First-time pet owner’s survival guide

First-time pet owner's survival guide

Deciding to get a pet is an incredibly exciting time, but also one that comes with a lot of responsibility. Perhaps you want to see how you and your partner will get on looking after a dog before starting a family, or maybe you'd like to get a furry companion for your little ones to make their childhood all the more magical.

Whatever your circumstances, there will be a lot to think about and organise before your new four-legged friend moves in with you: from where is the best place to find your pet, to what to call them and, most importantly, how to survive those first few weeks as a first-time pet owner.

Where to get your pet from

Pets can be found in shops, online, from friends or relatives who've just welcomed a new litter, and from rescue centres. If you've never had a pet before, the choice can be a little overwhelming and it can be difficult to know where to look first.

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Whether it's a cat or a dog that you're looking for, it's always best and most ethical to adopt one from a rescue centre rather than buy one online. Social media can be full of adverts for pets, but there are so many horrible stories out there about these deals falling through after little ones' hopes have been got up, or of puppies and kittens not having had proper health checks, leading to heartache when they settle with a new family, only to fall seriously ill.

However, charities such as Cats Protection and Dogs Trust guarantee that the animals in their care are well looked after. Although they may have been mistreated or abandoned in the past, they are all looking for new loving homes, and you can be assured that you'll be guided through the adoption process by an experienced volunteer.

Choosing a name for your pet

Your first few weeks together will be all about building trust

If you're going down the adoption route, your pet might already come with a name, but if you're bringing home a puppy or kitten, you'll get to choose one yourself. You can't change your mind once you've picked one, as your pet will be learning to respond to it, and you don't want to confuse them, so make sure you think seriously about your decision.

It can seem like a good idea to pick something funny or over-the-top cutesy, but do you really want to be shouting that across the park or have it called out when it's your turn at the vet? Probably not.

Image credit: Nigel_Wallace via iStock

According to research from Argos Pet Insurance, the most popular names for male dogs in the UK last year were Alfie, Charlie and Max, while for female pooches, it was Poppy, Bella and Molly. The top cat names were largely similar, with the most popular female names exactly the same, although a few additions such as Lily and Willow also featured in the top ten. For tomcats, Alfie came in third this time, with Charlie first and Oscar second.

Surviving those first few weeks

If it's a rescue animal that you're bringing home with you, your first few weeks together will be all about building trust and making them feel safe with your family. But if it's a puppy or kitten, you'll need to start from the very beginning with your training.

This means dog training classes for pooches to teach them to obey you and trying out different types of food to see which your pet likes best. Try to get into a routine with walks, meals, sleeps and the times they spend outside, and they'll soon be feeling much more comfortable in your home and like a part of the family.

However, you need to 'toilet train' your pet too - something that can require a lot of patience at first. But persistence is key, so keep going with your efforts and you'll soon get there. Accidents are unfortunately unavoidable in those first few weeks, so make sure you've stocked up on cleaning products. Also, remember that our Whiff Away range, which features  Reed Diffuser, Candle in a Tin and Room Spray, is perfect for covering up any unpleasant pet smells, thanks to its strong notes of refreshing bergamot and clary sage.

Whiff Away is just one of six new scents in our Home Solutions collection. Find out more about the range here