This article was co-authored by Brian Bourquin, DVM. Brian Bourquin, better known as “Dr. B” to his clients, is a Veterinarian and the Owner of Boston Veterinary Clinic, a pet health care and veterinary clinic with three locations, South End/Bay Village, the Seaport, and Brookline, Massachusetts. Boston Veterinary Clinic specializes in primary veterinary care, including wellness and preventative care, sick and emergency care, soft-tissue surgery, dentistry. The clinic also provides specialty services in behavior, nutrition, and alternative pain management therapies using acupuncture, and therapeutic laser treatments. Boston Veterinary Clinic is an AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) accredited hospital and Boston’s first Fear Free Certified Clinic. Brian has over 19 years of veterinary experience and earned his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University.
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Whether you're getting a family pet or a companion for yourself, caring for a pet is a big responsibility. Pets are family and depend on their owners to raise them and spend time with them. Like any children, pets have a wide range of needs, from physical health and safety to mental stimulation and attention. After you choose the right kind of pet, prepare your home for it and make the adoption official. Care for your pet with food, fun, and plenty of attention to be the best pet parent you can be.
Part 1 of 5:Bringing a Pet Home
1Select a pet that fits your living space and circumstances. One of the most responsible things you can do is to view pet parenthood as a commitment. Every pet is unique, so not all pets are suitable for potential parents. The size of your living space matters as well as the resources you have available to care for a pet. Consider how much time and energy you have to commit to a new pet. X Trustworthy Source Best Friends Animal Society Nonprofit animal welfare organization dedicated to saving animal lives by operating and supporting no-kill animal shelters Go to source
- Pets differ a lot between breeds. For instance, a Chihuahua requires less space and exercise than a big dog like a Great Dane. Factor in the food costs, messes, and vet costs different breeds have.
- Exotic animals like parrots and big lizards are pretty expensive and often require roomy cages. Smaller animals, including hamsters and fish like guppies, are good choices for beginners.
- Keep in mind other people you live with, particularly children. Some dogs are better family pets than others. Animals like birds often bond with one person and may bite others.
2Find a responsible shelter or rescue to get a pet. Once you have an idea of what kind of pet you want, look for pets in your area. Read about these places online, then tour the facility to make sure they treat animals well. Ask sellers questions, including about the adoption fee. Then, spend time meeting some of the animals to judge their temperament. X Research source
- For pedigree pets, talk to the breeder. Ask about the dog's history and view its living conditions. A responsible breeder will be able to give you extensive documentation about the dog's background.
- Read reviews from other customers along with the shelter or rescue's mission statement, but don't adopt until you have had a chance to visit the place in person.
- There are pet-finding services online that allow you to search for animals in your area. Choose a reputable site where shelters and rescues list their pets, such as Petfinder at https://www.petfinder.com//
- Take care of any paperwork you get when adopting a pet. Store important documents in a safe location in your home.
3Choose a pet and come up with a name for it. Once you pick a pet to care for, the fun of being a pet parent begins. Come up with a name that fits your pet. Find inspiration in your pet's appearance and personality or try adopting a name you heard elsewhere, such as on TV. Pick a name as soon as possible so other people know what to call it. X Research source
- For some animals, such as dogs and cats, you will need the name to legally register your pet with the local government. Veterinarian offices also ask for a name to keep track of your pet's health.
- Don't rush while choosing a pet. Looking is difficult when you see a wide range of cute pets to choose from. Responsible pet parents wait until they're sure they have found the right pet for them.
Part 2 of 5:Creating a Safe Environment
1Remove harmful and fragile objects from your pet's play space. You may hear other pet parents talk of "dog-proofing" or "cat-proofing" their home. Part of being a parent is protecting your pet from danger, which includes sharp objects, exposed cords, toxic plants, and anything else it can swallow. Pets are very curious, so put away breakable items and block off areas that are off-limits. X Research source
- Any type of pet has the potential to do damage to your home. Rabbits, hamsters, birds, and even lizards may damage valuable clothing, electric wires, and other items.
