It’s often said that a pet isn’t just an animal, but a member of the family. Both anecdotal and scientific evidence suggests that pets help their owners enjoy longer, healthier, happier lives. Of course, with the wonderful rewards of pet ownership comes great responsibility. The Internet is a useful source of advice and assistance to keep coats glistening and tails wagging—if you know where to look. We’ve herded some of the Web’s best pet-care resources into this guide so you can spend less time researching and more time with your animal.
Whatever your degree of experience with animals, do some research if you’re thinking of inviting one into your home. Many animal owners who don’t end up overwhelmed by the commitment. Use this section of the guide to determine what kind of animal is right for you, understand what special care each type of pet requires, and learn about specific breeds or species. You’ll find out what to do if you suffer from allergies or health concerns but still want to get a pet, and you’ll learn how to adopt a pet from an animal shelter. You can even visit an interactive site that allows you to “customize” your pet.
- Think carefully about compatibility in every instance. Is every member of your household as keen as you are on this addition to the family? Will your lifestyle permit you to have the animal you want? Certain breeds of dog require a lot of exercise, for example. Would you be able to provide, say, an hour-long walk every day?
- Talk to a vet or the manager of a rescue center, preferably someone who comes recommended by a relative or friend. Such professionals may spot factors in your lifestyle––ones you haven’t considered––that preclude or are conducive to certain animals. These people are a great source of reliable, unbiased advice.
- As you research online, be sure that the sites you’re reading are objective. Many of the opinions you’ll find come from pet owners already enamored with their choice. Keep this in mind as you read about different animals and breeds.
- If you are looking for animals that are bred privately, use the Internet to find reputable breeders instead of visiting a pet store. You can find out whether a breeder is trustworthy by visiting the breed association online.
- Web sites that offer interactive discussions about animals or breed types may provide you with unanticipated but valuable advice, and you can also ask questions.
- In this guide, you’ll find specific sections for dogs and cats. This is because they are the most popular domestic pets, and also because they tend to require more immediate and interactive care than fish, rodents, reptiles, or birds.
For a general introduction to pet ownership …
The American Veterinary Medical Association
provides online brochures on buying and caring for five specific types of animals: dogs, cats, horses, rodents, and birds. The literature details all the basics you should consider regarding compatibility and health care. For information about specific breeds, look elsewhere, but this is a good source of general advice on pet selection.
introduces readers to the idea of a “zoofamily”: a unit that incorporates a pet as a family member. The center’s questionnaire helps prospective owners decide whether they’re ready for the time commitment and emotional responsibility it takes to transform from a human-centric family to a zoofamily.
The American Animal Hospital Association
publishes research about the factors associated with abandonment in an article that brings home the challenges of animal companionship. In addition to this study on why many people cannot commit to pets, you’ll find FAQ sections and articles about caring for dogs, cats, and exotic pets. Read these sections before you commit to an animal so you’ll know what to expect and won’t feel overwhelmed once you’ve acquired a pet.
offers lots of information on all types of pets. You’ll learn about the environment required to care for each kind of animal and receive information on different species, nutrition, behavior, possible health issues, travel issues, and requisites for ownership. Visit the FAQ section
to see if a question you have has already been answered.
The American Pet Association
introduces you to the most important matters to consider when you’re thinking of incorporating a dog or cat into your home. Visit the links provided for each species to read articles discussing basic care and animal needs.
For people with pet-related human health concerns …
The Humane Society of the United States
writes that 15 percent of the population is allergic to dogs or cats. The Humane Society has a page of advice for allergy sufferers who are considering a pet anyway (for example, you’ll learn what breeds are less likely to provoke an allergic reaction) and for those who discovered their allergy after getting a pet. Visit any of the links under “Pet Care” for information on caring for your pet—no matter what type of animal it may be. There’s even a section on helping “neighborhood critters in need
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
offers help to anyone worried about the health risks that pets might pose. By and large, medical professionals stress the benefits of ownership, but some people (pregnant women, people with HIV/AIDS) may need to exercise caution when deciding whether to live with certain animals.
