Dr. Michelle Rudd of Crofton Veterinary Center discusses what you should consider before bringing home a pet as a “gift” for your family, as well as what you should do once you bring them home. As we just adopted our newest addition, a 2 year old Tuxedo cat named Dex, this is definitely an important conversation for anyone considering bringing home a pet as a gift this holiday season.
With the holiday season upon us many people will consider getting a feline or canine companion as a “gift” for the family. While this may seem like a good idea, especially if you are considering adoption from a local shelter, there are several important factors to think about when “gifting” a pet.
Dogs and cats are long term commitments. Many dogs can live for 10 to 15 years and cats can live for up to 20 years! While our lives are often changing with jobs, moves and the birth of children your animal will remain a permanent part of your life. The cost for care of an animal is also important to consider. While many people expect the cost of food and routine veterinary care, it is important to be prepared for the unexpected such as fractures or eating something toxic.
Once you are ready to bring home a new animal companion there are still some things to think about and prepare for. First consider the type of pet you want. If you are looking to get a dog research the type of dog you might want. Do you have space for a big dog in your house? Do you want a breed of dog that is more high energy or one that might be more interested in chilling on the couch with you? When considering a cat it is still important to think about the type of cat you should bring home. Kittens can be very active and might not be the best fit around very young children or if you work long hours. If you are adopting a pet ask the shelter staff for guidance in making the right match for you and your family.
It is important to be patient with your new dog or cat to help them transition into your family. There are some ways to help ease this transition for both you and your new pet. Be prepared before you bring your pet home. Make your house pet safe before you bring home your new dog or cat. Remove things like toxic plants and holiday decorations from the reach of your pet and seal garbage cans. If you are bringing home a new dog have a collar, leash, food and bowls ready. Also if possible bring home your new dog at the start of a weekend or when you can be home for a few days so you can spend some quality time with them. Be prepared to deal with house breaking! Never assume your dog will be housebroken no matter what age they are when you bring them home. Having a consistent routine will help with housebreaking your dog more quickly and with fewer accidents. A crate is often a good idea to provide a safe space or “den” for your dog. There are many types of crates available, even ones that come with dividers to grow with your puppy as he or she grows. In addition, crates can also help with housebreaking.
When bringing home your new cat have their food, water, litter box and scratching post set up in a small quiet room. Cats usually do not enjoy travel and your new cat will probably be a little stressed when you first bring them home so allow them to settle in this quiet room for the first few days. Over the first few days spend lots of time with your cat in this room but always allow them to come to you and don’t force interactions with them. Allow your new cat to slowly get use to the rest of house and make sure they have access to their “safe room” when they feel nervous and need to retreat. Once your cat becomes comfortable in the house set up where their food, water and litter box will be located. Cats like consistency so try not to change the location of these items once established.
Lastly remember to bring your new dog or cat to your veterinarian for a full check up within the first week of brining them home. Bring any medical records you have to help your veterinarian determine if any vaccines are needed and if any previous health problems need to be addressed. Your veterinarian will also discuss with you any preventative care needed for your pet such as flea, tick and heartworm prevention. This is also a good time to ask questions and discuss any problems you may be having with your new family member. Write things down so you don’t forget! Your veterinarian is an excellent source of knowledge and is one of the most important people available to help you and your animal companion enjoy a long and happy life together.
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