Bringing a new pet home is exciting – even if you have other pets. But it takes planning to make a smooth transition. Here are our tips for a successful homecoming.
With a little planning, your new pet will love its new home & you’ll enjoy the transition too.
Tip #1: Bring a new pet home when you know you’ll have a block of time to spend with it.
Adjusting to a new environment can be overwhelming to your new pet, especially if they are a puppy or kitten just taken from their litter. This can make them feel anxious.
They express their anxiety by misbehaving which makes you anxious too!
Plan to bring your new pet home at a time when your household is calm and can totally focus on them for a few days. Cuddle them, bond with them, make them feel at home.
Focusing totally on them for the first few days will also help them form good habits, making housebreaking and training easier.
Tip #2: Pet Proof Your Home
Make your home is a safe place to roam.
Your new pet will be curious and check out its new environment.
- it will jump onto high surfaces so make sure they are safe
- they will squeeze into small spaces so cover places you don’t want them to go
- make sure all poisons such as cleaning supplies are put away
- watch electrical cords because both cats and dogs like to chew them – this includes ear bud and headphone cords!
- keep toilet lid shut, especially if you use a toilet cleaner in the tank (consider removing it altogether while you have a pet because both cats & dogs will try to drink out of the toilet at some point).
- cover or latch trash cans in all rooms
Make it easy and safe for them to watch out the window.
You pet will watch out the window for fun, to guard their property, or to wait for you to return home. Make sure the window facing the entrance is unobstructed so they can watch.
(When family members babysat our dog when we were on holidays, they had to push furniture in front of the window for him to sit on and watch for our return. He was a big Lab but he found a way to sit on a high window ledge to watch.)
Both cats and dogs will find a way to get out a window if there’s something to chase or if on a whim they want to find you. (I once saw two dogs barking at me from the roof of a porch as I walked by – they dug a hole through the screen of an opened second story window.)
Also: do you want your dog standing on the back of your couch to look out the window? Maybe rearranging the furniture in order to save it is a good idea.
Or, take it to the next level. Put a blanket and pillows on the window ledge for cats and small dogs to get comfy. They love it when material holds their scent – it says they belong. Put a window sill shelf on for your cat to feel at home.
Remove all plants poisonous to pets:
- Sweetheart Plant
- Sago Palm
- Tulip & Narcissus Bulbs
- Azalea & Rhododendron
- Corn Plant
- Hawaiian Ti
- Dragon Tree
- Castor Bean
- Heart of Jesus
- Jade Plant
- Autumn Crocus
- False Shamrock
- Chinese Evergreen
- English Ivy
- Bird of Paradise
- Fig Tree
- Orange or Lemon Tree
- Ornamental Pepper Plant
- Angel Wing Begonia
- Elephant’s Ear
- Rubber Plant
- Wandering Jew
Tip #3: Create a special place for them wherever you will be.
Cats & dogs are just like kids: they want to be a part of what’s goin’ on. That means being with you everywhere (even the bathroom).
Create a pet-friendly area where you spent time. If you divide your time between the living room and your home office, you may want to put a pet bed in both places.
Make sure it is the right size for your dog. Too big or too small, and they may reject it. You may want a smaller one for a puppy and purchase a bigger one when they grow.
When we rescued our new cat, we took him to the vet for a check up. Her first recommendation was to buy a cat scratch post and put it right in the middle of the room where we all hang out.
The cat’s natural inclination is to scratch the furniture because they have scent pads in their paws that mark their territory. Give them an alternative that you can both enjoy. (Vets don’t recommend de-clawing cats because it requires removing the first joint of their fingers.)
Train them to use the scratch post if they don’t automatically claw it by rubbing their paws on it a few times through the day. After they use it for a few days and it has their scent on it, you can move it to wherever you want it in the room. And then to another room after that.
Tip #4: Prepare for your new pet’s homecoming in advance.
In the same way a couple prepares for a new baby before it arrives, you need to prepare for bringing your new pet home to make a smooth transition for both of you.
Research the best pet food that you can purchase in your budget for that breed/age and have it on hand. (The ultimate resource on choosing a dog food can be found at YourDogAdvisor.com.) Get water and food dishes.
Decide where you want your pet to sleep at night because you’ll have to enforce it from day one:
- in a crate
- in its own bed
- in the same room as you or in a different area
- in your bed with you
Purchase whatever pet bedding you require before you bring your dog or cat home. You may need more than one: a bed for sleeping at night and others for their comfort wherever you hang out the most, such as the living room or home office.
If you choose a crate for your pet, make sure it is the correct size. It should be big enough for them to stand and turn around in, but not big enough to do their business. Drape a blanket or towel over the sides for security and put a blanket or pillow inside with some of their favorite toys.
Decide on your pet’s bathroom schedule.
- Who will walk the dog and when? What kind of leash will you need? Check the yard to make sure there are no places where they will be able to escape.
- What kind of collar do you want? Find an identification tag.
- Research and purchase the kind of litter and litter box you want to use for your cat.
What kind of toys will your new pet need at this age?
- do research to see what toys are available
- do research to know what kind of toys your pet will want: some dog breeds will want to play in the water, some toys are better for smaller dogs, other toys are suitable for puppies and another for active dogs
- purchase toys for playtime, and plush toys for snuggle time
Tip #5: Create a schedule for your new pet.
Besides your pet’s bathroom schedule, there’s feeding, exercise & playtime and daily snuggles too.
Younger pets are more active so need more playtime and walks scheduled into their (and your) day. They also need more bathroom breaks.
Schedule who feeds, walks, snuggles and plays with your pet at times when you know your dog or cat will need it. Give kids a part of caring for their pet that they can handle given their age and abilities. This helps everyone bond with the new pet and everyone shares the responsibility for their care.
Tip #6: Introduce your pet to other pets.
If you already have a pet at home, it’s best to introduce the new pet gradually.
For dogs, PetSmart recommends that your current dog meets the new puppy or dog in neutral territory for the first time so it doesn’t feel like it needs to protect it’s territory before they make friends.
Cats need a more gradual introduction to other dogs or cats. Current cats and/or the new cat should be keep in separate rooms with their own litter boxes at first. Let them see each other in the house but not close – through a glass window is preferable – until they get used to the idea of sharing their space.
Allowing cats and dogs to play with toys that have the other pet’s scent is a good way for them to learn about each other at first. (But of course, not the cherished toy!)
Tip #7: Continue good care of your new friend.
Feeding, exercising and playing with your new pet is an important part of their daily care. There’s also regular bathing and brushing to help them maintain a healthy coat. (There is a “waterless” bath spray that you can use for cats for your own safety.)
Find a vet before you actually need one. In an emergency there’s too much chaos to make a good choice. Research one that fits your budget and knows about your dog or cat’s breed.
It’s a good idea to get your pet checked by a vet when you first adopt them so you’ll know what issues may be on the horizon. (One of our puppies had an extreme overbite that required surgery when she got older because she couldn’t eat properly. One of our cats came from the SPCA with a corona virus and died 2 weeks later.)
On that note, we recommend pet insurance. All of our pets have required veterinary assistance one or more times in their lives and most of the medications and examinations/procedures were covered. It helps take financial pressure off of decision-making at a time of crisis.
Congratulations on your new pet, and we hope our tips help make the transition to their new home easier.
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