For people considering adopting a homeless animal …
is an extensive nationwide service for animal adoption. Here you’ll learn where to look for a homeless animal, how to choose the right pet, and what health issues to be aware of. In addition, there’s a searchable database of sheltered animals around the United States. Be warned: there are pictures of waifs and strays here that can be difficult to look at.
The Humane Society of the United States
recommends that potential adopters consider adopting homeless animals from their local shelters. Shelters have all kinds of domestic animals—dogs, cats, rabbits, and even hamsters—and they screen for good health and behavior. There’s also a section that’ll help you find a local animal shelter
provides contact information for canine rescue centers. In addition to working to find homes for rescued dogs, these facilities frequently offer educational materials and advice for people looking to adopt.
For help selecting a dog breed …
Canis Major Publications
is the publisher of Dog Owner’s Guide
. Its online manual for matching owners with breeds is informative and includes an overview of the seven dog groups: sporting dogs, hounds, working breeds, terriers, toy breeds, nonsporting dogs, and herding dogs.
The American Kennel Club
covers the essentials of buying a dog. A lot of the information on this Web site is repeated from the American Veterinary Medical Association brochure, but anyone serious about buying a dog is sure to benefit from repeated exposure to this vital advice. Visit the site’s database of breeds
to learn about important factors like size, appearance, temperament, and exercise requirements.
The Animal Planet
Web site has a breed selector to help match lifestyles with appropriate dogs. Be sure to cross-reference your results with another source to make sure you’re heading toward the right kind of canine.
a pet identification and retrieval service, here posts an article from the Kansas City Star that discusses the importance of breed selection. “You don’t buy a dog the way you buy a new suit,” says a Kansas City dog breeder quoted in the article. “You need to consider the dog’s needs and wants.”
If you’re thinking of getting a cat …
discusses certain essentials to ponder before getting a feline friend, including cost, its longevity, and its need for stimulation and attention. The site states, for example, “Cats are the most intelligent of all our domestic animals and they need a stimulating environment in which to thrive.”
The Cat Connection
recommends a number of ways to assess the health and temperament of a cat you’re thinking of buying. It also features a useful discussion of the health matters most pertinent during a cat’s early stages of acclimatization to a new home.
The Cat Fanciers’ Association
is a resource geared toward cat show attendees and enthusiasts, but their Web site also carries information helpful to anyone researching a breed.
For potential fish owners …
offers sound advice for setting up a fish aquarium, on topics from choosing the size of the aquarium you want to populating it with your favorite fish. You’ll also learn how to find the fish that will get along with each other in their new living space.
I Do Dog Tricks
has employed a little technical wizardry to create a virtual Yorkshire terrier to ease the heartache of the frustrated would-be dog owner. This spirited little guy will do his best to obey your every command and become a surrogate for the pooch of your dreams.
presents research conducted by Cats Protection, Britain’s oldest feline welfare charity, showing that 51% of women cat owners surveyed said that they enjoyed a better night’s sleep with their cats than with their spouses.
There are a number of matters to consider when introducing a pet into your home. This section of the guide helps you deal with the necessary health, feeding, and obedience issues—including spaying, neutering, and potential behavioral problems in dogs, cats, birds, and fish. Learn about pet insurance (and whether you need it), and find out what online veterinary resources can help you keep your pet well between visits to your actual vet. This guide can even help you get your lost pet home.
- No Web site can ever be a substitute for a qualified veterinarian. Make sure you find one you trust, and keep the clinic’s contact information handy in case of an emergency. Remember that regular checkups can sometimes nip developing ailments in the bud.
- Any vet can implant a microchip in your animal that will help you find your pet if it ever becomes lost. It causes only a moment of mild discomfort, and the cost averages $70. Unfortunately, these chips aren’t tracking devices (not yet, anyway). But if your furry friend has a chip and she’s turned in at a vet’s practice, a scanner can provide a conclusive ID. By referring to a database, the vet will then be able to find your contact details.
