This first time pet owner ensures cables run behind the couch so pup won't chew them.

First Time Pet Owner: Preparing Mentally


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Is becoming a first time pet owner occupying all kinds of awesome daydreams at the moment? Is your work ending up on the backburner while you Google puppies and/or kittens instead?

Does imagining being a pet parent make the coffee taste even better? If you’re getting ready to take the leap, you’ll want to be ready for the reality. Mentally and physically.

So, what’s what do you need to know to prepare mentally for becoming a first time pet owner? Find out here…

First time pet owner anxiety

Being a first time pet owner is like being a new parent – or rather it is being a new parent. It’s a lot of hard work and yet the rewards are immeasurable – unconditional love, soppy puppy eyes, kitty cuddles, the works. A best friend forever.

However, after three or so (insert any number of) days of getting a new pet you might feel overwhelmed. Or anxious. You may even feel regret. This is normal and you’re not alone. This is a phase, and you can get through it. And remember – your new pet is also finding their feet.

The shift from seeing a pet onscreen to the dynamic real-life experience is seismic. You suddenly have no time to yourself; you have weird sleeping patterns, and you have added dishes to wash. Quite possibly you also have fleabites (get that routine pet care going!). And your clothes and furniture all look a bit scruffy because of freshly shed kitten or puppy fur.

But enough with the warnings, because like so many big emotional transitions, if you prepare beforehand, you can conquer all!

You want to make an emotionally mature commitment to pet parenthood because it’s hard work – it’s parenting after all.

Preparing mentally and physically for first-time pet parenthood

We asked Carolyn Press-McKenzie – founder of HUHA animal shelter – what it takes to become a first time pet parent. She recommends starting with an honest conversation with yourself.  

Ask yourself “can I do this for the next 16 or so years?” and “how would a pet fit into my daily schedule?” People see baby animals in their cute rolly polly stage and they’re eager to commit, says Carolyn. What you need to be aware of, in advance, is that they get bigger. And they have plenty of needs you need to meet every day.

You want to make an emotionally mature commitment to pet parenthood because it’s hard work – it’s parenting after all. Other areas Carolyn recommends focussing on are…

Growing pains

Cats go through home décor destruction stages (you’ll be Googling ‘how to stop your kitten scratching furniture’ in no time). Dogs go through chewy stages. Sometimes puppies become fully grown dogs but still have that rambunctious adolescent manner. Cats will usually always have the instinct to scratch.

What we’re saying is sometimes these frustrating stages are permanent.

If you can put time, love, patience, and good guidance into your raising your new puppy or new kitten it will pay off. Get started with these top 4 puppy training tips as well as 5 things new kitten parents need to know.

First time pet owner family bonds

Pets are highly emotional. One of the reasons we love them is because they’re so attuned to our feelings. That means they’ll be in tune with everyone’s feelings in a household. Before you get a pet, Carolyn recommends speaking to every member of your household.

Do they want a pet too? Because even if it’s not their responsibility, a pet is a new family member, and it affects everyone. You pet needs to be welcomed and wanted by all its future housemates, or it could develop behavioural problems.

Environmental friendliness

Preparing your environment for your new pet involves pet proofing your home for a happy household. The key ingredient to pet proofing is to do it before you get your pet. Once they’re home you won’t have the time. The early stages with your pet should be spent on bonding and training rather than stressing about their safety.

You’ll also need to ask yourself if you have any/enough of an outdoor area for your pet to play or do their daily duties. If you’re daydreaming of an indoor pet, do you have time to take them out for fresh air, and to explore and play?

While cats are good at (self-taught) home school, dogs really benefit from puppy school.

School and day-care

While cats are good at (self-taught) home school, dogs really benefit from puppy school. Puppy school helps dogs learn to socialise properly with their canine counterparts and behave well with people. It also helps them burn up a lot of their expendable energy, so you can enjoy downtime together.

And just like human school, you can’t leave it to the last minute. Carolyn advises that puppy schools get full and some schools don’t take certain breeds. Because of this, you really need to do your homework in advance to secure your spot with the best one. Here’s how to find a great puppy training school.

As with puppy school, do your research on puppy day-care well in advance because spots can be limited.

Adopting a rescue pet

If you’re adopting a rescue pet pat yourself on the back for being a wonderful human. Way too many dogs and cats are surrendered to or found by animal shelters every day. All need a loving home.

If you adopt one with a traumatic past, they’ll need you to be extra patient. They may still have fearful memories. Talk to the shelter and your vet about how to manage this. And if you need to, seek out a pet behaviourist to help your pet overcome these feelings and feel at home in your home.

Carolyn also recommends doing more visits with them at the shelter before bringing them home. Building a sense of trust and familiarity while they’re still at the shelter will go a long way once you’re back home.

Healthy means happy

Find yourself a good vet to keep your fur kid in good health and get cost-effective comprehensive pet insurance. Why? Pet insurance can alleviate the costs of non-routine vet visits, hospitalisation, accidents, prescribed medication and other fundamentals.

Also, if you’re not planning to start a horde, explore the benefits (many) and drawbacks (few) of desexing. Word yourself up by reading this article for cats: Spay and Neuter – Should Your Desex Your Cat and this for dogs: Neuter and Spay – Should You Desex Your Dog.

And remember, even the healthiest of indoor-only pets can get wounded. Having pet insurance is about securing their wellbeing to the best of your abilities. Insurance is a big element to this because it helps you protect against the expected and the unforeseeable.

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