- Create safe spaces and play areas. For example, plants like azaleas and tulips are toxic to curious cats and dogs, so don't leave them out for your pet to explore.
2Install fences and cages to contain your pet at home. Backyard fences are great limiters for dogs. If you have an existing fence, check it over to ensure your dog can't escape. If you don't have a fenced yard, use a leash to let your pet outside. For other animals, including birds, reptiles, amphibians, and rodents, get a solid cage with plenty of play space. If you're keeping fish, choose a big tank that holds plenty of water and find a level surface to set it on. X Research source
- Clear out space for cages and tanks. They need to be set on stable surfaces out of reach from children or other pets.
- Know your pet's needs before placing their cage. Some pets, like parrots, like being close to the activity. Others, like prey species and fearful animals, need a quiet corner to rest in.
- Crates are safe for dogs and cats when you need to leave home, but give your pet plenty of exercise and attention once you are able to let it out.
3Create safe bedding out of blankets or other material. Your new pet needs a place to sleep. Many pet stores sell pet beds for cats and dogs, but you can also stack blankets and pillows for them. Other types of pets need substrates covering the bottom of their habitats. Common substrates include newspaper, wood shavings, and dirt. X Research source
- If you keep reptiles and amphibians, research your pet's natural habitat. Pet supply stores sell clean substrates. Hermit crabs like sand, for instance. Geckos like dirt, but iguanas and snakes often appreciate newspaper. X Research source
- Aspen wood shavings are perfect for many snakes and rodents. Rodents and rabbits also like paper and hay. X Research source
- Birds stay on perches, but line the bottom of bird cages with clean newspaper. Change the lining when it gets dirty or shredded.
- Use aquarium gravel and soil substrates for fish. Clean the gravel out with an aquarium vacuum about twice a month.
Part 3 of 5:Completing Registration and Safety Plans
1Submit registration and identification forms for your pet. If you have a dog or cat, print out a name tag to put on its collar. Most pet stores have tag printing services that make this quick and easy. For all types of animals, fill out adoption papers or registration forms according to the laws in your area. X Research source
- Many areas require you to register with the government as a pet owner. Dogs, cats, and exotic animals often need to be registered even if you aren't keeping them as service animals. Ask the shelter or rescue agency what forms you need to complete to become an official pet parent.
- Shelters and rescue agencies will often help you fill out registration forms. If you're still unsure what you need to do, ask them or get information at your local Animal Control office.
- Consider getting a microchip for your dog or cat to track it in case it gets out. Veterinarians will also put a microchip in a pet bird or put a tracking band over its leg.
2Choose a carrier or harness big enough to transport your pet. You never know when you will need to take your pet outside, so be prepared in advance. For most pets, all you need to do is buy a carrier that provides enough space for your pet to rest comfortably. For pets that don't fit in crates, get a safety harness for your car to keep your pet safe while you're transporting them. Have a carrier or harness available in case you need to take your pet to the vet. X Research source
- Pet supply stores sell plastic crates and fabric carriers. Crates are good for most animals, including birds, lizards, and rodents that would destroy soft carriers.
- For fish, you will need to get a plastic bag or small fish bowl. Fill it with water from the tank and get your fish back in its regular habitat as soon as possible.
3Take your pet to a trusted veterinarian when it is sick. When you first bring your pet home, look around your area for good veterinarians. Make sure they are trained to treat the type of pet you own. Take your pet in for any required vaccinations and establish a yearly check-up schedule. Whenever you notice your pet acting unusually, schedule an earlier appointment. X Research source
- Don't forget to get your dog or cat spayed or neutered if the shelter or rescue didn't take care of it for you!
- Search for vet offices online to view credentials and customer reviews. Look for an office you feel comfortable taking your pet to.
