Becoming a pet owner is like taking on a new child. All of a sudden, you're responsible for the health, safety and happiness of your adorable ball of fluff, and if you're new to pets or the breed you've selected, it might seem like a daunting task!
But don't worry, we've got you covered with our top ten tips for being the best pet owner you can be. Follow these easy steps, and your four-legged friend will thank you for it!
1. Choosing the right pet
Being a responsible pet owner doesn't begin the moment your pet arrives at your family home - it starts the moment you decide to get a pet. It's important to make sure that you've carefully considered what kind of animal suits your lifestyle, home and family. If you make the wrong decision early on, you could have an unhappy furry friend on your hands.
We'd suggest carefully considering:
- If you want a dog or a cat (or other animal), as dogs require a lot more attention and effort than other pets
- How much space your home has
- How often you're at home (or whether you travel a lot)
- If you have time to do regular walks, grooming and general maintenance
- Whether you can really afford a pet - that means paying for food, vet bills, flea treatments and accessories
Take into consideration breeds as well, as some are better suited to different living situations. We've put together a blog that will help you out with how to choose the right dog breed for you - check it out!
If you're taken all of the variables into account before your furry friend comes home, you'll be much more likely to have a long-lasting relationship with your happy pet!
2. House-train your pet
Unfortunately, your new pup or kitten doesn't come pre-loaded with good manners and obedience, or a handbook to show you how to teach them. It's up to you to make sure you're on top of obedience and house training the moment your fluffy friend gets home.
Remember, animals are best at learning when they're young, so get your training in quick!
- For cats: this may mean teaching your cat how to use a kitty litter, or letting them know where it is and isn't okay to sleep (if you've had a cat before, you'll know how much they love roaming on a bench-top!). If you're interested in how, we've put together a blog on what to do if you're having trouble toilet training your cat.
- For dogs: House training can be a big task, from obedience, house training, tricks, socialising and being gentle, a little pup has a lot to learn. If you're finding it difficult, consider investing in a puppy school, and if you need some advice, we've got a tonne of helpful blogs on crate training and teaching good habits.
3. A healthy, balanced diet for your pet
We know how tempting it can be to reward your pup with delicious treats when you have two puppy eyes staring up at you, or just how cute kittens are when they're lapping up a delicious bowl of milk - but are they getting what they need?
It's really important to make sure your pet is getting fresh food, regularly.
Diets can also vary from breed to breed, so make sure you consult with your local vet if you're not sure.
If your pet seems to react to anything you're feeding them, stop immediately and take them to the vet - through a little bit of testing, you'll be able to figure out what your furry friend needs to be healthy!
4. Always have access to water
You'd genuinely be surprised at how often people forget to make sure their pets have access to fresh, clean water. Making sure there's a constant supply is as important to your pet's health, as it is to yours.
- For dogs: having an indoor and outdoor water bowl is a great idea, and in summer, you can get creative with icy toys to keep them hydrated and cool.
- For cats: it's a common mistake to think that cats don't need lots of water to stay healthy, or that you can replace water with milk. If you're wondering why your cat is licking water from sinks or puddles, it's because they're thirsty! Keep your feline-friends hydrated too.
5. Socialise your pets
Animals are a lot like humans in many ways! Just like we didn't know how to chat to one another and interact in groups from day one, neither do your pets.
Make sure you get them used to both human and animal contact really early on, so they're comfortable in social situations and you don't have any problems on your hands.
- For cats: they're pretty independent creatures and socialising with other animals really only comes into play if you're introducing them to another one of your pets. Take it slow, get them familiar with scents and monitor the process - eventually, they'll get used to each other's company.
- For dogs: socialisation is very, very crucial. A lack of socialisation can cause behavioural issues such as fears, aggressiveness, timidity and anxiety. Make sure to take your dog to parks, and get them used to other animals, as well as lots of new people (outside of the family). The best time to do this, is between three - 12 weeks of age.
6. Keep your pets busy!
We all know how boring it can be if you're doing the same thing every day, being by yourself or have nothing to do. Animals feel this way too - they need mental stimulation just like humans do to keep them active, learning, and most importantly, out of trouble.
This means buying lots of different toys for your pets to keep them entertained, taking them out to different environments (if they're a dog) to play in, and actively putting in effort to keep them company.
Yep, that's right - that time you spend getting your kitten to chase the red dot, and throwing your pup a tennis ball, actually matters in the long run!
7. Ensure that your home is pet-proof
There are lots of things you can do to make sure that your little ball of fluff is happy and safe at all times, and often, it begins with making sure your home is suitable for a pet.
Pet-proofing your home for a cat:
- Check your home for any toxic house plants that could affect your cat
- Installing a cat-flap is a great idea
- Installing a scratching post to keep their claws off your couch
- Move electrical wires out of sight or secure them
- Planting a little cat-nip as a treat will make for a very happy kitten
Pet-proofing your home for a dog:
- Put your shoes away safely - trust us on this one
- Make sure your whole section is fenced, and your dog can't escape
- Build or buy a kennel for a cosy, covered place your dog can stay outdoors
- Move food and rubbish out of reach
- If you need to confine your dog to certain areas of your home, installing gates is a good idea
8. Take them to the vet
When you have a young animal, they're really susceptible to catching viruses and diseases, so it's important to protect them with the necessary vaccines early on. The same goes for spaying or neutering your animal - if you don't want to be responsible for a litter of kittens or pups - responsibly eliminate the possibility of it happening.
We know it's expensive, but when you become a pet owner, you take on the task of providing health care for your pet.
That doesn't just mean when they're sick either - make sure you take your pet to the vet regularly for check-ups, dental care, weigh-ins and diet recommendations.
Of course, if you ever suspect there's something wrong with your pet, don't hesitate to take them to the animal doctor. Often, it's the only way to help them stay happy, healthy and comfortable, so make sure not to put it off.
9. Get your pet proper identification
Legally in NZ, you have to register your dog and get them micro-chipped - except for working farm dogs. It's really important that you get this done early on, to make sure their information is loaded in the National Dog Database.
This means that if your dog gets lost, stolen or hurt, they're easily identifiable and can make their way right back to you, safe and sound.
For cats and dogs alike, we'd recommend a collar with a name, number and address. Plus, they'll look super cute - a win-win!
10. Clean up after your pet
Even if your pet is the most perfectly trained, well behaved fluff on the block, accidents do happen. If you come home to find that your doggo has had a good go at ruining your carpet, or your cat has skipped the kitty-litter - never fear.
We've put together a useful blog on how to clean up pesky-pet stains, which will help you mess-manage along the way.
If you'd like to skip that step, you can download our stain guide below, for FREE!
For more tips on pet ownership, check out out Ultimate Pets Guide.