New things are always exciting, but is there anything better than bringing home a new puppy or kitten to the family? We don’t think so! But while these little bundles of fluff and cuddles seem so small and simple, there’s actually quite a lot to think about before you introduce them to your home; everything from where to actually get one, how to train them, veterinary care and insurance. It can certainly get complicated! So whether you’re a first time pet-parent, or a long-time owner, read our article below for tips on how to care for your new little friend.
Does the Stork Bring Puppies and Kittens?
Sadly, you can’t keep looking to the skies for a puppy or kitten to arrive, you must go find one yourself! Before you go get a new puppy or kitten however, it is worth doing a little research into what kind of animal you want. Dogs especially vary hugely in their size, temperament, ease of care and more, and you need to think what works best for your lifestyle. For example, if you work long hours a day, you might not be suited to a full-of-beans Labrador, or if you live in an apartment, a cat may not be so happy. We also advise not to just get a dog or cat based on trends, what’s popular, or just because they look cute – unfortunately, many of these animals are quite difficult to care for, despite what Instagram might show…
If you now have an idea of what you want, or aren’t too fussy, you can start thinking where you can get one from? There’s a lot of options out there: private breeders, charities, strays brought into vet practices, or friends who have just had a litter! Again, it is worth doing some research here – animals from organisations like Cats’ Protection will usually be well cared for and have had a health check and all necessary paperwork filled in. Registered breeders (such as those registered with the Kennel Club) too will usually be on top of this. Buying online or from a friend can be risky – there is no guarantee where the puppy or kitten came from, if it is healthy, if all its documents are legal and so on. This can be especially risky when importing a pet from abroad (not to mention more difficult to bring them into the country). We recommend starting with local kennels and catteries first, as the little puppies and kittens there would love to have a new home.
When you go to visit your prospective puppy or kitten (and always visit first – never agree to taking one without first seeing it), there are a few more things to consider: make sure it looks healthy, bright and alert. You should be wary if the animal looks ill or unthrifty. If at a breeder’s, you should also ask to see the mother, and father if possible, and check they look healthy as well. A healthy mum and dad will usually mean a healthy baby.
Preparing for the Newest Member of the Family
So you’ve chosen the most perfect puppy or kitten there is, and they’ll be home soon! What now? Well you should make sure you have everything you need first, and prepare the house. New puppies will need food (you shouldn’t take an animal that is still suckling from their mother) and food bowls, blankets and bedding, a carrier to transport them, a collar, toys and cleaning products. Cats will want the same, as well as scratching posts, a litter tray and litter and possibly somewhere to hide or climb up high.
Around the home, you won’t need to make too many preparations. Remove or cover anything obviously dangerous, but you will find most houses are relatively safe for puppies and kittens. A stairgate may be useful if you plan on keeping them upstairs, and you may also want to cover things you don’t want to be scratched or soiled. It is best to slowly introduce your new pet to the house one room at a time, so pick one to be their first home, and make it extra comfortable for them.
Teaching What’s Right and Wrong
Your little ball of cuteness is finally in their new forever home, and no doubt the whole family is super excited! Your new pet will be excited too, and probably a little nervous. Good first impressions count, so it’s important to make your pet’s first few weeks at home as comfortable as possible. Bad behaviour in later life almost always comes from poor care and training as a puppy or kitten.
As said above, introduce your pet to the house slowly. Stay with them and keep things calm. Try and avoid loud noises that could scare them. Let your pet explore at their own pace; puppies will usually be more inquisitive, while kittens may be more nervous and hide more. You may find that they have a few ‘accidents’ at first. Don’t get angry, and clean them up straight away. Kittens will usually learn to use a litter tray by themselves. Puppies can be a little more tricky – start by taking them outside regularly every 2 hours, and keep meals regular. You will work out when they need to toilet, and can time it to be outside. When they toilet outside, reward them. If they make a mistake indoors, do not punish them for it. Positive reinforcement is much better. If you’re still having trouble with toileting, or indeed any behaviour, pop into see us and ask for some advice.
Once your new friend has settled in, you should probably start thinking about registering them with us for their future health care (and we hope you choose us!). As soon as you can, it is worth bringing your new puppy or kitten into see one of the vets, so we can check them over. We’ll check to make sure your pet is healthy, and free of any congenital problems. This is also a great chance to discuss training and behaviour. Once they are definitely in tip-top condition, vaccination, flea treatment and worming can be discussed. First impressions count, so we will try and make their first time at the vets as comfortable as possible, making future visits easier.
Vaccines are hugely important for young animals, as many of the nastiest diseases affect them quite severely. In puppies, we vaccinate against distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus and leptospirosis routinely, and in cats we vaccinate against cat flu and panleukopaenia. A young animal will be protected for the first few weeks of life by the antibodies in their mother’s milk, but after this, they need vaccines to boost their immune system. We usually recommend a first vaccine around 8-10 weeks old. As your kitten or puppy will not be fully protected until after their second booster a few weeks later, you should keep them indoors and away from any unvaccinated animals at this time (which is why it is crucial any other animals in the house are fully vaccinated too!).
Worming treatment should have been started by the breeder (puppies and kittens often contract worms directly from their mother either during pregnancy, or in her milk). Flea treatment should also be considered once your pet is old enough to go outside (so after their second vaccine injection). As with the diseases we vaccinate for, worms and external parasites often affect younger animals worse than older ones, so protection now is really important. There are many different products you can buy to protect your pet from these nasty critters, but some aren’t suitable for the babies, so discuss it with us the next time you visit.
Once your pet is fully vaccinated and treated for external parasites and worms, it is safe to take them outside. For dogs especially, this period of their life is crucial for socialisation, so they become a well-behaved animal – puppy classes, dog walking groups and other events with plenty of new friends to meet are perfect for outgoing little puppies.
You should also make sure your pet is microchipped by this period – in the UK, it is mandatory for all dogs to be microchipped, and we strongly recommend cats are microchipped as well. This way, should your pet ever go missing, we can help them find their way home.
Insurance and Checkups (The Boring Stuff!)
Unfortunately, having a new puppy or kitten is not all excitement and playtime. There are a few other important things you should remember as they get older. The first of these is to have regular check-ups with the vets and nurses. Your pet will still be considered juvenile and growing for the first year or so of their life, and this stage is important to become a healthy adult. By having regular check-ups, we can make sure they are developing properly, anti-parasite products are working effectively, and there are just generally no problems. As above, use this visit as an excuse to discuss any worries you may have, or just generally chat about your perfect little friend!
Finally, it is worth at this point considering insurance for your pet. Veterinary care can be expensive, and having a good insurance scheme can help make sudden costs, due to accident or disease later in life, easier to manage. Many will also offer perks as well, such as cheaper routine care or discounted products. There are many different types, so please discuss with us what might be a good scheme for you and your pet. This is, of course, entirely optional, but it can be a great weight off the shoulders to know that your pet will be able to get the best care possible, should anything unfortunate happen.
There’s a lot to think about when getting a new puppy or kitten, and we hope this article helps to make it a little less overwhelming. Just remember that we will be with you every step of the way, offering advice and care, so that your new kitten or puppy will grow up to be a happy, healthy friend for life.