Bringing home a new puppy or kitten is equal parts exciting, heartwarming and terrifying. Taking care of any newborn can be intimidating, let alone one that isn’t human. There are some huge responsibilities that come with the sheer cuteness of our little furballs. But don’t panic! We’ve compiled some of the best pet parent tips around for first-time pet parents (as well as experienced pet parents looking for a refresher):
Stock Up on Necessities
Before the newest member of your family even enters your home, we recommend being prepared with some key pet products. Be warned, this isn’t a short list. But it’s worth it both for your pet’s comfort and your sanity to have these important items. We recommend getting:
- Bowls for food and water. We recommend ceramic or stainless steel to plastic; plastic can harbor bacteria.
- A bed. Get a bed a few inches larger than it’s estimated your pet will grow to. Know that your pet might not immediately use his bed—it may take some time to get used to.
- Toys. Everyone loved puppy or kitten playtime. Just make sure toys are suitable for young puppies or kittens.
- Collar and Leash/Harness. All pets should wear collars, and if you plan to walk your cat, you should pick up a harness. If you have a puppy, you’re going to want a strong leash, especially as it learns not to pull.
- Identification Tags. You might even want to microchip your pet, but at the very least you should have ID tags on your pet’s collar.
- Grooming Supplies. Grooming is something that keeps your pet healthy and can be done at home. Pick up supplies from your local pet supply and learn six tips for grooming your pet here.
- Stain and Odor Cleaning Products. Stains and odors seem to follow puppies and kittens around. Some of our favorite stain and odor products for cleaning those messes use chemistry to break down tough stains.
- A Pet Carrier. Carriers aren’t only for taking trips in the car, many double as crates if you’re going to crate train your pet.
- Food. Start with something for puppies or kittens, but know that your vet might recommend a new type of food for health reasons.
- Litter Box (for cats) or Pee Pads (for dogs). Choose a litter box with short sides for you cat so it can climb into and out of it. Pee pads are great for puppies that are house-training. Just remember the stain and odor supplies too, because your pup might miss on occasion. Potty training doesn’t come naturally for puppies or kittens, so they’re going to need some encouragement along the way too.
Choose a Name
This is the really fun part! Is your puppy a Charlie or a Bella? Is your kitten an Oliver or a Luna? These were the top names for cats and dogs in 2016 and this list is a good place to start if you’re looking for inspiration. Try them out on your new pet; you’ll know immediately if one is right. If you have kids, they’ll probably demand this is put on their task list, not yours. Just be prepared for name suggestions like Poop-Butt. If everyone gets really stuck, try a pet name generator.
Pet-Proof Your Home
It may sound like a scary movie, but many things in your home are dangerous to pets, especially playful puppies and kitties. We recommend you go around every room in your house and put anything that’s toxic or that can be ingested, chewed and choked on –cleaning supplies, medications, insect traps and plants, for instance – out of your pet’s reach. Place child-proof locks on kitchen and bathroom cupboards and cabinets. Put covers on electrical outlets. Use a product like CritterCord protective tubing on all your electrical cords to protect your pet against electric shocks if they start chewing. If you have drapes or blinds with dangling cords, tie them up.
Visit the Vet
With the first few days of your new pet’s arrival, we recommend you take him or her to the vet. Here’s what your vet will do:
- Give them a thorough health check up
- Set up a vaccination schedule. Puppies and kittens are highly susceptible to picking up infections, viruses and diseases and need to be vaccinated against them starting at 6-8 weeks of age.
- Check a sample of their poop (which you’ll need to take along) for intestinal parasites such as worms.
- Answer your questions about what to feed your new pet.
- Ask if you want your pet microchipped (we always say yes) in case they slip out of the house or off their leash and end up lost.
- Discuss any flea and tick control and heartworm prevention medication needed.
- Let you know when you should get your pet spayed or neutered – it’s usually at six months, but some vets will do it when they’re much younger.