Image: Amy Kinkead

Adopting a pet is incredibly rewarding, but also a huge responsibility. Thinking about it? Here’s a checklist for the responsible pet parent:

Establish a relationship with a vet

It’s always helpful to have a trusted expert on hand. Animals need frequent checkups and shots during the first few months of their lives, and, later on, yearly checkups. Appointments in Houston book up fast, so if possible, schedule an introductory check-up in advance of bringing your new companion home.

Find your resources

Raising a dog, especially, takes a village. If you live in an apartment or don’t have a yard, think about where you’ll walk him. Is there a dog run or park nearby? Be on the lookout for convenient pet day cares, and figure out which friends, family members, or even apps will help care for your dog or cat when you’re away.

Get the goods

Think kennel or litter box, food, bowls, a collar, and a leash. A few toys don’t hurt, either.

Vaccinations, registrations, medications

To keep your pet healthy and avoid paying a $500 fine, vaccinate him for rabies by age three months, and don’t forget the tags showing he’s licensed with the city. Also start him on parasite-prevention meds to protect against the fleas, ticks, and heartworms that are especially prevalent in warm, swampy climates.

Socialize

In a city like Houston, interactions with unfamiliar animals or humans are inevitable, particularly among dogs. Introduce your pet to others when he’s between 3 and 12 weeks old. He won’t be fully vaccinated yet, so keep these gatherings small, controlled, and away from public spaces like dog parks. Not all pets are social butterflies; the idea is to make them more comfortable and less afraid.

Spay and neuter

It’s not really up for debate. Not only will the procedure lead to a healthier life and better behavior; it’s also a step in the right direction for resolving Houston’s massive homeless-pet problem. Cats and dogs can be spayed and neutered safely at 8 weeks old, according to the ASPCA, though it’s common for owners to wait until about six to nine months before neutering male puppies. Clinics like SNAP and BARC offer these procedures at affordable prices.

Get to know your pet

Now for the best part: spending quality time and bonding. Like people, animals have distinct personalities. Knowing your pet’s motivations, likes and dislikes, quirky tendencies, and overall limits will help you keep him safe, happy, and healthy. 

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