August 4, 2018


Dear Brandon,

I really need your help! I’d like to get a new pet. I’m thinking about a puppy, kitten, or maybe a hamster. I’m super excited! But, I have NO idea how to care for a pet. Please help!

Positively Passionate About Pets

Hey Positively Passionate About Pets,

First of all, congratulations! Getting a pet is always really exciting! 

I’m not an expert in pet care, but I have gotten several letters lately asking about different kinds of pet care, so I figured I’d do a general post on how to be a good pet owner. Hopefully some of these tips will help you with the pet you choose.

    If your pet lives in a cage, follow guidelines for the amount of space they need, and the temperature their living area should be kept at. For an animal like dogs or cats who live more freely in the house, be sure they don’t have access to things that are harmful for them, like certain houseplants or chocolate, and make sure your yard isn’t treated with harmful chemicals.
    Follow your vet’s guidelines for how much and how often your pet should be eating. It’s tempting to share human food with pets, but know that some human foods are actually dangerous for certain animals. For example, avocado is extremely toxic for birds, grapes and raisins can cause kidney problems in dogs, and milk can actually cause upset tummies in cats!
    Remember that board book from when you were little – Everybody Poops? Well, no lie. Animals poop. All of them. It’s not something we think about when we’re choosing a fluffy bundle of love, but ALL animals need to be picked up after, whether that means washing a fish bowl, cleaning out a litter box, or picking up dog poop in the back yard. Imagine if your toilet didn’t flush and you had to just keep living in a room with your poop. GROSS, RIGHT?! So don’t do that to your animals.
    Along with picking up their poop, help your animals keep themselves clean, if they’re an animal that needs help with that. Like dogs need to be given baths, but chinchillas need to be provided with a place to give themselves dust baths. Other animals, like fish or birds, don’t need you to bathe them.
    Some pet care can feel like a chore, but this is the fun part! You probably got a pet for the fun and friendship, so make sure you’re both getting what you need out of the relationship! This doesn’t mean you have to be playing with your pet all the time. In fact, your pet needs time to chill out, too. But especially with a social pack animal like a dog, be sure you’re providing the interaction they need. And also, know if you have the sort of animal who likes to be alone, or if they need a friend. For example, betta fish are highly territorial and need to be alone in their own private fish bowl. But guinea pigs are meant to live in groups and can become extremely anxious if they don’t have another guinea pig buddy to share a cage with.
    The internet is FULL of information on how to care for different kinds of pets. You can’t trust everything you read on the internet, and always trust your vet’s advice above the internet, but you can learn a lot on reputable sites. For example, after a brief search on dwarf hamsters, I learned that dwarf hamsters need to run a LOT, so it’s important that there’s a wheel in your hamster’s cage. Also, when choosing the bedding that goes in the bottom of the cage, cedar or pine shavings can give your hamster asthma! So do a little research and soon you’ll be an expert yourself!
    This is more your parents’ responsibility, but your pet needs regular check-ups with a vet. You can help by going along and keeping your pet calm and distracted if they get anxious.
What kinds of pets do you have? What are your best tips for being a good pet owner? Do any of you have a cat, dog, hamster or other pet? Share in the comments!