Bringing a new pet into your house can be as intimidating as it is exciting. Even if you already have an animal or two at home, taking care of animals often comes along with plenty of questions.
As pet owners, we all want the best for our smallest and sometimes, furriest family members. It is important for every pet parent caring for animals that they are getting everything they need to be happy and healthy pets. Taking care of animals is more than just making sure their bowl is full or that the dog is walked, and the litter box is scooped.
We put together a few tips for taking care of animals, focusing on the most common household pets. Whether you’re becoming a first-time pet owner or have had multiple animal companions, this guide can help your new family member feel right at home.
Tips for Taking Care of Animals
Before you bring home your pet, be sure you’re ready. Here are a few considerations to think about as you prepare to bring a loved pet into your life:
- Select a pet that is suited to your home and lifestyle and avoid impulsive decisions.
- Recognize that owning a pet(s) requires an investment of time and money.
- Keep only the type and number of pets for which you can provide an appropriate and safe environment. This includes appropriate food, water, shelter, health care, and companionship.
- Ensure your pet is properly identified (i.e., tags, microchips, or tattoos) and that their registration information in associated databases is kept up to date.
- Be knowledgeable of and adhere to local ordinances, including licensing and leash requirements.
- Provide preventive (e.g., vaccinations, parasite control) health care for the life of your pet(s).
- Socialize your pet to facilitate their well-being and the well-being of other animals and people. If needed, provide additional training.
- Provide exercise and mental stimulation appropriate to your pet(s)' age, breed, and health status.
- Include your pets in your planning for an emergency or disaster, including assembling an evacuation kit.
- Plan for the care of your pet when or if you are unable to do so.
HOW TO TAKE CARE OF DOMESTIC ANIMALS
Taking care of animals is a big responsibility. Dogs and cats can be wonderful additions to the home if you prioritize your pet’s health and happiness.
Food: Whether you’re bringing home a new puppy or taking care of a well-aged companion, be sure to stock up on high-quality dog food. According to the American Society for the Prevention for Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), puppies typically need three to four meals per day, but once your dog reaches about one year of age, one meal of day is usually enough Fresh, clean water should always be available also.
Environment: It’s important to maintain a safe environment. “Start kennel training for times when your pet cannot be under supervision,” states Ross Vet alumna Dr. Nisha Sanathara ’11. When caring for animals that will be staying outdoors, you’ll need some sort of temperature control system to ensure they remain comfortable. Ross Vet alumna Michelle Ward '09 advises to "update their tags, collars, and microchips." A microchip or some sort of collar identification is a must for both indoor and outdoor dogs. Dogs need exercise to burn calories, stimulate their minds, and stay healthy and tend to help them avoid boredom. Individual exercise needs vary based on breed or breed mix, sex, age, and level of health. And make room for regular grooming. Regular grooming can help reduce shedding and identify any tick or flea issues before they become a bigger problem.
Veterinary Care: Puppies should have their first visit to the veterinarian when they’re around three weeks old. You should expect a physical exam and testing for worms. This is also a good time to discuss vaccinations and determining when to spay or neuter. Also plan to bring your dog in for annual exams. Just like you would do for your health, be on the lookout for signs of health issues that may require immediate attention. Weight loss, changes in behavior, and lack of energy are all signs something might be wrong.
Food: Whether you have a kitten or a cat, investing in high-quality food is important. How much food you give your cat will depend on the age of your animal and their current activity level. Some felines are natural grazers and can handle access to food throughout the entire day. Some are prone to overeating and need to have a feeding schedule, such as twice per day. According to the ASPCA, it’s important the food includes taurine, which is an essential amino acid for heart and eye health. Work with your veterinarian to determine what is best for your beloved pet. No matter the feeding schedule, make sure fresh, clean water is always available.
Environment: Though some pet owners allow their cats to roam the neighborhood, it’s recommended you that when caring for animals like cats, you keep them. There is no evidence that cats “need” to roam freely. They are not harmed physically or behaviorally if they do not get outside. However, in case they do somehow get outside to roam, it’s important they have identification, whether in the form of a collar or microchip. According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are a few pieces of equipment you may want to have on hand for your cat. You’ll need a litter box, cat toys, nail clippers, and a scratching post. It’s also a good idea to regularly groom your cat. Many cats enjoy being brushed and regular grooming can help minimize hairballs.
