Royal Canin OnePoll survey

It takes three months and 23 days to finally get the hang of things with a new pet, according to a new study commissioned by Royal Canin, a St. Charles, Mo.-based manufacturer of dog and cat food, and conducted by OnePoll. The survey of 2,000 U.S. dog and cat owners had been launched to investigate the highs and lows of pet ownership in the first year.

Eight in 10 respondents said the first year of pet ownership is the most important, but that doesn’t mean it is easy, the researchers said in the report. Results found that 64 percent of respondents believe the first year is also the most difficult.

One of the highs, according to the survey: 73 percent said they bonded more with their pet in the first year than in any other, and that was especially true for respondents who adopted a puppy or a kitten (79 percent). For those who adopted a puppy or a kitten, they were also the most likely to say they were “very prepared” for their new family member to arrive (43 percent).

Some of the “tough decisions” pet owners faced, according to the survey, included how to train their new pet (46 percent), what kind of food to feed their pet (40 percent) and what kind of feeding schedule would be best for their pet (39 percent).

Respondents also had questions about what tricks they should teach their pet (37 percent) and what rules their pet should have (35 percent). For those who do give their pets “house rules” (48 percent), 62 percent said they ended up breaking them—and they only lasted an average of a month before being abandoned, according to the survey.

“The first year is vital to the healthy development of puppies and kittens,” said Dr. Jill Cline, pet nutritionist and site director of Royal Canin’s Pet Health and Nutrition Center. “From understanding proper pet nutrition to scheduling a vet appointment to training and socialization, creating a healthy start will impact their health for the rest of their lives.”

Another “big set of decisions” for respondents revolved around veterinarians, according to the researchers. A quarter of respondents said finding a good vet was one of the most important decisions within the first year, while 19 percent said knowing how often to take their pet to the vet was also important. Sixty-nine percent of respondents said their vet became an invaluable resource within the first year of pet ownership. And seven in 10 agreed that taking their pet to the vet sets them up for success later on.

“One of the most important things you can do for your new kitten or puppy is to establish a relationship with a veterinarian,” said Dr. Cline. “A veterinarian will help create a plan for your pet’s health in the early stages of life, including routine care, annual vaccines, tailored nutrition and provide advice for helping the new pet get comfortable in a new environment.

“The first vet visit also allows new pet owners to build a relationship with their veterinarian that will allow them to stay curious and informed about their pet’s health for years to come,” Cline added.

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