- The longer you live with your pet, the more you recognize how it acts during an ordinary day. Any behaviors out of the ordinary are signs that something is wrong. For instance, your pet may stop drinking water when it's sick.
4Come up with a plan in case of a natural disaster. Think of places to take your pet in case you are unable to leave them at home. Many pets end up getting left behind during emergencies. You can avoid this by finding out where the emergency shelters are in your area. Also, look for pet-friendly hotels and friends and family members who don't mind letting you visit with your pet. X Research source
- Some community shelters don't accept pets. Make sure you know which shelters are safe for pets. You likely won't get a chance to do this if you get caught in a sudden emergency like a flood.
- Prepare yourself well for whatever emergencies your community is prone to. Keep important documents like pet identification, immunization, and ID tags in a waterproof container to take with you.
5Establish a contact plan in case you are unable to care for your pet. A sudden change of plans, such as an illness, may prevent you from taking care of your pet. Have a plan and discuss it with people you know, including your friends, family members, and anyone living with you. Pick a few trusted people to check up on your precious pet and even take care of it as needed. X Research source
- Come up with some basic ideas, such as who will care for your pet and where it will stay.
- Sometimes plans are difficult to remember during busy, stressful times, so remind others of the plan until you are certain they know what to do.
Part 4 of 5:Handling Your Pet's Needs
1Feed your pet a healthy diet. Care for your pet's health by purchasing a quality food and avoiding excessive treats. The dietary needs of your pet depend on its size and species. Healthy dog and cat kibble, for instance, consists of few grains and lots of meat. Read food labels carefully and limit fattening treats to keep your pet well-nourished. X Research source
- Pets like birds and rodents often eat pellets supplemented with fruits and vegetables. Rabbits and similar animals need plenty of hay to supplement their diet.
- For meat-eating animals like snakes and lizards, you can purchase mealworms and other small insects at pet supply stores. Snakes eat mice, while many lizards also need leafy greens and some vegetables.
- Fish flakes are fine for fish, although you still need to avoid overfeeding them. Fish need a small amount of flakes about twice a day.
- Look for pet food that has ingredients you recognize and can pronounce.
Brian Bourquin, DVM
Veterinarian Expert Interview. 20 December 2019.
2Provide clean water at all times for your pet. No matter what kind of pet you have, it needs plenty of water. For most pets, set up a bowl and refill it every day. Rinse it out with soap and water to keep it clean. If you have a pet like a hamster, hang a water bottle inside the cage.
- If you leave your pet outside, make sure they have an accessible source of water at all times, especially during warm weather.
- Fish need fresh water, so remember to clean fish tanks and bowls every couple of weeks. Have a filtration system in your fish habitat to keep the water fresh. Treat fresh water with conditioner to make it safe for your fish.
3Bathe your pets if they get dirty. Most pets keep themselves clean, so you don't need to worry too much about bathing. Dogs are the most likely type of pet to get dirty and require a bath about every 3 months. Wash your pet with warm water and a species-specific shampoo from the pet store. Use a flea shampoo to remove unwanted guests from dogs and cats. X Research source
- Cats, birds, reptiles, amphibians, rabbits, and |rodents all bathe themselves. If you see your bird or lizard in its water bowl, for example, it is cleaning itself. Some animals, such as birds and bearded dragons, also enjoy warm baths outside of their cages.
- Bathe sick or dirty animals with a mild soap and small amounts of water. Animals that are unused to water, such as rabbits, will get scared and stressed if you immerse them.
- Fish live in water, so they practically bathe themselves! Fish don't require special treatment unless they look sick, such as if you notice parasites to pull off them. Keep them clean by keeping the tank clean.
4Groom your pet by brushing its fur or trimming its nails. Brush out furry pets as often as once a day to eliminate mats and remove shed hair. Dogs, cats, birds, and some lizards also need to have their nails clipped to a safe size. Look for the colored vein inside the nail to avoid nicking it. Give your pet a nice treat for making it through the grooming session. X Trustworthy Source Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine Leading veterinary medicine training institution and biomedical research center Go to source
- Metal pet combs work well for grooming pet hair. They aren't as bendable and flimsy as most plastic combs.
