The Ultimate Pet Parent’s Guide | Yelp – Official Blog – Yelp Blog


Before bringing home a four-legged family member , read this!
The Ultimate Pet Parent's Guide

Bonding with a pet is one of life’s most rewarding experiences. Studies show that pet ownership brings a wide variety of mental, physical, and emotional benefits, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Plus, millions of dogs and cats—especially those in animal shelters—are in need of a loving home.

If you’re ready to take the new pet parent plunge, this guide will get you started. You’ll learn about adopting the right dog or cat, creating a pet-friendly home, traveling together, and finding a qualified vet.

Follow these expert cat and dog-care tips to create a happy plus healthy life for your new family member. You’ll get years of loving licks and cuddly companionship in return.  

Finding your perfect pet

After four months associated with fostering, Yelper Aidan Y. adopted new pup Pepper. Photo: Ama Animal Rescue , Brooklyn, New York

If you want to adopt, think about the type of animal you’d enjoy living with most, and the one that best fits your lifestyle. “It takes research and careful planning to bring the right pet into your home, ” based on the ASPCA.

So consider the following:

About you

Size of your home. Do you live in a studio apartment or house with a yard? Consider the space your new dog will have to play and roam, as well as the animal’s size, breed, and activity level.

Hours away from home. Think about how much time you spend at home both on work days and weekends—and how much you travel. Is there someone else who can care for your pet when you’re not there?

Cohabitants. Would you live alone or with rowdy roommates? Children or elderly family members add another layer of complexity.

Budget. Dogs generally cost more than cats in terms of food, veterinary care, boarding fees, and other general expenses. Also, large dogs cost more to maintain than small ones.  

Lifestyle. Do you relish daily 5-mile jogs—or are you more likely to kick back on the couch? Cats or low-energy lap dogs may be a better choice for more sedentary owners.  

Health issues. Got allergies? Consider a less-allergenic breed of cat or dog—or a different, non-furry type of family pet.  

About them

New puppy vs . older pet. A puppy or kitten will be high-energy, not housebroken, and generally untrained. Older animals are usually housebroken and have at least some behavioral training, but might also have bad habits or age-related health issues.  

Indoor vs . outdoor animals. Certain dog breeds are hardier and thrive outside, while others are happier as indoor companion animals only. Some cat owners keep their felines indoors, while others let them out for a few hours a day—and may require certain vaccinations if exposed to other animals.  

Breeder or rescue. Adoptable pets of all ages are available through animal shelters plus rescue organizations . Most shelters vaccinate, spay and neuter, and microchip rescue pets before they’re adopted, but these animals can come with health or behavioral issues. (Purebred puppies or even kittens from breeders may also have inherited health conditions due to overbreeding. ) Ask your own shelter, rescue group, or breeder about an animal’s specific needs and medical history before taking it house.

Creating a pet-friendly home

Pet store employees can guide you to the correct supplies for your new furry friend. Photo: Chuck & Don’s Pet Food & Supplies , Aurora, Colorado

Before you bring your pet home, make your space is safe and welcoming. That includes getting the right supplies and pet-proofing any off-limit areas.

It typically takes about 3 weeks for a dog to get acclimated to a new home, but you’ll need to be extra-patient with a pet who’s anxious or even insecure, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC).

If you’re getting a dog

  • Local pet stores can help you select the right supplies for your dog’s size and breed. That includes food, food and water bowls, bed, collar or harness, leash,   grooming tools, pee pads, toys, dog first aid kit, crate or cage, and more.
  • Create a dedicated area for the pet with its bed plus crate or dog house. Make sure any enclosure is large enough for your dog to stand up, turn around, and lie down.  
  • Remove any chewable or even breakable items in your home, cover electrical cords, and block off any part of the home or yard that are off-limits or contain toxic and/or poisonous substances and plants.  

Pro tip: Make sure the fabric covering your pet’s bed is machine washable. Antimicrobial is even better, advises Adrian Archie, owner of PetnMind in Coconut Creek, Florida.

If you’re getting a cat

  • Provide a scratching post or cat tower for them to sharpen their claws. Scratching furniture and other objects will be normal cat behavior. A post will keep them from shredding your couch instead.
  • Pick a permanent place for their litter box; they prefer a familiar spot to do their business. This can help avoid bad habits, like marking with urine or relieving themselves in places where they shouldn’t.

Find pet stores in your area.

Feeding your pet

Pet food choices range from supermarket brands to homemade specialty suppliers. Photo: Wynwood Dog Food Co. , Miami, Florida.

There are many options to choose from whenever feeding your pet. Vets typically advise selecting brands that recognize the Association associated with American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) feeding standards (look for this designation on the family pet food label).   No matter what kind of food you choose, always provide fresh water.  

