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  • Ashley Streight

Tips for first-time pet owners during the pandemic

Many of us are finding new ways to occupy our time these days – puzzles, baking, maybe online yoga classes, and some may have even gotten a new pet as a gift. Having a new fur baby is exciting, but a new pet comes with responsibilities, which is why Consumer Reports has some pointers for those first-time pet parents out there. When the pandemic hit, Lisa Ricker, who works at the ASPCA, saw something remarkable. “The nice part of that sort of lull period when everything was closed was that some of our hardest dogs who had been at the shelter for years got adopted," she said. While the pandemic is keeping many families and friends apart, it's ironically united pets of all kinds to new homes. if you're thinking of taking the plunge to welcome a new pet, keep in mind, it's not all fun and games. “They need exercise, they need enrichment, they need basic training so that they can be a good member of the household," she said. And of course, pets don't come cheap. Plan on spending money for food, vet visits, grooming and more. For example, in just the first year, dog owners will spend an average of $1,459 and cat owners will shell out $1,174. To help reduce expenses, look for ways to save. Online food subscriptions can save about 5%. Ask about loyalty programs at locally-owned pet stores. When it comes to the vet, pet insurance might help, but know what it covers and what it doesn't before you enroll.

Consumer Reports compared pet insurance coverage for a cat and a dog, and found it could be worth it if your pet gets a serious illness, but the plans can be complicated and come with deductibles, copays and premiums. Finally, it's important to prepare yourself and your pet for a post-pandemic life. “You’re gonna start to go back to work, and your dog still wants your attention, but you have to think a little bit about what your life will be like and not necessarily what your life is like during COVID," Ricker said. That could mean hiring a dog walker or paying for doggie daycare, which can be yet another added expense. You can help your pet adjust to a new routine by gradually beginning to mimic what your pet's schedule will look like on a typical work or school day, like spending a few hours in a separate room.

Copyright 2020 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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