching my pet explore its new home for the first time. But there’s also a lot that goes into preparing for a new pet. Since I’ve had cats my whole life, I knew how to prepare to bring sweet Maggie home and make it a smooth experience.
Here are my tips for new pet owners, especially those bringing home an animal for the first time!
1. Save money, for a few months in advance. I started saving for a cat this spring, about a month before my graduate program finished. Just setting aside a couple dollars at a time makes a huge difference. I eventually worked my way up to setting $5 aside at a time, then $10, and then $20, once I had started my job and was earning a paycheck again.
2. In the same vein, research the fees, at the shelter, vet, and your apartment (if they have one). This will help you know exactly how much money you’ll need to save or set aside for your new family member.
3. Buy your supplies a week or so before actually getting a pet. And make a list of everything you think you could possibly need: food, toys, bowls, place mat, litter box, litter, scooper, cuddle bed, scratching post, carrier…whatever you think your pet will need. Have everything ready to go; when you bring home your pet, it’ll be there when it needs it first.
4. Research shelters and adoption locations in your area, so you know where you can look. Don’t forget that places like Petsmart and Petco also have adoptions available, usually during the week and on the weekends. My local Petsmart works with a local rescue group that brings cats and kittens to the store for adoptions.
5. When you start actually visiting the places, visit each place more than once. Also give yourself a few weeks to look around. You want to make sure you find the pet that’s the best fit for you and will be a perfect companion. I looked for at least three weeks before I brought Maggie home. There was one cat I saw at Petsmart that I liked, and she was really friendly, but she was a mouser and needed a family that would want her to hunt. When I stopped by Petsmart last weekend, the lady volunteering told me that cat had been adopted by a family that needed a mouse hunter for their barn.
6. Try to get some private playtime at the shelter. A cat may be shy and reserved in its cage or in an open room with multiple cats, but it may be loving and expressive one-on-one…or vice versa. Ask a volunteer at the shelter (or Petsmart) if you can get some alone time with the kitty to see how he/she does. When I took Maggie to a private playroom, she chased a little ball for a couple minutes, and then jumped in my lap and curled up. Heart = won.Bringing home a new pet? Here are 10 tips to make it easy for you + pet! Click To Tweet
7. Walk your pet around your home and show it where everything is located. Take your new friend on a tour to find its food, water, litter box, bed, etc. It helps the pet familiarize itself with its new home. Maggie didn’t quite understand her litter box at first, so I had to put her in it and dig her paws around in it. She got the idea.
8. Be patient when figuring out your new pet’s eating habits. Learning what food the pet likes–wet vs. dry, what brand, etc.–is trial and error. It took me a little while to figure out that Maggie prefers wet food. She gets half a small can in the morning, and the other half in the evening for dinner. I leave a small bowl of dry food for her to snack on during the day. Now that I know her routine, I can make room for that in my budget, and I know she’s eating well.
9. Schedule a wellness exam with your vet within the first two weeks. The shelter I adopted Maggie from had partnerships with several local vets that offered the first wellness exam for free, if scheduled within the first two weeks of adoption. Take advantage of this! Vet visits get pricy.
10. Give your new pet time to acclimate to its new home. Fortunately all of my family’s cats have taken fairly short times to adjust to our homes. Maggie took about a week to fully adjust to my apartment, and she hasn’t looked back since. In fact, she’s currently curled up in my lap between me and my computer. I’d say she’s pretty comfortable here.
Being well prepared for your new pet will make the transition easier for everyone involved. And your animal will love you even more for welcoming it into your family.
What advice do you have for new pet owners?