For general information on the health and behavior of pets …
provides this section on animal history and necessary pet care for all sorts of animal types. Choose “Articles” for pet care advice both general and specific. For a discussion of an animal’s history and lifespan, plus information about how it would have lived in the wild, click on “Fact Files” and then select an animal from the options in the drop-down menu. Animals discussed include hamsters, cats, dogs, goldfish, gerbils, ferrets, guinea pigs, horses, mice, parrots, rabbits, and more.
is a great resource for general health and caregiving information on all types of pets. Be sure to revisit this site after you’ve brought your pet home.
is a magazine-style Web site with an array of articles on dog health and behavior, and even a few on cats, too. A broad span of subjects encompasses issues such as dealing with high-energy dogs, house-training, and poop-eating pooches.
sponsored by Hill’s Pet Nutrition, the pet food manufacturer, is devoted to raising awareness among owners of the importance of keeping pets’ teeth clean. The site recommends asking your vet for a dental exam if you suspect a problem and offers tips for a home dental care regimen.
When choosing pet food …
The Pet Food List
came into being as a result of the pet food recall that began in March 2007. The list puts recalled foods in red for ready identification and is also a useful source of information about the ingredients in many types of nonrecalled products.
has an article on how to choose from the wide range of dog foods available. For those determined to provide the perfect meal for their canines, this is the place to go.
The Dog Owner’s Guide
is the online version of the same publication, published by Canis Major. Here the guide presents an annotated essay on the raw food diet for dogs, a controversial diet that has grown in popularity recently. The most commonly mentioned is the BARF diet, known variously as “biologically appropriate raw food” or “bones and raw food.” The thought behind raw diets is simple: dogs and cats do better on what they ate for millennia before the pet food companies appeared. However, many vets are skeptical about the benefits of these diets.
offers some suggestions for finding the right food for your tropical fish, an introduction to the feeding habits of fish, and tips for encouraging your fish to eat.
For help with those first few days and weeks …
The American Animal Hospital Association
offers tips on how to negotiate that sometimes-difficult getting-to-know-you stage. A pet will need time to adjust to a new environment and form a routine. In addition, before your animal companion crosses the threshold, you should think about pet-proofing your home. This site helps you prepare for the change.
Best Friends Animal Society
has a PDF article covering the important points of those exciting early days with dogs. You’ll need a few supplies before your pooch arrives, and this site can help you start planning.
On dealing with dogs’ behavioral and health issues …
Best Friends Animal Society
also hosts a comprehensive collection of articles on behavior, training, health, and getting to know your dog.
has sites dedicated to dogs in New York, San Francisco, and Chicago, but the information supplied on these pages is of interest to dog owners the world over. This enlightening, witty online magazine covers as much ground as a racing whippet. The database allows you to search for vets, day-care centers, walkers, and other services according to location. You can also find information on health and behavioral issues and local dog laws.
On dealing with cats’ behavioral and health issues …
The Feline Advisory Bureau (Fab)
addresses common cat issues, such as nervousness, aggression, overdependence, scratching, and spraying and soiling indoors. If you have a baby at home or are expecting one, make sure to review the “cats and babies” section.
was determined to toilet train her cat, Misha, and wean him off the litter box. After much research and a lot of patience, she succeeded, and she generously shares the secrets to her success on this Web site.
On dealing with bird behavioral issues …
offers this link on bird training and behavioral issues. While there are lots of helpful tips and suggestions here, don’t miss out on the rest of the site. You’ll get tips on bird health, feeding, housing, and more.
provides this helpful article called “Why Did My Bird Bite Me?” Here you’ll get sound advice on why birds can sometimes act out. This site is also full of helpful bird tips—learn about bird health, alerts and toxins, basic care, breeding, and wing trimming, and get a guide to various species.
For questions on fish behavior and issues …
is a forum for fish enthusiasts. If your aquatic companion has been acting up, post on the forum and see if other experienced fish owners can help you. There are also articles and reviews that can expand your understanding of the life in your aquarium.
For advice on spaying and neutering …
works to reduce the number of dogs and cats euthanized each year by advocating spay/neuter services. This site can help you locate a low-cost clinic
in your area.
For veterinary clinics and pet hospitals …
The American Animal Hospital Association
is the only agency that accredits animal hospitals and veterinary clinics throughout the United States and Canada. It provides a searchable database of facilities and a pet-care library covering important health-care issues.
has a database of veterinary and emergency clinics, searchable by location. There’s also information about adoption, animal shelters, and what to do if you’ve lost or found an animal.
