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The Pandemic Pet Baby Boom!

First Time Pet Parents Are On The Rise - Is It A Good Thing Or A Cause For Concern?

As someone who has actively advocated the joys and benefits of having a dog or a cat, it is strange that I am now skeptical about people getting a pet.

In the last 4-5 months, many people I know have become pet parents for the first time. Even in the apartment complex that I live in, we have seen an unprecedented increase – 30+ furry babies (approximately 65% increase) in the last couple of months! I myself became a pet parent for the second time in May this year. While on one hand I am joyous to see the pups around, I also know that some of the new parents are the ones who were never fond of pets. This got me wondering and I spoke to a few of them to understand how and why the transition happened.

What I gathered from the different chats I had with new pet parents was that many have got pets because of pressure from kids, spouses or because they wanted to do something new. Some now have the time on hand due to this pandemic and lockdown situation and so they decided to get a pet.

During my visit to the vet, I chatted about this situation with him. My vet also expressed concern about this unprecedented increase and said he has heard of a similar trend from his other colleagues as well. We got to discussing about the pros and cons – and then I decided to just put down my thoughts on the matter and share it in the hope that it can help prospective pet parents.

The idea is not to put off people from getting a pet but to help them understand what the journey entails. This, I hope, will help address the issue of pet-abandonment which will surely come up in the future months, once life gets back to normal.

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Tips To Prospective Pet Parents: Don’t Get A Pet…

…If you are bored or have a lot of time on your hands now due to the Covid-19 situation.

The average life span of a dog or a cat is between 12-15 years. So be prepared for this when you are considering getting a pet. Life will move back to normal in a few months – so plan for that time as well and not for only the current time when you are relatively free.

…If you want a temporary distraction and plan to give it up later.

If you want some distraction temporarily, baby-sit your friend’s pet or foster one from an NGO for a temporary period of time. It would be unfair and inhuman to get a pet now and give it up later if you already know that you are looking for something temporary.

…If your partner /kids have always wanted a pet and are pestering you now.

Introspect and ask if you can see yourself accepting the pet 100%. If yes, you are ready to be a pet parent! If not, don’t give in – it is better to not get one than to get one and not love it completely.

…Because your friend got one.

Having a pet is not a status symbol. Remember, you are bringing home a new family member and not a toy or a piece of furniture. Your friend may be a pet-friendly person, but you may not be. Liking a friend’s pet and taking on full time responsibility are completely different things.

…Because you found someone’s pup “adorable”.

You are seeing the pup for only a limited period of time. The antics may be adorable for that little time – but rest assured they will continue full time if you are a pet parent and do not train your pet. Also, pups eventually grow up to become adult dogs.

…If you are even a little unsure.

If you are not sure, baby-sit a friend’s pet or foster. This will give you an idea if you are a dog-person or a cat-person or even if you can handle pets. Once you know where you stand, you can make you final decision.

…If you are likely to move to a different city soon.

Pets are family members and get attached to you very soon. So if you plan on making a move to a different city or country, think about the logistics of moving along with your pet. This is especially true for students living alone who adopt in all good faith, but are unable to continue when they move back home or to a different city when they find a job.

…If you live in a family / community that is not pet friendly.

You may love pets but your parents or partner or kids may not. Respect their sentiments. Try to win them over to your side – get a pet only when you have their consent. If you have kids who are ‘scared’ of pets, take time to explain to them and get them to be comfortable. Raising a dog or a cat involves the family too.

…If you are unwilling to invest your time, love and money.

Last but not the least. Pets give you unconditional love. And they need your love too. Remember, you have various forms of entertainment but for your pet, you are its entire world. Be willing to spend the required time with your pets. Don’t leave them alone for long hours. Be willing to walk them as they need regular exercise for their physical and mental health. Raising a pet means you need to invest in good food, regular visits to the vet, periodic vaccinations, appropriate toys etc. While you have various options – be willing to spend some money.

To First-Time & Prospective Pet Parents : Tips To Enjoy Your World Of Unconditional Love!

Bringing home a puppy or kitten

With this sudden spike in demand for pets, many breeders are not following ethical practices and are giving away the pups at a very young age. Ideal weaning time for a pup to be separated from its mother is approximately 90 days. Ensure atleast 50 days before you get the young one home. This is important for building its immunity & emotional stability and to avoid separation anxiety.

