Your step-by-step guide: the first few days with your new pet
It’s the day you’ve been waiting for ever since you first laid eyes on that purring ball of fluff in the shelter, or the breeder introduced you to the last remaining pup in the litter, and you were sold. It’s now time to bring your new addition home, but before you do, here’s a step-by-step guide to ensuring your new family member settles in as smoothly as possible.
Your new kitten or puppy is about to enter a completely new situation. The comfort of their mother and siblings will be replaced with unfamiliar sights and sounds, and their breeder or carer has been suddenly replaced by someone new. For these reasons you need to ensure you make the transition as stress free as possible by stocking up on necessary provisions. Your shopping list should include:
- Water and food bowls
- Grooming equipment (especially if you have a breed that requires regular upkeep)
- A suitable crate or carrier to bring them home (some people also use a cardboard box which can be just as effective)
- Toys (suitable for puppies or kittens)
- Collar and leash
- ID tag
- A baby gate or pen (an essential for puppies)
- A litter tray and scratching post for kittens
Where possible, see if the breeder or shelter will give you a blanket or toy to provide comfort to your new family member. The blanket will have the smells of their family, so make sure they have easy access to this to help keep them calm. Place their blanket or toy in their crate or new bed to help them settle in.
After you buy the essentials, there’s still plenty to do before you get to the exciting part of bringing them home. This next part is to make your home safe for a puppy or kitten and protect your possessions from harm. Any loose cables should be safely tied away and concealed and keep household chemicals out of reach. Close the doors to tumble dryers and washing machines, and remember to put down the toilet lid; this helps prevent inquisitive kittens and puppies from getting into mishaps. You should also remove anything remotely breakable from kitten and puppy reach, and tidy away dirty clothes, magazines, and important documents. Assess your home carefully and remember that newspapers, puppy training pads, kitty litters, and baby gates can be a real necessity.
The next step is to choose a suitable location for your new pet to sleep. You shouldn't let them have free rein of the house at first, but instead choose a quiet area away from loud noises where they can explore and play happily. Unless you want them sleeping in your bed, do not fall into the trap of letting them cuddle up with you at night and developing this habit. In a new home, there may be some nightly accidents to begin with, and these are best managed in kitchens or contained areas.
Understandably, puppies and kittens suffer from separation anxiety and may become very vocal about this. While you shouldn't ignore them completely, you don’t want them to realize that every time they whine or cry, you appear. Consider placing their crate in or near your bedroom so they feel more secure about leaving their families behind. As time goes on, you can position their crate or bed further away.
The car journey home
You've planned and prepped your property, now you can finally bring them home. While the whole family is probably eager to jump in the car with you, remember that you don’t want to overwhelm your new pet. Just take one other person with you who can hold the puppy as you travel home so your new pet can't wander freely around the car. For their safety and yours, they should be held or travel in a suitable crate or carrier.
When deciding who to take with you, remember the puppy or kitten will most likely bond with the person who collects them. If someone is likely to be at home with them regularly, they should be in the car with you.
It’s not uncommon for puppies or kittens to suffer from travel sickness, so bring a supply of newspapers, towels, and trash bags in case of accidents.
Although it might be tempting to show off your pet to relatives and friends en-route, take them straight home and never leave them unattended in the car.
This is where the fun starts. But remember, animals pick up on things very quickly, so it’s essential that your household to work together to act responsibly and above all, consistently. As anyone will tell you, accidents happen. However, rather than disciplining your pet, instead encourage and reward good behavior and ignore the accidents. Puppies have weak bladders, so take them out to a specific area, such as a designated part of your yard, every half hour to an hour. Set you alarm at regular intervals during the night for the first few weeks.
You will soon learn when your pup is likely to go to the potty; this tends to be when they wake up, after meals, and following playtime. Always praise them after they go to help reinforce correct behavior. Read more about puppy potty training here.
Of course playtime is important for puppies and kittens, but they also need plenty of rest. It may be difficult to tear yourself or family members away, but sleep is essential for their wellbeing. Make sure they can nap and try not to overtire them. At this point, you should start getting them accustomed to being alone for short periods of time.
If you already have another pet, don’t forget to give them plenty of love too, and make sure any introductions take place in a safe, gradual, and calm manner.
It’s important to find out what your new pet was fed and buy the same food, at least for the first couple of weeks. If you want to feed them something different, you should introduce any new brands gradually to avoid upsetting their delicate stomachs. Some breeders will provide bags of food when you take your new pet home so they can eat the same food for a couple of weeks. You should also ask when they were last fed and what their feeding timetable is, then try to stick to their schedule to begin with.
Find a veterinarian
Your new pet should be seen by a veterinarian soon after you bring them home. This way, you can build a relationship with the veterinarian and learn about any potential health concerns for your pet.