Pet adoption

Advice for First-Time Pandemic Pet Parents

Consumer Reports and NBC 7's Consumer Bob look at some of the costs that can surprise "parents" caring for new pets

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Many of us are finding new ways to occupy our time these days with things like puzzles, baking and maybe online yoga classes. And many have added a new member to their household for some companionship on four legs.

It may seem hard to find a furry friend, but San Diego's shelters say they still have pets for adoption, just fewer. San Diego's Humane Society told NBC 7 is is seeing fewer strays and abandoned pets. Officials say that may be because more people are home and fewer people are moving.

With any new pet comes new responsibilities, which is why Consumer Reports has some advice for those first-time pet parents out there: Pets need exercise, enrichment and basic training so they can be a good member of the family.

Of course, pets don’t come cheap! Expenses include food, vet visits, grooming and more. Dog owners will spend an average of $1,459 and cat owners will shell out $1,174 in just the first year.

To help reduce expenses, look for ways to make your money go further. For example, with an online food subscription, you can save about 5%; ask about loyalty programs at local and online pet stores. San Diego's Humane Society says they are offering free food and supplies to families who can't afford to feed their pets.

When it comes to the vet, pet insurance might help. But before you enroll, know what it covers and what it doesn’t. When CR compared pet insurance coverage for a cat and a dog, it found that the cost could be worth it if your pet has a serious illness. But like insurance for people, pet-insurance plans can be complicated, and they come with deductibles, copays and premiums.

Finally, it’s important to prepare yourself and your pet for a post-pandemic life. That could mean hiring a dog walker or paying for doggie daycare, which is yet another expense.

You can help your pet adjust to a new routine by gradually getting him to follow what his schedule will be on days when your family is at work or school -- have him spend a few hours at a time alone in a room to begin.

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