Dr. Anthony S. Johnson: 4 Pet Parent Must-Haves

So, you think you’re ready to be a pet owner? You’ve done your research and are ready to take the plunge. However, there’s more to pet ownership than providing a home and basic necessities. There are four must-haves for every pet parent, says veterinarian Dr. Anthony S. Johnson, regardless of the type of pet you get.

1) Time

Time is probably the biggest investment you will have to make in your new friend. There is no point in getting a pet if you are not prepared to spend time with it. Pets, like dogs and cats, even some types of birds, require socialization with their human. Whether that means play time, walk time, or training, your new pet will take up a lot of your time.

Consider also the time it took you to research your new pet. Understanding your pet’s needs will also require time researching and learning. Other pets like hamsters and even fish will require at least some of your time because you will need to clean their habitats on a regular basis and ensure they are healthy through either interaction or observation. “Any way you look at it, you will have to invest time in a pet,” says Dr. Johnson.

2) Space

Adding a pet to your household comes with space requirements. Where is your new pet going to live? If it’s a cat or dog, does your apartment or house have enough space for them to have a good life and for you to not lose your sanity? If it’s a bird, lizard, or fish, do you have the space to include a habitat of sufficient size in your home?

“Animals of all kinds each have their own space requirements,” says Dr. Johnson. “Even fish need a certain amount of water to live comfortably.” Before you take that proverbial plunge, make sure you know exactly where this pet will live and ensure they will have enough space. If you plan to share your space with a dog or a cat, make sure they have their own private safety zone as well. This can be in the form of a crate or carrier where they can escape and relax. It can also be a cat tree in the corner of the bedroom is you like. But it’s important animals have their own space in addition to the space they share with you.

3) Money

No pet is free, even if it didn’t cost you anything to bring it home. The truth is that all pets have costs associated with them. Pets require regular maintenance (such as grooming services or at-home tools), toys for enrichment, treats, and basics like leashes, cages, collars, blankets and beds. Like a hobby, expect to invest real, hard cash. It’s smart to have a savings account or lump sum of money squirreled away and earmarked specifically for your pet. This can help offset any surprise costs and get you into the habit of allocating funds to pet ownership.

“Food and nutrition are particularly important items not to skimp on,” say Dr. Johnson. “Investing in a healthy diet early on means fewer visits to the vet and lower health costs in the long run.” After all, the most important investment you can make in your pet is in its health, which ties into the final must-have for any pet parent.

4) Healthcare

If your pet is not healthy, it makes it incredibly difficult to ensure its happiness. Things like investing in a healthy balanced diet can help ensure your pet has a long life full of good times with their favorite human: you! Other investments like pet insurance can also make annual trips to the vet for checkups and preventative care a breeze. For Dr. Anthony S. Johnson who has worked in numerous veterinary emergency departments, these annual visits are of paramount importance. “Many conditions we see in the emergency room can be prevented with proper regular veterinary care,” he says. “Having a good vet on your side is your best insurance.”

It might not be all fun and games or particularly exciting to think about the serious commitments you will have to make as a pet parent, but the truth is that time, space, money, and healthcare are all must-haves. Once you understand the importance of these and are prepared to provide them, you are ready to be the best pet parent you can be.

Dr. Anthony S. Johnson is a veterinarian, academic researcher, and teacher originally from Carmel, Indiana, now living and working in Illinois. He has published numerous academic articles, taught veterinary medicine at Purdue University, and headed up several emergency departments across the United States. Dr. Johnson now works as the Medical Director at the Veterinary Information Network (VIN).

Medical Director, VIN. Carmel, Indiana.