Preparing Your Home and Family for a New Pet
Dr Julie Schell BSc(Hons), DVM, CVA, ACVCHM, CVC
It takes a village to raise a puppy or kitten so it is important to be as prepared as possible.
1. It is important to determine what veterinarian you choose as your veterinary team will play an integral role in helping you choose your pet, giving pre-purchase examination, setting up pet health insurance and keeping your pet health and happy for a lifetime. Your veterinarian is an excellent resource for everything pet related including nutrition, behaviour, and medical health. Your veterinarian can even guide you about how and where to find a new pet and determining what species and breed best suits you and your family. Feel free to interview several veterinarians until you find the right match.
2. Pet Health Insurance will save you thousands of dollars throughout your pet’s lifetime. Register your pet for the best policy you can. Not only does it save you money, it saves you from making tough decisions about your pet’s care.
3. Ask your veterinarian what breed of dog would suit your and your family’s life style. Be sure everyone in your family is on board with having a pet and wanting to take responsibility caring for him/her. Cats can live 41 years! Dogs can live 29 years! They both need commitment both financially and through time and effort needed to train and raise them.
4. If you decide on a purebred, interview breeders until you find a helpful one who provides health guarantee and has healthy breeding stock who have been tested for the congenital mutations that may be common in that breed. A good breeder can also help you determine if their breed is a good match for you and your lifestyle.
5. If you buy from a rescue center, be sure you receive medical records and health notes so you know what vaccinations and tests the pet has had before purchase. You may be able to foster the pet to determine if he or she is the right match for you.
6. Prepare your home- pets need a safe environment. No poisonous plants for pets to chew, or access to railings or stairs that kittens can climb and fall from. Ensure there are safe toys, chews, games, scratching posts, windows to help keep your pets occupied. Your veterinarian will be very helpful in helping you ‘pet proof’ your home as well as improve the resources and environmental enrichment for your pets.
7. Consider adopting an older pet. Sometimes an older pet is easier to accommodate compared to a puppy or kitten because often they are already trained. Dog training classes are excellent ways to help you train you new dog or puppy and will give you helpful training advice, and a lot of fun!
8. Look into pet daycare facilities and over-night care/boarding centers and pet sitters for your pet. It is helpful to prepare in advance for trips. Also, if you work outside of your home more than 5 hours per day, you will probably need a dog walking service or a daycare. It is challenging to train puppies and is not fair to the puppy if they are left home all day long. This can set back potty-training with your puppy.
9. Also look into pet friendly hotels when planning holidays so you can enjoy your pet during your holiday.
10. If you have existing pets, have plans in place on how to introduce your new pets to them. For example if you are adopting a dog, introduce them to your existing dog in neutral and joyful territory such as a dog park or a green space that your current dog enjoys. Do not let two new pets together alone unattended until you are certain they accept each other and do not fight. If you are introducing a new cat to an existing cat, it is often best to keep your new cat/kitten in a spare room for a few days or weeks so that your existing cat can smell them under the door and get used to the sounds of the new cat. Then, you can swap spaces so that the new cat/kitten is allowed to explore the house and the existing cat can stay inside the room to acquaint itself with the scents of the new cat. If you own birds and are introducing a cat, be very cautious to protect your birds from being attacked by the cat. You may need to house the birds in a safe, protected room or keep them inside large, safe cages.
11. Litter box etiquette is important. Note that puppies and adult dogs will eat cat feces. Elevate your cat’s litter boxes onto a table, or place them in areas your new dog will not reach. A good rule of thumb is to have at least 1 more litter box than the number of cats you have in the house. So if you have two cats, have at least 3 litter boxes. And place them in different floors of the house. This will help if your cat accidentally gets trapped in the basement.
12. Ensure enough water is placed in the house, in many areas of the house there should be water bowls that are kept full. Adding more pets to your home will increase the water consumption stations and volumes.
13. Decrease stress of introductions of new pets with pheromone sprays such as Adaptil for dogs, and Feliway for cats. Thundershirts are helpful as well as essential oil sprays for pets. Oral anti-stress herbs and supplements that contain ingredients such as colostrum, valerian, L-theanine, Chinese herb formulas suited specifically to your pet, acupuncture, massage, are all often very helpful to your pets.
This is a video on Thundershirts-> click here!
This is a video on items and products that reduce stress in cats-> click here!
14. Monitor feeding times well. It is important that the new pet is eating and is not getting his/her food stolen by the existing pet. Watch them closely while eating or you have to separate them into different rooms during meal times. Leaving food out all day and not measuring meals can lead to obesity or starvation for the other pet. There are excellent technologies that help prevent pets from over eating including automatic feeders triggered by an individualized fob attached to each pet’s collar.
15. Children must be educated about how to properly and safely handle a pet. Never leave a child alone unattended with a pet, especially when you are still learning your pet’s personality and needs.
This is an article on decreasing stress in pets-> click here!
Dr. Julie Schell BSc(Hons), DVM, CVA, ACVCHM, CVC
Bow Bottom Veterinary Hospital
1186 137 Avenue SE
Calgary, AB T2J 6T6
Your pets are our passion!