According to the 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey, 85 million families, or 68 percent of U.S. households, own pets. If your family is looking to join those ranks, here are some suggestions.

Research the best pet for you

Here’s a list of questions to ask:

  1. What’s your lifestyle? Will you have the time to spend with a dog or cat, or is a less time-intensive pet a better fit?
  2. How do you feel about pet hair, litter boxes, potential indoor accidents, or possible damage a pet might cause?
  3. How much space do you have? Is your yard fenced, or does it need one? If you got a cat, would you want it to have a catio (place where it can go outside but be protected)?
  4. How active are you and your family? Looking for companionship on adventures or to relax at home?
  5. If you’re renting, will your landlord allow a pet? If so, will you pay an extra pet fee?
  6. Is anyone in your family allergic to fur or dander?
  7. How old are your children? How will they respond to a pet? Is everyone in the house on board with getting a new pet?
  8. What’s your budget? Different animals have different expenses. Here’s a useful chart to help estimate the annual cost.

To adopt or buy from a breeder

Shelters aren’t just for cats and dogs—you can often find other small animals, too. An advantage of adopting from a shelter or rescue is that the workers know the animals and can recommend the perfect match based on personalities and your lifestyle.

If you’re considering a purebred, research responsible breeders. Buying from a breeder will cost more, but your pet will be socialized; breeders also breed for solid temperaments.

Preparing your home

Take time to pet-proof your home. Pretend you’re prepping for a toddler. Get down on eye-level (draft the kids to help) to identify possible safety issues like cords. Use baby gates to keep dogs in certain areas. Move breakables from shelves if you’re adopting a cat who may like to climb. Move anything potentially poisonous—plants, cleaning supplies, makeup, food, medicine, makeup—out of reach.

Bonding with a new pet and helping him acclimate

When you bring home a new pet, be patient as he adjusts to your home and family. Some animals adapt quickly; others need more time. Give your new pet space and create a safe spot where he can go when he wants solitude. If your pet has toys or blankets, make them readily available, as the familiar scents will provide comfort. Establish routines right away for feeding, toileting, bedtime, playtime, and exercising.

Companion animals

Therapy animals have been a mainstay in hospitals and nursing homes for years. It should come as no surprise that these animals can offer a variety of benefits during addiction recovery as well.

Companion animals love unconditionally, demand little, and because they respond to their humans’ own emotions, provide a way to help monitor human behaviors, too. Animals—especially dogs—exhibit empathy, help to facilitate discussions with human counselors or therapists, and provide supportive, emotional release.

Pets enhance your health and well-being, foster connections among people, encourage activity, and even help you beat the blues. And, of course, they offer great joy, fun, and companionship.

Photo Credit: Pixabay