Caring For Your New Pet

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Things to consider before adopting a pet

• Are you prepared to make a commitment to the dog or cat for its lifetime, up to 18 years for some breeds

• Do you have a few extra hours each day to spend with your pet?

• Who will walk, train, and care for the pet?

• Is anyone in your household or any regular visitor allergic to pet dander?

• How do you plan to introduce visitors who may be afraid of dogs or cats?

• Where will the pet live and sleep?

• Do you have a securely fenced yard and properly maintained gates and locks?

• Who will be responsible for veterinary care?

• Do you already have a veterinarian?

• Are you prepared for the monthly maintenance costs like food, toys, heartworm, and flea prevention?

• Who will take care of the pet during your vacations?

• What will happen to the pet in the event of a marriage, divorce, new baby, or move?

Lifestyle Preferences

Once you have decided that you want to invite a new pet into your family, you need to find the best fit for your family’s activity level and lifestyle preferences.

Do you like to run?

•  Consider a dog who can keep up with you

Have a quieter lifestyle?

• Consider a less active breed

Like grooming?

• Go for the locks

Don’t like lots of grooming?

• Think short hair

Enjoy a training challenge?

• Try a more challenging breed

Not looking forward to housebreaking a puppy?

• Consider an adult

Before Bringing Home Your New Pet

What are some of the things you should keep in mind when bringing home a new pet? Well, before bringing home new pets, do your best to make sure they are as healthy as possible. You can start by acquiring the animal’s complete medical history. If possible, see if you can find out the following:

Whether your pet is up-to-date on vaccines.

Whether your pet has been tested for heartworm disease and has been on a consistent preventative. Ask which heartworm prevention medication the animal has been taking, and whether the medication has been well tolerated.

Whether your new pet has been on flea and tick prevention. Again, ask for the specifics of which preventative has been given and whether any side effects were noticed.

What food your new pet has been eating. If you’ll be feeding the animal something different, you’ll want to make a gradual transition to the new diet to avoid gastrointestinal upset.

You should ask for copies of all medical records and give them to your veterinarian in advance. If your new pet hasn’t been examined recently, make an appointment with your vet for a physical exam. At the appointment, your vet can administer any necessary vaccines and test for fecal parasites.

Keep in mind that any change, even a positive thing like moving to a home, is stressful for animals. Stress, travel and transport can aggravate underlying disease and may even cause disease. So, do what you can to minimize stress during this time of transition.

Consider your surroundings

Once the basic medical needs have been assessed, take some time to inspect your surroundings. Are your home and yard appropriately dog- and cat-proof? Some common safety concerns: toilet seats, electrical cords and outlets, house plants (some are toxic to pets), garbage cans and inadequate kitchen food storage. You may want to move valuable or fragile items. It’s a good idea to have a crate or a safe room where you can confine new animals when unsupervised, or for gradual introductions to existing pets.

Consider the babies

For young animals, keep in mind that they are still babies. Puppies and kittens do best with consistent feeding and eating schedules; this also helps facilitate potty training and litter box training. Some other things to consider:

Use age- and size-specific pet toys. Also, be watchful of objects or toys that might look interesting and tasty from your pet’s perspective, and that could be ingested and cause potential stomach and bowel problems.

Use caution when exposing puppies and kittens to older animals and don’t take them to high-traffic locations such as dog parks or pet events until they are fully vaccinated.

Make sure your puppy or kitten gets enough quality time with you and the rest of your family. Discuss in advance which behaviors you want to reward and which behaviors you want to ignore, and make sure everyone in the family is prepared to be consistent with training. Avoid rough play patterns, as they teach bad habits that are hard to reverse later.

Supervise puppies and kittens closely, especially in the first few weeks in a new home; consider placing a bell on your pet’s collar so he or she is easier to monitor when not in sight.

