Woman with her dog

So, you’re ready to finally take the plunge by adopting a cat or dog! You’re in for a tremendous treat, as pets bring incredible delight and happiness to your life!

But it’s important to know precisely what’s involved in caring for a dog or cat, so let’s take a look at some of the basics that you’ll need to be prepared for as you get ready to care for a pet.

Feeding Your Pet

You’ll need to feed your pet a high quality diet, ideally served twice per day, as once-a-day feedings tend to slow the metabolism and cause problems with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in many pets. A premium pet food may be a bit more expensive, but it’s more nutrient rich so your pet won’t need to eat as much and you’ll save on vet bills in the long term because they’ll have much better overall health.

Also, don’t forget a water bowl! Many pet owners opt for a pet water fountain bowl, which promotes good hydration since dogs and cats are instinctually attracted to moving water.

Walks and Litter Boxes

What goes in must come out, so you’ll need to  get into a regular routine of taking your dog out for walks and/or cleaning the litter box. (Yes, dogs can be litter box trained!)

Clean your litter box daily; otherwise, your pet may find a cleaner, more comfortable location to do his or her business! This will also minimize odor.

Dogs need to “go” once every six to eight hours; “holding it” longer than 8 hours can result in accidents and health problems, like infections. The exception to this rule is the puppy, who can “hold it” for one hour for every month of age, so you’ll need to arrange for more frequent bathroom breaks for a puppy.

Establish a regular potty routine for your dog to limit the number of accidents. Pets do best with a routine, so take your pet out at the same times each day and visit the same potty areas and don’t forget to reward your dog when she gets it right!

Pet Beds

You’ll want to ensure your pet has a cozy sleeping area. Most dogs prefer a crate, as this recreates a cozy den atmosphere. A crate can also help with housebreaking too.

Some owners enjoy sleeping with their pet, but give this some careful thought before you allow your cat or dog into your bed! That’s because it’s virtually impossible to get your pet to sleep elsewhere once you allow them to sleep with you in your bed.

Pet Grooming


Whether you get a cat or a dog, one thing is certain: they’ll need regular grooming. Grooming requirements will vary dramatically depending on the precise breed that you choose. Some pets can be easily groomed at home while others require services from a professional groomer.  Regular grooming tasks include brushing your pet’s teeth, clipping their nails, brushing their coat, and hair cuts for some cat and dog breeds. Your dog will also need regular baths, though the frequency will vary according to the breed and coat type.

Pet Proofing Your Home

You’ll need to pet-proof your home before you bring a new furry friend home. This will entail securing cabinets with child-safety locks, securing electrical cords, eliminating houseplants (and yard plants) that are considered toxic to your pet, securing hazardous chemicals in your home and garage, and discarding or securing medications that can be toxic. It’s also important to familiarize yourself with the many foods and other toxins that can harm your cat or dog.

Veterinary Visits

Even a healthy pet will need to visit the vet on an annual basis for vaccinations and a wellness check. Puppies and kittens will need more frequent visits during the first year of life. And you’ll also need a caring vet who can provide treatment when your pet is sick. It’s important to select a veterinary clinic before your cat or dog is in need of treatment; this will enable you to really research your options and find the perfect vet for your furry friend.

Also, don’t forget to equip your new friend with a microchip and collar with a current pet tag, with your contact information, just in case your dog or cat ever gets lost!

Getting  a new pet is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Owning a dog or cat can be a wonderful experience, but you need to be prepared to care for your furry family member for the next 10 to 15 years. That may seem like a long time and the long-term nature of the commitment can be a bit nerve-wracking for a first-time pet owner. But be warned: those 10 to 15 years will pass with lightning speed and before you know it, you’ll find yourself wondering where all the time went and you’ll be wishing you had another 10 to 15 years to spend with your companion.

A pet can bring tremendous joy to your life, but only you’re ready to invest the time, money and love in your new cat or dog.