- The kind of nail clipping tool you need differs slightly depending on the type of pet you have. Visit a pet supply store to get the right tool. For lizards and some birds, you can even adapt human nail clippers.
5Use dental products to keep teeth and beaks clean. If you have a dog or a cat, clean its teeth yourself to cut down on costs. Brush your pet's teeth once a day with a toothbrush and toothpaste, if possible. Also, give your pet chewable items like dental treats or chew toys and offer hay to rabbits and rodents. X Research source
- Rabbits and rodents like hamsters chew on toys and food to grind their teeth down. Birds hone their beaks on perches. Without the proper equipment, teeth and beaks overgrow, leading to health problems. X Research source
Part 5 of 5:Socializing Your Pet
1Buy toys to keep your pet stimulated. Caring for a pet involves more than its physical health. Pets love to play, but some pets need a selection of toys to stay stimulated. Most pets enjoy having chewable toys, toys they can chase, and toys that dispense treats. Look for toys that make noise and keep your pet engaged even when you're not around. X Research source
- If you're handy with crafts, try making your own toys, such as a puzzle box for birds or a platform for hamsters.
- Fish like exploring, so try putting a colorful background behind the fish tank. Then, put plants, a plastic shipwreck, and other toys in the aquarium gravel. Move the toys on occasion to keep your fish happy.
2Show your pet plenty of affection by playing with it. To be a good pet parent, spend as much time as you can with your pet. Play with it as much as possible. If it likes physical attention, try letting it come near you, petting it, or giving it a belly rub. Every pet tolerates affection differently, so find activities that your pet enjoys. X Research source
- Some pets don't like to be handled much. Many reptiles and rodents, for instance, don't like to be held for very long. If it doesn't like being held, it might like toys or let you feed it.
- Not all cats like to be held or touched a lot. It's important to read your cat's signals so you don't get scratched or bitten.
Brian Bourquin, DVM
Veterinarian Expert Interview. 20 December 2019.
- For example, play fetch with your dog or bird. Dangle a toy for your cat to chase. Take other types of pets out of their cages and tanks to spend time with them.
3Train your pet with treats and praise. Being a pet parent involves teaching your pet how you want it to behave. Your pet won't know at first, especially if it is very young. To train your pet the right way, offer it a treat when it does what you want it to do to reinforce the good behavior. X Expert Source Brian Bourquin, DVM
Veterinarian Expert Interview. 20 December 2019. Scolding and hitting it is mean and usually doesn't help your pet learn. X Research source
- Train dogs and cats to do tricks, stop making noise, or stay out of trouble, for instance. Go slowly, rewarding your pet with a treat or click each time they make progress. Keep in mind that younger pets are easier to train than older ones.
- Remember to toilet train your pet, such as by teaching your dog to go outside or your cat to use a litterbox.
- Other animals are also trainable. For example, birds and lizards can even be toilet trained if you're patient.
4Introduce your pets to new experiences and other people slowly. Pets need time to adapt to new situations. Your pet may be a little timid, especially when you first bring it home. Keep it in a quiet space and don't force it to interact. Gradually expose it to the new situation until it grows comfortable enough to approach. X Research source
- Know your pet. Some pets are better alone. Some types of fish, for instance, do better alone in a tank.
- Using treats helps entice a pet to approach a new situation. You may need to work slowly, giving your pet a treat each time it looks at the new thing or steps towards it, for instance.
- Always supervise your pet while it socializes. Pets get startled just like you might in a new situation. This often leads to bites or scratches.
