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Unexpected Advice for New Pet Parents

From seasoned ones who have been there.

by Casey Gueren
April 1, 2021
Dog and cat spending time together on a fuzzy blanket

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If you’re reading this article, you’re probably already a next-level new cat or dog owner. You’ve crossed all the standard stuff off your list, like researching vets and shopping for essential pet supplies. Now you’re just Googling around to see if there’s anything you’ve missed. An overachieving pet parent — we love it!

Wait, don’t go. We asked a bunch of seasoned pet parents to share all the things they wish someone’d told them before they brought home their pups and kitties. Here’s what they had to say…

1. Schedule your first vet appointment

You read all the reviews and maybe even called a vet for advice before adopting or purchasing your pet, but have you made an appointment? It’s smart to get them in to see a vet within the first week or so of bringing them home for an exam, blood work, vaccines, and preventatives. If possible, book your first visit before you even pick up your new dog or cat.

2. Update your pet’s microchip information

If you recently adopted an animal, they may already have a microchip, which allows them to be traced back to you if they’re lost, then found, and taken to a shelter that can read the microchip number with a scanner. This is incredibly helpful if you keep your contact information updated. Make sure to do that as soon as you get your pet (and again if your address or phone number changes). Keep in mind a microchip is not a GPS system so if you lose your pet, don’t sit back and wait by the phone.

Ask a Vet

Sudden scratching? Finicky food eater? Loose poop? Whatever pet health question is on your mind, our veterinary pros are here to help.

3. Register your pet with your local government

Some local jurisdictions mandate that you register your pets. The process can be as painless as going online to enter your dog or cat’s information and proof of rabies vaccination, then they’ll be issued an identification number and tag. Similar to a microchip, a license tag helps animal control quickly ID your pet if they are lost/found. There is a fee (usually $10-20) but it costs far less than the fine you’ll have to pay if your unregistered pet gets caught.

4. Designate an emergency contact

Yup, your pet needs an emergency contact just like you do. This is someone who can take care of them in the event that you can’t. Ideally this would be someone who lives close by, loves your cat or dog as much as you do, and is super reliable in a crisis. 

5. Locate the nearest 24/7 animal hospital

This is not something you want to be scrambling to figure out in the middle of an emergency, which (trust us) you can count on happening at the most inopportune of times. Make sure you bookmark the closest emergency vet.

6. Make a first-aid kit

If your dog or cat gets hurt, you don’t want to waste precious time tracking down all the supplies that will help. A pet first-aid kit should include things like rolled gauze, elastic bandages, scissors, a digital thermometer, eye dropper, hydrogen peroxide, antihistamines, and activated charcoal. You’re probably confused about a couple of these: Benadryl can be given to an animal in the event of an allergic reaction (25mg per your pet’s 25 pounds), and activated charcoal can induce vomiting if they ingest something toxic.

7. Put together a doggie (or kitty) go-bag

Hopefully you’ve already stocked up on some emergency supplies in the event that you need to evacuate your home quickly. Now add pet stuff to that stash. This should include your pet first-aid kit, food and water for a week, a couple of weeks’ worth of medication (if applicable), and a copy of their vaccination history.

8. Learn pet CPR

Let’s hope you never need it, but it’s good to know just in case. The American Red Cross offers classes around the country but reviewing (and bookmarking) this online course is a start.  

9. Review all the things that are toxic to pets

And there are A LOT. From raisins to rhododendrons, read up on the foods (dogs / cats), plants (dogs / cats), and other seemingly innocuous items that are dangerous or deadly if your pet ingests them. If they do, you’ll have the Pet Poison Helpline on speed dial, right?

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Casey Gueren

Casey Gueren is a writer, editor, and content strategist. You can find her work at SELF, BuzzFeed, Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, and others.