Welcome a 4-legged family member with care

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boy and dog
For first-time pet owners, a healthy adult dog or cat can help teach new pet parents the joys of having a pet and may not require as much attention as a puppy or kitten. Valley News/Getty Images photo

Bringing home a new pet can be exciting and heartwarming. Before getting caught up in the excitement of adopting a pet, however, it’s important to do a bit of homework and have conversations to ensure the pet chosen will have a lifelong fit for the family.

When considering adopting, keep in mind that pets can provide as many benefits to their family as the family does for them, such as helping to reduce stress, providing companionship, getting the daily recommended amount of physical activity and more. While taking the options into account, remember these guidelines from the experts at PetSmart Charities to prepare for a successful homecoming for the newest family member.

Life stages

If a pet owner prefers a lower energy pet, seek a senior, age 7 or above, who may move a little slower. For higher energy, look for young puppies and kittens or active breeds such as Labradors, hounds, American terriers, which are commonly known as pit bulls, and mixed breeds.

For first-time pet owners, a healthy adult dog or cat can help teach new pet parents the joys of having a pet and may not require as much attention as a puppy or kitten.

Families with young children might consider a family-friendly breed or mixed breed such as a hound. Older children may benefit from additional responsibilities such as walking the dog or cleaning the litter box.

Living environment

In addition to the type and age of pet adopted, pet owners will need to consider the space available to welcome a furry friend.

If the family lives in a home, consider fencing the yard for more relaxed playtime. If they live in an apartment, discuss any restrictions with the landlord and find out where the closest dog parks are to ensure the dog gets plenty of exercise.

Dogs need a place to call their own where they’re contained overnight and while you’re not home until they can be safely left to roam. Get a crate so the new pet can have an “apartment” within their home.

Cat owners should always have more litter boxes than they do cats; for example, if the family has one cat make sure to have at least two litter boxes. Litter boxes need to be scooped daily and completely changed weekly.

Veterinary care

Most adoptions come with a free veterinary checkup within the first week. New pet parents should visit the veterinarian to have the pet’s vaccine records reviewed and ensure they know the best options for food, exercise and preventative care.

Prevent many common diseases by keeping the pet at a healthy weight, current on flea, tick and heartworm prevention, fully vaccinated and on a high-quality diet. Preventing diseases costs less money than treating them, so discuss any concerns with the veterinarian.

Financial considerations

Most pets come with annual veterinary bills between $200-500 and food bills between $200-400.

Adopting a pet can provide cost savings, however, as fees at shelters and adoption events are typically lower than breeders and many of these pets are already spayed or neutered.

To ensure the pet is covered in case of emergencies, consider options like pet insurance or opening a designated savings account and depositing 5% each pay period. If the pet owner takes out an insurance policy as soon as they adopt the pet, it will not have any “preexisting” conditions excluded from the insurance plan.

Find more tips for a successful pet adoption and locate upcoming adoption events in the community at www.petsmartcharities.org.