Feb 15 2013

Tips for New Pet Owners

Tips for new pet owners.

Bringing a new Rex or Whiskers home is like welcoming a new member of the family. Whether it’s a cat or dog (or something with feathers or scales), there will be a lot adjusting for the little guy… and for you as well. So before you drop lots of money at the pet store to “please” your pet upon setting eyes on your new and strange home, check out these tips on creating pet-happy homes.

Pet-Proof Your Home

Look around your home. Do you see lots of electrical cords lying around? Little knickknacks that little paws can accidentally choke on? What about rubber bands, paper clips, or other small desk debris that ends up on the floor the day before you clean? You will need to pet proof your home, especially if you are welcoming a puppy or kitten into the fold, says Sarah Hatfield, a behavior specialist at the Shelby Humane Society in Alabama.

Before bringing your pet home, get down on your hands and knees and examine your surroundings from your potential pet’s point of view. If you can blindly bring down a bunch of books or get into a shelf filled with harsh cleaning chemicals or little plants with possibly toxic leaves, get them cleared away where prying paws can’t reach. A garbage can with a locking lid may be a good investment, says Hatfield, especially when curious kittens and pups looking for the source of food smells may create a mess all over the kitchen floor.

In the Dog House

You may have a fantasy about treating your pup like a prince. But think about what would make him the most comfortable first. Before you order a canopy bed for your newcomer, try starting with a good, old-fashioned crate.

In addition to assisting with housetraining, the crate also gives you a safe place to leave the dog while you are unable to supervise him for whatever reason, says Hatfield.

Even if you are told that the dog you are adopting is already housetrained, plan to treat him as if he’s not for at least the first two weeks. Moving to a new home is stressful for a dog, so sometimes he might forget his past training.

Before trying out new brands of dog food, find out what he’s already been eating and get some more of the same, at least at first. If you want to change to a different food, do so gradually, says Hatfield. A gradual food switch will let your pet adjust and avoid digestive upset.

Scaredy Cats and Dogs?

All cat lovers know that kitties can have a mind of their own. You make a cozy cat bed for them and they’ll sleep on your bath mat. Give them your bath mat and they’ll suddenly fall in love with the cushion on your favorite chair.

So when bringing home a cat or kitten, Hatfield recommends that owners kitten- or cat-proof a small room to start with and then gradually give feline friends more space. Let her pick the place that makes her the most comfortable. If your new kitty wants to hide for a while, give her some space and time to let her adjust to her new surroundings by exploring and feeling them out in her own time.

Be sure to give her fresh food and water each day, but otherwise leave her alone, advises Hatfield. Cats often don’t feel secure in a new environment until they have learned where all the good hiding places are. However, if your new cat is still hiding after several days, a trip to the vet may be necessary to make sure she is not ill.

Though kittens and puppies tend to be more curious and get into more trouble than adult cats and dogs, it’s important to pet-proof your home no matter what the age of your new companion.

Another good tip: don’t invite the whole neighborhood over to meet your new dog on the first day you bring him home. Let your pup get used to his new home and new family. Too many new faces and petting hands can be overwhelming.

Scent can often be very reassuring to animals, so if possible, take something along that smells like your pet’s former home, such as a towel, blanket, or favorite toy.

Letting Your Kids in on the Fun

Chances are, your child has been on pins and needles waiting for the day that the new dog or kitten comes home.

While a pet can be a great way to teach children about responsibility, be realistic about what they can help with. Young children may be able to help feed a dog or cat and older children can help to exercise their new pet, but an adult needs to have primary responsibility for both the day-to-day care of a pet and making sure all appropriate veterinary care is given on time, says Hatfield.

It is also important that children be taught how to interact with dogs and cats, even if they have been around them before. While many pets can learn to tolerate some poking, prodding, and hugs from a child, it’s best to let both sides get used to each other first.

Rather than let him find out for himself with bites and scratches, Hatfield recommends purchasing an age appropriate book about dogs or cats that gives easy to understand information about how to care for them.

By creating a safe, nurturing environment for your pet, you and your family will give its new four-legged member the best welcome of all.
Summer Valley Veterinary Clinic
Aurora Veterinary

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