Some of the greatest moments in life include the day we met our pets for the first time, and the day we adopted them and they came home with us. Here are 10 things to consider before bringing a new dog or cat home.
1. Can you commit?
Will you have the time to walk your dog three times a day? Will you remember to exercise your cat every evening? If the answer is no, and you have no one who can perform those essential tasks, consider a fish or a parakeet as a low-demand animal companion.
2. Will your pet fit the family lifestyle?
Choosing a pet based on how popular or cute it is, is probably one of the worst decisions people make. Too often these pets are unceremoniously dropped at an animal shelter when they show themselves to be too high energy, too needy, too intolerant — the list is endless.
Get to know the breed you are interested in and be open to changing your mind if it doesn’t fit your ability to provide for its temperament. Ask lots of questions from the people adopting the animal out, maybe even find a breed-specific group to ask questions of some of the members. A pet cat should also match your personality. Some cats, for instance, require a lot of attention and interaction while others are mostly independent. Do your research and choose wisely. And remember that all dog breeds may not be typical of their standard.
3. Interview veterinarians before the adoption.
Before you have settled on the type of pet that will suit you, ask your friends for their veterinary recommendations. A veterinarian can be an excellent source of information to help you choose the best pet to suit your lifestyle and needs. Not all vets are the same, and you want a veterinarian that best matches your needs. This will be a lifelong relationship and as such, the choice is very important. Again, do your research. Read online reviews of the vets in your community, and ask groomers in your area who they recommend.
4. Make your home pet-friendly.
Did you know that something as simple as chewing gum can be deadly for dogs, or that ibuprofen is toxic to cats? It is highly important to go through your home now, before you bring a new pet home, to search out hazards and get them out of the way or out of the house. This includes cabinets at pet level, counter tops, bottles of chemicals on the floor, small toys, electric cords and curtain cords.
5. Choose an age and breed appropriate food.
Not all pet foods are alike. Some are better than others, and some make claims that are not always backed by facts. Choose the best food for your dog or cat and always look for a diet labeled complete and balanced. From the time they are young until the time they are seniors, your pet food choices should be guided by the pet’s specific needs, life stage, and lifestyle.
6. Be prepared for an adjustment period.
If it’s a puppy you’ll be adopting into your home, be prepared for crying. Yes, just as with human babies, baby dogs cry during the night in their first days in their new home. The best thing you can do before bringing the puppy home is set up a quiet, enclosed space with a comfortable bed, or a kennel that can be closed, keeping your puppy secure from wandering. Choose the spot that will be your dog’s permanent spot. During the day, let your puppy have free, supervised privileges to roam around the house to smell everything. This will also be a good way to spot any hazards you might have missed in your initial inspection.
Bedtime for cats is a bit easier. Arrange the kitten’s sleeping area in a secure area close to his litter box so that he doesn’t get lost looking for it, and then leave him to romp around in his area until he drops off to sleep.
Things get a little bit trickier when you are bringing a new pet into a home with pets. You will need to make sure that your resident pet does not feel threatened enough to strike out at the newcomer. Closely supervise playtime, feed separately to avoid conflict, and watch for resource guarding with toys, etc.
7. Train your pet.
If your happy home is going to remain a happy home, the housetraining will need to start immediately after bringing your pet home. If you are adopting a kitten, introduce him to his litter box as soon as you get him inside. If it is a puppy, leash him up and take him outside to start getting to know his neighborhood. Begin training on that first outing. When the puppy relieves himself outside, while he is doing it say, “Go now.” Repetition of this command will eventually make it so that you will be able to take your dog out in any kind of weather without worrying about how long your dog will take to relieve himself.
8. Select appropriate pet treats and toys.
The right treats are essential, especially for puppies. Treats are one of the best tools for behavioral training when used sensibly. Experiment with a few different dog treats and stick with the one that has the highest value for your puppy. That will be the treat he will do anything for, including staying by your side even when the cat strolls by. Adjust food portions when training sessions involve a significant amount of healthy treats. Stick with rubber balls made for dogs (the harder to tear apart), non-toxic stuffed toys, and ask other dog “parents” for advice on toys that hold up under puppy pressure.
For cats, feather wands are always popular, and a lot of cats are responsive to laser light devices. And favorites: the catnip stuffed mouse toy and the old boxes. Cats love treats too, so go with the same advice as above and treat sensibly.
9. Spaying, neutering.
Neutering, a term that can refer to spay or castration surgery, is generally performed around four to six months. The proper time can be decided through consulting with your veterinarian. The best thing you can do for your pet’s health is to have him or her neutered. Yes, neutering does decrease aggression in most instances, but it does not make a dog any less protective of his or her human family. The female will also be less prone to cancer of the mammaries and ovaries. Ask your veterinarian for their recommendation.
10. Outfit your pet with proper ID.
Finally, ensure that your puppy or kitten is properly outfitted with ID so that if he should ever get loose, and it does happen to most everyone eventually, you will have him returned safely to you. Microchips are the best assurance for identification and need to be used in combination with an ID collar for the best chance of finding a lost pet. Remember to update your contact information with the company that keeps records for the microchip every time there is a change in your contact information.
Resource: Victoria Heuer/PetMD.com
Judy Endo is the author of Paws-itive Pet Tales. A lifelong resident of the Wilkes-Barre area, she has been a professional dog trainer/competitor as well as a lifetime animal lover and strong supporter of animal rescue. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org