Once you have decided to bring in a puppy or kitten, ensure you put away things that can be destroyed, beyond reach. Young pups and kittens love to explore and bite / destroy stuff. So go around your house and ensure there are no wires, knick-knacks, footwear etc that the pet may find attractive.

Also start by slowly introducing small areas of the house, one at a time so that he familiarises himself and gets comfortable. You could also restrict access to areas that you don’t want the pet to enter. This will also help in toilet training.

Toilet training

Be it a litter box for your kitten or a toilet tray for your puppy, start from when they come home to make life easier for both of you. While one-off ‘accidents’ can continue to happen in some cases upto 6 months or even a year, most pets should be toilet trained in about 2 months after they are brought home.

When toilet training your kitten, don’t allow him access to the full house initially. Place the litter tray in the area that you want him to ‘go’. In the beginning, just after he has woken up or once you have given him his feed, place him in the litter-tray and wait patiently till he finishes his business. Cats usually dig and hide their poop. In case your kitten doesn’t do it initially, you could show him by gently by holding his paw and digging the mud. They will soon get a hang of it. After the ‘job’ is done, praise them or give them treats. Once this routine is set for a few days, they will start going to the tray on their own.

For toilet training your pup, you have to do this twice. Once indoors and once outdoor. For indoor training, you could use newspapers spread out in the area that you want him to use. You also have options of placing a toilet tray or pee pads. You could select a bathroom or a balcony to place these. Take him to this area as soon as he wakes up and after his feeds. Wait till he finishes the job and praise or reward him once he finishes. After a few days, they will start going to the place on their own. Once you start taking him for walks, don’t expect to pee or poop outdoors immediately. It will take some time to for them to make the transition. Try to take them out at set times, preferably after food. Wait patiently for them to do their ‘job’, but don’t be disheartened if they do go outside. Again, praise them and give them treats when they make the transition. And don’t forget to clean up after your dog and dispose correctly as per guidelines to avoid health complications to both humans and pets. It is always advisable to continue to have the space indoors too for emergencies like a rainy day or if you come under quarantine due to this pandemic.

Being assertive is the key

Learn to say NO. Don’t fall for their sad eyes and adorable faces. As a parent you are responsible for their emotional and physical well-being. So learn to say NO firmly. This can include biting, destroying things, begging, stealing food, access to furniture etc. Train them young to avoid problems as they grow up.

Regular Vet Visits

The vaccinations are important to build your pet’s immunity and keep it free from viruses. Ensure you meet the vet within a couple of days after you get the pup / kitten and follow the vaccination schedule suggested by him till the entire course is completed.

Patience pays

Every pup is different. Some may take time to get toilet trained. Others may take time to understand what you want them to do. Don’t lose your patience with them. And don’t forget, you yourself are a first-time parent. So you may take time to understand what your pup is trying to tell you. Be prepared for surprises!

Do things together

How you bond with your pet will define what kind of relationship you will have with them. Do things with them – like going for walks, setting aside time to play etc. While each parenting style would be different, avoid harsh punishments or physical abuse. Do not tie up your pup or leave them alone for long hours. Instead train them to not use the areas you want to restrict access to (on furniture, specific rooms etc). They can also be taught to stay alone for some time when you need to step outside. This will ensure that they do not destroy things when left alone or cry due to anxiety.

Watch out for signs

Young pets tend to pick up everything and nibble on it – grass, plants, plastic, paper etc. Some of it could cause indigestion and other health issues. So keep an eye out for this, especially when they are on walks. When you take them for regular vaccinations, keep an eye out for fever or bumps due to the injection, as some young one are known to get these reactions. Young pups are prone to infections – look of for signs that they are unwell like change in food intake, lethargy etc. There is no need to panic. But if in doubt, always visit the vet.

Read up, research, talk to other pet parents

Finally, embrace this journey of pet parenthood. No one masters it in a day, week or month. It is a new adventure every day for the rest of your lives. Talk to your family or friends who have pets, join pet communities to set up play dates, join support groups to know what other parents are talking about, read up on the internet or even discuss with your vet to know what to expect and how you can enjoy the experience!

Happy Pet Parenting!

Did you find these tips useful? Do share your views & tips on pet parenting and help others enjoy this amazing journey!