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10 Things Your Cat or Dog Needs When Joining Your Family

By Joel Kaye, DVM
angell.org/generalmedicine
generalmedicine@angell.org
617-522-7282

 

Dogs

Adopting a dog can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to begin, but bringing home a pup is also fun and exciting! This milestone is the first bonding moment of many between you and your new fuzzy friend. To help ease that stress, here are ten things you can do to ensure a smooth transition for everyone.

  1. Prepare Your Home – Similar to babyproofing, it’s always a smart and safe idea to ready your space before your pup comes home. Walk through your home and stow away items that might be harmful to small or overly curious pups, and pick up those items you don’t want to get chewed. You should prepare the rest of the family too. Discuss which family members will take up feeding, walking, and training. If there are other animals in the home, be sure their shots are up-to-date for everyone’s safety. And if you have any cats, you should have a designated dog-free area where the cats can retreat, giving them a way to acclimate to the new arrival’s excitement in their own time.
  1. Crate – Dogs are den animals, and they love the comfort and security offered by a snug space of their own. Ideally, the crate will have three “walls” and a front gate your dog can see through. The crate should be large enough for them to stand and turn around, but not so large as to allow them to eliminate in it and avoid the area.  Provide comfortable bedding for your puppy, but be aware that a soft plush bed can become a chew target.
  1. Wire Playpen/Gates – A penwith wire panels can be configured to any size or shape you might need. They can also be used to block doorways to rooms you’d like to keep off-limits.
  1. Collar and Leash – Introduce your puppy to their leash and  collar or harness, and get them accustomed to wearing it by letting them wear it in the house prior to going outside for walks. Don’t drag your puppy as they acclimate to the sensation; allow them to move at their own pace.
  1. Food and water dishes – Food and water dishes should be porcelain or stainless steel. Initially most puppies should be fed three times daily for the first couple of months. You should consult with your veterinarian on which food is best for your puppy.
  1. Dog toys and treats – Avoid plush toys or toys with squeakers as these can be swallowed and cause gastrointestinal obstruction. I prefer puzzle toys or the hard Rubber Kong toys that can be filled with treats.
  1. Some means of identification – Initially use a tag with your pet’s name and your address and phone number, but eventually an implanted microchip is best.
  1. Tooth brush, nail trimmer , and grooming supplies – It is never too early to acclimate your pet to handling of their feet for nail trimming and mouth for tooth brushing. Check out angell.org/video for tips.
  1. Enzymatic cleaners – There will be accidents and it is important to use an enzymatic cleaner to remove the scent, so they will not find the spot appealing.
  1. Last, but most importantly – find a veterinarian you and your pet are comfortable with. This is a 10-15 + year commitment, so do your research and do not settle until you are happy with the pairing.

Cats

Bringing a new cat or kitten home is exciting, but it can be stressful wondering if you have fully prepared to ensure a successful transition for your new feline family member. Here are recommendations to help make the process seamless.

  1. Pet Carrier – A carrier is important for transport, but also important to give your new kitten a safe haven and hiding place. This is especially important at the beginning to allow them to acclimate to their new surroundings. There are many options, including soft, bag-like carriers or hard carriers. No matter which you choose, make sure the carrier is large enough for your cat to comfortably turn around inside, and that the bottom of the carrier is solid enough to provide secure footing for your furry friend. Look for a carrier that will be easy to clean in case the interior becomes soiled.
  1. Food and water bowls – Try to use ceramic or stainless steel bowls as some cats can have contact allergies to plastic materials.
  1. Good quality kitten food – It is okay to offer a combination of canned and dry formulations. Food selection should be based on your kitty’s age or any health conditions. For example, older cats prone to constipation may benefit from the hydrating effects of canned food while kittens require specific nutrients available in kitten formulas. Following portion recommendations on the bag can help prevent obesity and related health complications. Be sure to adjust your food choice appropriately as your kitten grows. Base your choice on research and veterinary recommendations.
  1. Litter box and litter scoop – Try different types and formulations of litter to see which your cat prefers. It is important to keep litter boxes out of areas of high traffic or noise. The general formula is to provide one more litter box than the number of cats in the home.
  1. A soft cat bed – Cats spend much of their time sleeping, and a comfortable cat bed quickly can become their favorite spot. Some cats prefer covered “hide-away” beds while others are drawn to a traditional style. Often the location of the bed (near sunlight or a radiator) can impact its allure. Older, arthritic cats may enjoy heated beds. If using a heated bed, be sure to select a low wattage (e.g., 4-watt) bed specifically made for cats. Never use a human heating pad which can pose a risk of burns.
  1. A collar and identification tag – This is in addition to placement of a microchip in the future. The collar should be a break-away style in case the kitten gets caught.
  1. A variety of toys and scratching posts – Catnip-stuffed toy mice and feather wands can entertain and tire out your kitty, helping to ensure a solid night’s sleep for the rest of the household. Avoid toys that contain strings or small objects that your cat could ingest. Scratching posts can save your furniture and let your cat stretch their backs comfortably. Your cat may prefer a traditional vertical variety or perhaps a horizontal cardboard version.
  1. Cat nail trimmer and tooth brushing kit – It is never too early to get your kitten acclimated to having their feet and mouth handled. This will make it much easier in the future to brush their teeth, trim their nails and administer medications. Check out angell.org/video for tips on trimming your cat’s nails.
  1. A good quality brush such as the Furminator can prevent matted fur, and many cats enjoy being brushed.
  1. A veterinarian with whom you feel you can have a long-term trusting relationship. Certainly do your research online, and ask other friends and neighbors which veterinarians they use.
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