For information on pet insurance …
Veterinary Pet Insurance
is a popular company that provides competitive services and, like many up-to-date providers, also offers a plan that covers wellness support to help with checkups and routine procedures such as flea and worm prevention.
To help your lost pet get home …
manufactures one of the most commonly used pet microchips. If you’re worried about your pet getting lost, explore this site to learn about your options for help with pet recovery.
looks into the ways that dogs return the care and love we lavish on them and how that ability to raise the human quality of life qualifies some to work as “therapy dogs.” The therapeutic powers of canines are such that medical professionals now solicit for amiable animals that can bring a little sunshine into the lives of people in hospitals, nursing homes, shelters, and mental health centers.
Our pets have not been neglected in the rise of online retail. Shopping on the Web for animal products has all the advantages—namely, convenience and discount prices—that we’ve come to expect from Internet stores. In this section, you’ll learn how to get food, toys, accessories, medication, carriers, and crates with the click of a mouse.
- If you are dealing with a breeder, get advice from him or her on recommended brands of products—especially nutritional and medical items. Someone with a lot of experience with your animal type and breed will know the specifics of your pet’s health needs.
- eBay.com has a great advice section on pet gear. Visit the guide for tips and find great deals on pet supplies online.
For food, toys, and accessories …
concentrates on natural and organic products for dogs, cats, and birds, and promises that every edible offered is healthy and nutritious. The layout of the pages is attractive and easy to navigate. Shoppers can get detailed nutritional information here, and user reviews are posted for each product.
provides a detailed write-up for food products and stocks a raft of grooming devices, toys, collars—all the necessary accoutrements of the modern household animal. The site also offers discounts on quality products, definitely making it worth a visit.
is the online outlet of the PETCO chain. It can be a handy site if you don’t want to lug a 25-pound bag of kibble from the store, or you’re trying to track down a must-have toy for your pet. The selection of food isn’t necessarily high-end, but you’ll find all the other accessories that your pet craves.
The Gilded Paw
is for the owner who thinks neglecting to use a conditioner when bathing an animal is tantamount to cruelty. The Gilded Paw offers outfits and accessories for cats and dogs, often themed for the holidays. Kitsch products aside, there are also mainstream goods of more general appeal for both cats and dogs, though no food or treats.
For medications …
is an online pharmacy that can be convenient for those who find it hard to get to the veterinary clinic. You may also find cheaper generic alternatives to the brands most readily available elsewhere. If a prescription is required for any medication that you order, then 1-800-PetMeds will contact your vet. Be aware, though, that not all vets will supply prescriptions this way, and you may not have the same legal coverage from the manufacturer.
For carriers and crates …
sells waterproof fabric carriers in a wide selection of sizes. These products are sold only online, but they come in larger sizes than any carrier you’re likely to find in a store. Read “Leaving on a Jet Plane
” if you’re planning to fly somewhere and thinking of taking a four-legged friend with you.
sells dog and cat carriers for animals of all sizes. In addition, you’ll find lots of other accessories, like beds, bowls, and feeders, along with toys, clothes, and featured top sellers.
Doctors Foster and Smith
is an online store that sells all kinds of pet supplies, including various sizes of U.S.-airline-approved crates. If your dog needs to travel in the hold of a plane, you’re sure to find a crate to suit it.
has one of the most transparent names on the Internet. If sandwich bags or old grocery bags are not doing it for you, this is an inexpensive resource for black, tie-handle bags that will discreetly clean up your best friend’s mess.
Some people find it so painful to be separated from their pets that they have to vacation as a complete family. Lucky for them, there are many pet-friendly lodgings and airlines that allow animals. If you would rather not be limited in your choice of hotel and destination by your pet’s needs, and if you can face being separated for a while, online resources can help you find a trustworthy temporary residence for your pet.
- If your animal is going on a plane, check the airline’s Web site or contact the airline directly to check its requirements. Pet travel policies differ between airlines, and regulations often change. Make sure you are clear on the rules before you bring your pet to the airport.
- Only use a kennel or day-care center that has been recommended by somebody you trust. The American Boarding Kennels Association can be of some help, but information from your local vet will probably be more extensive and reliable when it comes to local services.