Veterinary Care: Guidelines for cats are like those for dogs. Whether you’re bringing up a kitten or adopting an older cat, be sure to visit the veterinarian soon after you bring a furry friend home to check for worms and make sure you get vaccinations in order. Also, like dogs, cats are safe to be spayed or neutered around eight weeks old. Cats should be taken in for regular check-ups at least once each year These routine visits are meant to ensure your cat stays healthy, and they usually only take about 30 minutes.
Other Small Animals That Are Easy to Take Care of
“Pocket pets” are small domestic animals such as gerbils, hamsters, ferrets, and rabbits. Many people opt to adopt a pocket pet as opposed to a dog or cat because they are easier to take care of, and they don’t require as much attention as their canine and feline counterparts.
Children often want a small pet they can call their own. Pocket pets are often the perfect introduction to how to properly take care of domestic animals. However, when you’re deciding on adopting or purchasing small animals that are easy to take care of you still need to take time to prepare your home for them. You may need to invest in supplies and accessories designed for your pet such as tanks or cages, terrariums, or a rabbit hutch. Many smaller animals still need plenty of space to run around in, foliage to hide beneath, shavings to burrow into and toys to play with.
Each of these species has its own special considerations, but a common theme is that their water is changed daily, they should be fed a well-balanced food, and their cage cleaned at least weekly. For the more social species (rabbits, guinea pigs, and rats) daily handling and play is also important to their well -being, so making sure their environment is stimulating is important.
Pocket pets must also be kept safe from any possible risk. If out of their cage, your pet can get stuck behind a large appliance or inside furniture. If you let your special pet roam the home, be sure to eliminate any threats, such as electric wires, choking hazards, and large predators. Your Pocket Pet may be required to have certain vaccinations, and zoonotic diseases are a primary concern with many of these animals. Be sure to work with your local veterinarian who can take a specialized approach to caring for animals such a Pocket Pets.
Animal Welfare Tips for Special Events
Large family gatherings, fireworks, picnics, and other celebratory traditions are fun for humans but can be frightening or even dangerous for animals. Noisy fireworks and other loud noises can startle your pet and may cause them to run away. Holiday foods can be unhealthy. Extreme temperatures such as the summer heat or cold winter and travel can be dangerous. And, potentially dangerous debris such as fireworks or ribbons and wrapping paper can end up lying on the ground where your pet can eat or play with it.
“Have a safe and secure indoor location for your pet. A crate is preferable, but a bathroom with a lockable door works. Exercise your pet for a long time before festivities. Then feed them early and isolate them in a cool dark place. Lastly, don’t be afraid to reach out to your primary vet. We can help you with medication for pets that need them,” states Ross Vet alumna Dr. Ashley Nichols ’15.
Whether or not you’re planning your own New Year’s celebration, Independence Day celebration, or another large gathering it’s important to take additional precautions to keep your pet safe.
Taking care of animals before the celebration:
- Make sure your pets – cats and dogs alike – have identification tags with up-to-date information.
- Talk with your veterinarian about microchipping. If your pet is already microchipped, be sure your contact information is up to date in the registry.
- Take a current photo of all your pets-just in case.
- Make your environment is safe and ensure your yard is secure enough to keep your pet contained. Evaluate your options and choose the safest area for your animals.
Caring for Animals and keeping your pet safe during celebrations:
- Leave your pets at home when you go to parties, fireworks displays, parades, and other gatherings. Loud fireworks, unfamiliar places, and crowds can be scary for your pet and may cause them to run away.
- Consider putting your pets in a safe room or crate during parties and fireworks.
- If you’re hosting guests, ask them to help keep an eye on your pets to make sure they don’t escape.
- Keep your pets inside if you or your neighbors are setting off fireworks.
- Keep sparklers, glow sticks, ribbon, wrapping pepper, toothpicks, and other objects away from your pet.
- Don’t let pets get near your barbecue grill while it is in use or still hot.
- Avoid the urge to feed your pet table scraps or other foods intended for people. Remember, some food is even toxic to your animal!
- Remember that too much sun and heat (and humidity!) or too much cold can be dangerous to pets. Keep them inside when the weather is at extremes. If they are outside in the heat, make sure they have access to shady spots and plenty of water.
- Never leave your pet in the car when it’s warm outside. Even a short time in a locked car can be dangerous to pets.
- If you’re traveling out of town for a holiday, consider leaving your pets at home with a pet sitter or boarding them in a kennel.
After the celebration is over:
- Check your yard for debris before allowing pets outside to play or relax.
- If you hosted guests, check both your yard and home for food scraps or other debris that might be dangerous to pets.
Owning a pet is one of the best decisions you may make. By owning a pet, you may even discover your passion for caring for animals and become a veterinary professional.
Pursue your Passion for animals.