  • Dry kibble. Many cat plus dog owners feed their pets dry food. Just make sure it has the right ratios of protein, fat, and carbohydrates for the age and species of pet. If your pet is exclusively on a dry food diet, plenty of water is essential.
  • Canned food. Some canned foods are toppers (which are sprinkled onto their regular food), while others are usually full meals. Canned food is often more enticing than dry food for picky eaters.
  • Raw food. Animal experts are increasingly favoring a raw-food diet plan, since it more closely mimics what pets would eat in the wild. You can find freeze-dried and frozen raw meals at your local pet food store, with many organic and grain-free options. Keep in mind that high-quality raw food is pricier than canned or dry options.
  • Homemade meals. While human food like pizza isn’t advised for your animals, cooking homemade meals—such as ground turkey or beef with brown rice and veggies—can be a healthful alternative to store-bought food. Consult your veterinarian on the right quantity, ingredients, supplements, and serving schedule, to make sure your pet is getting the right nutrients and enough calories.  

Pro tip: Be sure to feed dog foods to your dog, or kitty food to your cat, since nutritional needs vary between species. Dogs are omnivores who eat meat, grains, fruits, and vegetables—while cats can derive all of their necessary nutrients from animal protein.  

Find dog food and cat food providers near you.  

  Training your pet

Professional dog trainers can reinforce good habits or teach your dog to follow basic commands. Photo: School for that Dogs , New York City

A professional pet trainer can help reinforce good habits and curb annoying or destructive ones that can worsen over time—from potty training a new puppy to “crate training” an adult cat or dog (that is usually, helping them become comfortable staying in a crate or even cage when necessary). In-person training also strengthens the bond between cat or dog parents and their furry companions.  

There are some differences among training goals for dogs and cats:

Obedience training for canines. In addition to great behaviors, dogs should learn basic commands (including sit, stay, come, and down) that’ll help keep your pet and others safe.  

Training for cats is usually focused on housebreaking or improving behaviors such as biting, scratching, or making excessive noise. A trainer can also help your cat become more comfy around people and other creatures.  

Keeping your pet healthy

When it comes to your own cat or dog’s health, never cut corners. Regular exercise and proper grooming can help stave off some easily preventable health conditions, while a qualified vet can provide ongoing care plus treat any serious problems.

Veterinary care

Your vet can help with preventive care and health issues or injuries that may occur. Picture: Happy Tails Veterinary Hospital , Shrewsbury, New Jersey

It’s important to find a veterinarian you trust to provide top-quality pet treatment and give you the right wellness tips and advice. Here’s how to make the most of that relationship.

“Vet” the vet. When searching for a provider, ask friends and family for recommendations, search online reviews for highly rated veterinary practices, and make sure candidates have the right qualifications. You should feel comfortable with the vet and their staff.  

Do your part . Give the vet copies of your pet’s healthcare records, notify them of any health conditions, and set up a vaccination and checkup schedule.  

Get informed. Ask questions about the proper feeding, exercise, and grooming routine for a new pet’s breed, size, and activity level. And find out if their breed of dog has any hereditary health problems you should be aware of.  

Be consistent . Once you’ve established a wellness schedule with your vet, stick to it.  

Be financially prepared. Consider purchasing pet insurance, which can help you pay for routine plus emergency health issues (and read the fine print to see what is and isn’t covered).

For more tips on picking the right provider, read How to find the best vet for your family pet: Questions to ask and services to consider .  


Doggy daycare services can provide healthy, supervised play time.   Photograph:   Jagger’s Doggie Daycare , Mt. Vernon, Illinois 

Just like people, pets need activity for their mental and physical health. If you’re busy or away for long hours, consider some of the following options to make sure your pooch or kitty is definitely properly exercised.  

Dog walker. These pros will walk your pooch around the prevent, or a mile or more, based on the dog’s exercise needs (and your budget). Some dog walkers or pet sitters will also provide home visits that include feeding, administering medications, and playing with an indoor cat.  

Doggy daycare. For all-day play, doggy daycare services are a great option, especially for active and outgoing dogs. They’ll run off excess energy plus socialize with other canines, and save the worry about what they’re doing at home alone.  


Professional groomers are experts at keeping your pet clean and well trimmed. Photo:   Wag Hotels , Carson, California

Grooming your dog or even cat isn’t just for good looks or smell—dental care, nail trimming, and bathing are also necessary for good health. If you don’t have the time, experience, or equipment to DIY, consider hiring a professional pet groomer .  

Going places with your pet

At pet-friendly hotels and restaurants, your furry pal can be a fun traveling companion.   Photo:   Paséa Hotel plus Spa , Huntington Beach, California

After you and your pet establish a strong bond, you may want to take them out with you. Local dog parks and walking trails are always a fun option for active dogs. Many dining places and businesses are pet-friendly these days, so your dog (and sometimes cat) can join you for a meal.

Traveling with your pet. If you want to bring along your pet (and it’s not too stressful for them), search Yelp with regard to dog-friendly hotels . Many will roll out the red carpet for you and your pooch (often for an extra fee).

Dog boarding. When you can’t take your animal along with you—and don’t have a local friend or family member to help—you’ll need to make arrangements for their care. Many areas have multiple options, including in-home dog sitters , boarding facilities , and dedicated feline catteries , which offer playtime, feeding, and occasionally coaching, for dogs and cats.  

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