Ready to Adopt? Here’s How To Prepare for Your First Pet

So, you’re ready for forever — but are you ready for fur everywhere?

If you’re welcoming a pet into your home for the first time, there are many ways you’ll need to prepare and snagging a Swiffer is just one of them.

You’ve already asked yourself the most obvious question: am I ready for the commitment? The answer should most certainly be ‘yes’ (if it’s not, maybe you should pick up a new pair of shoes instead).

The truly dedicated new pet owner will thoughtfully prepare for this life-changing experience in a variety of ways and the ASPCA has shared their best tips for getting ready.

A safe place to call home. 

This house isn’t your own anymore — you’ve got four V.I.P-aws to think about. Those vertical blinds, that pooling drapery, those ornate tassels and or long cords around your home need to go, because all are potential strangulation hazards. Also, make sure any plants in and around your home aren’t poisonous to your new friend (read the ASPCA’s list here).

For cats, install high-quality metal screens on all windows to avoid falls. It’s also best to seal up any dangerous areas of your home where a certain (small) someone can get stuck when you’re not looking.

Check your house before they wreck the house. 

NOW is the time to cover up that sleek leather sofa! Or put away any rugs you don’t want any unexpected “presents” on.

The ASPCA suggests putting a cozy bed for your pet in every single room — it’s a cozy way to encourage them to keep off your fancy furniture. Double sided sticky tape or upside-down carpet runners also deter cat scratching. Additionally, most kitties love scratching posts, so pick up a few for those out of the way spots.

Dog crates and gates will prevent your canine friend from exploring areas they shouldn’t, especially when he or she is home alone. Providing “legal” things to chew on is crucial, the ASPCA says, and a good way to keep those tiny teeth off your favorite pair of kicks.

It couldn’t hurt to clear the counters of foods that can be harmful — like chocolate — since it’s not unusual for animals to seek out snacks when your eyes are binging on your favorite TV show. Like humans, pets can be very food motivated.

Is everybody ready for a new roommate?

That, of course, means you. If you have your heart set on a dog but travel 2 weeks out of every month for work, you need to consider how that will work. The ASPCA says that your personality and lifestyle, along with challenges such as housing restrictions and amount of time spent at home, should be explored to determine what pet is the right fit.

It’s important to make sure everyone in your household is ready for exactly what adopting a pet means. This is a 24/7 commitment to dog walks, play, feeding and grooming, and a jobs list would be a good way to divvy things up among family members.

It’s important to consider young children in your home, the ASPCA says, especially if you’re adopting the canine equivalent: a puppy. If your household can’t handle the demands of a just-learning-everything pup, an adult dog who already has a handle on house-training could be a better fit.

Even if you have your heart set on a specific breed of pup, the ASPCA recommends having an open mind. “A dog’s breeding, socialization, training, and background are all influential variables to their behavior, so we believe it’s most important to make good shelter matches based on individual animal behavior rather than looking for a specific breed,” says Rachael Lewis, manager media and communications for the ASPCA. “We encourage every potential adopter to approach the process with an open heart, and mind!”

While cats may need slightly less care than a dog — because of the magic of litter boxes! — it’s still important to know that they come in all shapes, sizes and personalities. For every cat that likes a cuddle, there are 5 more who do not, so don’t assume your new friend is automatically your new snuggle buddy. In fact, space is key for any new cat, especially when they first arrive. Before they move in, select a small room for kitty to occupy at first, so they feel safe and comfortable and not overwhelmed.

It’s time to stock up on supplies.

Ready to do some serious spending? Cat litter supplies, food and treats are among the things you’ll need when you welcome your new indoor cat. A leash, dog collar with identifying information, food, treats, toys, poop bags and at least one dog bed are some of the things that will make your house a dog home.

The basics are key, but it’s important to understand the bigger purchases you’ll need to make as they grow. Veterinary visits, dog walkers, flea/tick prevention, grooming needs and pet sitters are just some of the not often thought of things you’ll need to save your pennies for.

“The ASPCA estimates the annual cost of caring for a dog is between $737-$1,040 dollars annually, after various one-time costs,” says Lewis. “The cost of pet care varies widely on the type of animal you’re looking to adopt. Most families can spend around $1,500 – $2,000 in the first-year alone, but shelter animals often come spayed or neutered, vaccinated and microchipped with the cost of one adoption fee!”

Also take into account your pet’s regular visits to the veterinarian each year. “The ASPCA estimates standard medical care for a dog can cost around $210 – $260 annually, depending on the size of the dog, but it’s also important to note as pets age, they may require different or additional medical care, including dental cleanings or extractions, blood tests, or medication,” Lewis adds.

And, of course there’s all that fur — oh, and hairballs and occasional potty accidents. Cleaning supplies — like rug and upholstery cleaner, litter sweepers and fur magnets — are now things you’ll definitely need in your arsenal, so hit up the store before the big day.


Friends fur-ever we’ll always be.

The fun begins the moment your new pet walks in the door but it could take a while until this really feels like home to your pet — so an elaborate Instagram photo shoot may not be ideal on day one (hey, you’ve got plenty of time for that!)

Give your pet some time to acclimate to his or her new abode and yourself some time to learn your friend’s quirks and personality traits. This is the beginning of a beautiful new friendship!

For more tips on animal adoption and new pet preparation, visit the ASPCA’s website


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Amy Jamieson

A former senior editor for, Amy launched People Pets for People magazine in 2008. Now she writes about pets, lifestyle and more from her bucolic saltbox in Collinsville, Connecticut, usually with a cat in her lap and a dog at her feet.

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