Bringing Home a New Pet

girl with cat

Before You Bring Them Home

  • Before you decide on bringing home a new family member, make sure everyone is on board with the decision. Surprising people with pets seems like a fun idea but often does not turn out as well as we hope.
  • Have the entire family involved in picking out your new family member.
  • Make sure you pick a new puppy or kitten based on your household lifestyle. For example, don’t pick out the craziest puppy or breed if you prefer watching TV to running a 5K. The same goes for kittens; if you enjoy a quiet household don’t get a Bengal cat even if they look cool. Make sure that everyone in the family does their due diligence and research the specific breeds you are considering prior to making a final decision. Make sure you consider diet plans, exercise requirements, and behavioral patterns.
  • For kittens, be sure to have an appropriate-sized litter box set up before you bring them into the home.

Bringing Home Your New Friend

  • For as excited as you are that your new puppy or kitten is home, they are potentially equally as nervous about their new home.
  • Avoid having everyone you know to come over to see them. Let them relax and explore their new surroundings for the first couple of days.
  • If possible, keep them confined to only small portions of the house to start, then as they gain the confidence you can start to let them explore additional areas of the house.
    • This will have two benefits – 1) existing pets will have a “safe area” where they can get away from the new puppy or kitten if needed and 2) house training will be much easier because you have a smaller space to watch them in.


Introducing Them To Existing Pets

Remember first impressions make a huge difference. By ensuring that the first introduction goes well, your new family members will have a better chance of being able to live with your existing ones.

  • Kittens
    • Cats that live in the same household develop a group pheromone, so they likely will be very unsure of a new kitten/cat coming into the household.
    • Keep them separate for the first few days, sniffing under doorways at each other is acceptable if there is no overt aggression on either end.
      • If they are comfortable with it, having them eat meals on both sides of the doorway will also help with the bonding process.
    • Once they are introduced, make sure adult cats have a place they can get away from the kitten (cat tree, another room, etc.).
    • When possible, take a towel or other object that will absorb scent and place it in socially significant areas (cat trees, windows, under the food dish if it is a towel, etc.), this will allow the cats to get used to each other’s scent without having to be in direct contact.
  • Puppies
    • For dogs, having them meet on neutral territory is recommended for the first introduction. This can be as simple as the street in front of your house for the initial meeting and then taking them on a walk where they can be walking side by side but not sniffing.  For new puppies, make this meeting short, so as to not tire them out, and keep them on the pavement where common diseases cannot live.
  • Both Cats & Dogs
    • For both groups, if you have multiple other dogs/cats, introduce them one at a time. You already know which one in the group is most likely to accept the new addition to the household, so start introductions with the easiest one.
    • Additionally, make sure you have the house adequately puppy-and-kitten-proofed. If needed, get down on the floor to their level and see what they might be able to get into!

sleeping puppies

Socialization and Learning

  • Many people focus on telling their pets what not to do instead of clearly letting them know what behavior they would like. Treats and praise should be used to help convey to your puppy/kitten what you would like them to do.
    • Reward them for coming towards you and choosing to interact.
    • Especially for high-energy breeds, reward when your puppy is being calm and capture when they lay down so you can start to teach your puppy an “off switch.”
    • For kittens, if you don’t want them on certain things, like countertops, reward them when they chose to stay off them. Also giving them an alternative, like a cat tree near the counters, that they can be on and rewarding them for being there instead can make a big difference.
  • For both puppies and kittens, socialization is key to having them grow up into confident adults.
    • The biggest key to socialization is to do your best to make sure your puppy/kitten has as many positive experiences as possible.
      • This means exposing them to different sites, sounds, people, etc. all before the age of 16 weeks. When you do expose them to these different things, pay attention to their body language.  If they start to become nervous about the situation, do not force them into it.  Always allow them to retreat and then come back on their own terms.  You can also use treats to help them become more comfortable with the situation.

If you have any questions about bringing home a new pet, please give our office a call to speak with a member of our staff, or feel free to start a telemedicine conversation to send your questions directly to one of our doctors.

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