- If you need to purchase a pet carrier or crate, consult the “Online Pet Supplies” section of this guide.
For pet-friendly lodgings …
has a searchable database of fun places that welcome pets. The listings are not comprehensive by any means, but this is a good place to start if you can’t let a vacation come between you and your pet. There are also useful tips on how to travel with your animal companion.
is a search tool that’s fast and easy to use, and there’s a short section on travel tips for your pets.
For when you plan to fly with your pet …
The Humane Society of the United States
provides a summary of the pet travel policies of many of America’s airlines. Links are supplied to the airlines so you can easily check to see whether requirements have changed since the Humane Society compiled its information.
presents “Animal Airline Incident Reports” based on reports filed by U.S. airlines since May 2005. Any incident involving a pet on a U.S. airline must be reported here. If you really must check out an airline’s record on pet care, this is the place.
The Air Transport Association of America
states that pets “can and do travel safely aboard commercial aircraft” and provides a checklist for owners to help them ensure that their pet flies happily and in relative comfort.
For information on choosing a pet carrier …
details the airline requirements for pet carriers and crates. If you’re planning overseas travel with your pet, carefully review the “Pet Immigration Info and Quarantine Rules” page for important things you’ll need to know about foreign travel.
For when you need to board your pet …
are generally well reviewed by customers, they are reputedly very clean, and each “hotel” has a vet on 24-hour call. PetsHotels welcome both cats and dogs, and they provide grooming, training, play, and day-care services at indoor facilities that many owners will find more welcoming than the traditional chain-link-fence-encircled kennels.
is an ABKA-accredited franchise offering boarding and grooming services for cats and dogs, as well as training for the canine student.
Few of the online animal magazines do more than carry countless photos of adored animals and repetitive tales of their endearing antics. But if you want something a little more informative, we’ve put together a list of our favorites.
- Lots of pet news can also be found on blogs and forums, which are updated by pet enthusiasts on a daily basis. Search your favorites, or browse those listed in the next section of this guide.
- If you’re looking for publications that deal specifically with your breed of pet, research clubs dedicated to the breed: most will have newsletters. You can find out about these clubs through your breeder.
carries the tag line “Dog is my co-pilot.” If you echo that sentiment, then you should probably check out this irreverent, canine-obsessed bimonthly glossy. You can get a taste of the content online. Take a peek at the Bark Blog
is an online magazine with editorial that is true to the title. The articles concentrate on “natural dog care,” a subject that incorporates such areas of interest as organic dog food, hiking with your dog, and energy healing techniques.
covers the entire length of feline topics from ears to tail, discussing health issues through blogs and articles. Many subjects are covered, such as the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and allergy issues. Some articles here are of great practical use.
If friends and family members are tired or hearing you talk endlessly about your pet, visit some of the sites below for an unending stream of animal enthusiasm. Pet lovers like you come together on these blogs and forums to express their affections and share photos, stories, tips, and advice on pet care.
- Blogs and forums can be a valuable place to get advice on pet health issues. Be mindful, however, that the postings are user-generated and are not guaranteed truths: if you get a vital piece of information or advice from a blog or forum, double-check the facts elsewhere.
- Be sure to contribute if you have a worthwhile piece of advice or a question that you think will behoove other users. Interactive sites are kept alive by user contributions; your sound entry may improve another user’s Internet experience or his or her relationship with a pet.
is a blog that will appeal most to readers who curse the day that they were born with only two legs. In addition to ample pet photos, which range from cute to cutesy, there is a lot of news and advice for the dog or cat fanatic.
The Dogster Dog Blog
is exactly what the name suggests. Articles and news are provided along with postings by individual dog owners and lovers. This site also has great pictures.
and its sister site, Unitedcats
are essentially Facebook for dogs and cats. Whether you think that’s a good thing depends on what form your animal obsession takes.
offers a platform for pet lovers to put their pets on the ’net. Become a member for free and then create your own page so that you can join groups, write to the forum, and post video or photos of your pet.
hosts a variety of very active forums devoted to birds, cats, dogs, fish and reptiles, and others. Users are constantly posting and responding; there are thousands of threads to read detailing pet owners’ experiences with their animals.
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