QuestionHow do I prove I am responsible enough for a pet?Brian Bourquin, DVMBrian Bourquin, better known as “Dr. B” to his clients, is a Veterinarian and the Owner of Boston Veterinary Clinic, a pet health care and veterinary clinic with three locations, South End/Bay Village, the Seaport, and Brookline, Massachusetts. Boston Veterinary Clinic specializes in primary veterinary care, including wellness and preventative care, sick and emergency care, soft-tissue surgery, dentistry. The clinic also provides specialty services in behavior, nutrition, and alternative pain management therapies using acupuncture, and therapeutic laser treatments. Boston Veterinary Clinic is an AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) accredited hospital and Boston’s first Fear Free Certified Clinic. Brian has over 19 years of veterinary experience and earned his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University.
VeterinarianVeterinarianExpert AnswerThink about your pet's needs ahead of time. A cat, for instance, may scratch your couch if you don't give it a scratching post.
- Do as much research as possible before bringing home a new pet. Figure out your pet's needs and do your best to meet them.
- For many pets, chewing is a natural behavior and punishing it doesn't help. Provide chew toys, especially for young pets like puppies.
- Sometimes you need to show a pet what you want it to do, such as crawling through a pet door. Find creative ways to teach your pet, such as by standing outside the door and calling to it.
- ↑ https://bestfriends.org/resources/choosing-pet
- ↑ https://dogtime.com/puppies/5-finding-a-good-breeder
- ↑ https://www.parents.com/parenting/pets/kids/picking-the-perfect-pet-name/
- ↑ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMAHyR0kJlo&feature=youtu.be&t=50
- ↑ http://www.uvma.org/birds/caging-accessories.htm
- ↑ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vcr-8aj1aaM&feature=youtu.be&t=36
- ↑ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Suuams4L1w&feature=youtu.be&t=32
- ↑ https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1258/002367706778476460
- ↑ https://www.cityofithaca.org/176/Dog-Licensing-Laws
- ↑ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GirHJFnrDXE&feature=youtu.be&t=40
- ↑ https://www.aaha.org/pet_owner/about_aaha/why_accreditation_matters/about_accreditation/how_to_choose_the_right_veterinarian.aspx
- ↑ https://vetmed.illinois.edu/pet_column/natural-disasters-plan-ahead-animals-safety/
- ↑ https://www1.nyc.gov/site/em/ready/pets.page
- ↑ https://www.petful.com/food/how-to-choose-the-best-pet-food/
- ↑ Brian Bourquin, DVM. Veterinarian. Expert Interview. 20 December 2019.
- ↑ https://dogtime.com/dog-health/general/129-bathing
- ↑ https://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/outreach/Pet-Health-Topics/categories/procedures/dogs/clipping-your-dog's-claws
- ↑ https://www.aaha.org/pet_owner/lifestyle/your-pets-dental-health-how-to-brush-your-pets-teeth-(and-why).aspx
- ↑ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxbgndNsN94&feature=youtu.be&t=14
- ↑ https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/toys-for-birds
- ↑ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1JLK0dVWfU&feature=youtu.be&t=47
- ↑ Brian Bourquin, DVM. Veterinarian. Expert Interview. 20 December 2019.
- ↑ Brian Bourquin, DVM. Veterinarian. Expert Interview. 20 December 2019.
- ↑ https://www.petmd.com/dog/training/evr_dg_how-to-train-your-dog
- ↑ https://www.pawsperouspets.com/tips/introductions.shtml
About This Article
To be a responsible pet parent, make sure to select a pet that’s suitable for your lifestyle and living space. If you’re a busy person with a small apartment, for example, you may want to stick to small pets, like hamsters or goldfish. Once you choose a pet, set aside safe play areas or keep harmful objects, such as electrical cords and toxic chemicals, out of its reach. You should also feed your pet a high-quality food and make sure it has enough things to keep it stimulated, like chew toys or a scratching post. Additionally, check your local laws to see what type of licenses and IDs are required for your pet. Many areas, for example, require you to register dogs, cats, and exotic animals with the health department. For more advice, including how to socialize and train your pet, keep reading.