Consider the adults

For older animals, see if you can learn about any training or health problems they have, and be proactive: Make a plan to deal with any issues. Don’t try to do everything at once, though; gradually introduce new experiences under controlled circumstances. Remember, lots of quality time is very important during the first weeks that a pet is in a new home, and consistency and routines make things easier for everyone. Adult animals should also be confined to a safe room or crate when unsupervised, particularly during the first few weeks.

Consider the others

If you have other pets in your home, keep in mind that you need to plan introductions carefully. If possible, implement a quarantine period of 7-10 days in case your new pet comes down with any illness secondary to the stress of travel. For cats, a safe room or transition room should be set up to house the new cat as you gradually introduce him or her to your other pets. Be sure the door can be securely closed. Two weeks before bringing the new cat home, consider using a pheromone diffuser. Cat-appeasing pheromones — such as Feliway — help ease the stress of new cat introductions.

Once the quarantine period is over, try placing a toy near the bottom of the door separating the new cat from the other cats. This may facilitate play under the door. To help with scent transfer, use a towel or glove to pet all the cats daily, focusing on the cheeks and base of the tail. Once the new cat seems settled and relaxed, start to rotate locations. If this goes well, progress to short (five minutes or less) visual introductions. Do this several times a day until all the cats are relaxed, and then try supervised contact. To be prepared for breaking up an altercation, have a squirt gun or spray water-bottle handy. If everyone is getting along, the length of time the cats spend together can gradually be increased and human supervision can slowly decrease.

For dogs, it’s best to let them meet on leash in neutral territory. If possible, have one person for each dog, and if you have more than one dog, introduce the new dog to only one dog at a time. If you can, bring the dogs together multiple times before they live together. Try to do introductions when everyone is calm. After you bring the new dog home, don’t leave the dogs together unsupervised; use a crate or a transition room to keep dogs separate. You’ll want to separate new dogs during feeding time and remove highly desirable toys, treats and beds during the transition period.

Follow these simple but important guidelines, and before you know it, your pets will be well-integrated members of your household.

Introducing Your Pet to Its New Home

Introducing the New Dog

Congratulations on your new dog! You may be wondering how to make the introduction to your home and its house rules a smooth one. Start by making sure your dog is not too excited when he enters your home and maybe take him for a little walk to spend some excess energy. Have all supplies set up: bed, water, and toys. Then give him a leash-guided tour of his new home. Take him in the yard to let him sniff and encourage him to use the bathroom. Before you let him or her loose in the house, make sure all doors and windows are securely closed and breakables are stored out of reach. Start on your new routine of exercising, training and feeding so he learns how he is expected to behave. Also, please be understanding of the transition your new pet may be going through and that it could take a couple of week before he realizes that he is home and settle into his routine.

If you have another pet, introduce them slowly. If you already have a dog, make the introduction on neutral ground, so your “old” dog won’t feel like he needs to defend his territory. Take them on a walk together.

If you already have a cat, make sure the cat has room to move away from the dog, if desired. Maybe leave the dog in his crate for a few minutes so the cat can safely check out his new room mate. Do not leave them together unsupervised until you are sure no one will get injured.

Introducing the New Cat

Congratulations on your new cat! What happens now? Should you just simply open the carrier and let him loose in the house and hope for the best? Maybe not.

Here are a few tips:

• Make sure breakable items are safely stored out of reach.

• Make sure all doors and windows are closed.

• Make sure plants are out of reach of the cat. They’re tempting for your cat to munch on, but they may make kitty a little queasy. Some house plants are even toxic to animals.

• Have all supplies ready: litter box, food, water and toys.

• Depending on the temperament of the cat, you should slowly introduce him to few rooms only – a shy cat will get overwhelmed by too many new sounds and smells and hide under the nearest bed.

• Give him time and space; some cats take time to get used to their new surroundings.

• Start your new feeding routine so he knows what to expect.

If you have another pet already, introduce the new cat slowly. Again depending on the temperament of your new and “old” cat, you may want to confine one to the traveling carrier for a little while to give the other cat the chance to safely check out the newcomer.