Pets play a valuable role in our lives and National Pet Month’s main theme this year has been ‘There’s a pet out there for you’, highlighting that there is a pet out there for everyone, whatever walk of life you’re from, but it’s important to choose the best fit for your lifestyle.
Introducing a pet into your home really can bring the most amazing benefits but you need to be fully prepared and ready to welcome your new arrival into a safe home suitable for their requirements.
First, we use the arrival of a new puppy into your home to illustrate the importance of preparation and then with thanks to Cats Protection, we provide advice on how best to integrate an older cat into the family.
Remember, that the experiences your puppy has during the first few months of his life will have a major influence on his future temperament and character so always take the time to get things right for you and your new canine companion.
Socialisation covers a variety of key learning experiences including mixing with other dogs and puppies, enabling them to develop social skills.
Make sure your puppy is also introduced to everyday objects in your home like vacuum cleaners and even rustly plastic bags so they are comfortable in their surroundings from an early age.
Get them used to cars, traffic noise, other animals and people of all ages in different settings – from towns to the seaside and countryside – and ensure they are accustomed to travelling by car.
If this is tackled early on you really could look forward to many years of happy travels with your four legged friend, both at home and abroad.
Feeding a good balanced diet from the offset is also very important as it can help guard against health problems later on in life. The best way to provide all the nutrients your puppy needs is to feed a specially formulated pet food for puppies.
Remember that up until a puppy is around 17 weeks of age is the best time to socialise them as they are extremely receptive to new experiences.
However, before you embark on this adventure with your new pet or take them on a walk to meet fellow canines it’s vital to ensure they are fully vaccinated.
Unvaccinated pups run the risk of contracting serious infectious diseases such as canine parvovirus so please always get your dog booked in for their injections. Vaccination primary courses are most commonly given as two injections two to four weeks apart with the final dose being administered at 10-12 weeks of age and it really is very easy to get this arranged through your local vet so don’t delay.
It’s so important that all your puppy’s experiences are extremely positive as a nasty experience really can make him fearful for life.
Start by introducing your pet to friends, family and people that regularly visit your home as much as possible, including those that regularly post through your letter box such as the postman or newspaper delivery person.
To ensure your dog gets used to travelling by car early on start by taking him on short journeys and then gradually build up the length of these trips.
Take your time and every step of the way monitor your puppy’s reactions to all of these new experiences. By doing this you’ll avoid overwhelming the youngster as at this stage he is taking in so much.
Remember, if you put in the work during his early development you really will be laying the foundations for a well behaved and socialised dog with hopefully many, many happy and rewarding years ahead for you.
The first few hours after bringing your cat home can really affect how well they accept their new life. First and foremost, be prepared to be patient and never attempt to rush your cat into doing things they may not be ready for.
It is important to provide them with a quiet place with everything they need, so set aside a dedicated, secure room before you collect them. This room should include:
- an area for food and a separate area for water
- at least one litter tray placed as far away as possible from their food and water and in a private, accessible location
- somewhere to hide
- access to a high spot where they can view their surroundings
- a suitable place to sleep or, ideally, a choice of them
- a scratching post
- a few cat toys and space for them to play
Cats rely heavily on their sense of smell and will settle quicker if their new home smells familiar. To help your cat get used to your scent, take an item of clothing or a blanket from your home and leave it with the cat for a few days before you bring them home.
When you pick your cat up, bring the same item back – ideally it will fit comfortably in their carrier with them and then it can be placed in their room.
You could also use a synthetic form of feline facial pheromones, available from your vet. These come as a plug-in diffuser or a spray. The scent helps to create a reassuring environment and may help to reduce stress.
Being territorial and a creature of habit, a cat becomes very attached to their familiar environment and finds travelling very stressful. To help your cat stay calm during journeys, use a strong, secure and easily cleanable carrier, with a familiar smelling blanket inside and cover the carrier with another light blanket. You may wish to spray the inside of the carrier with a pheromone spray at least 15 minutes before putting your cat inside, to allow the alcohol to evaporate. The pheromone can help to create a feeling of familiarity and security.
The following is a guide to introducing your cat to their new home and family. Take one step at a time, be patient and always work at the cat’s pace before moving onto the next stage.
When you arrive home, leave your cat alone to explore their room for an hour or so before introducing yourself, although some cats may need longer. When you go in to see them, get down to their level, put out your hand and call their name softly – let them come to you. If your cat chooses to hide, just sit quietly in the same room and occasionally talk to them gently in low tones – do not force them to come out. Give them plenty of time to adjust and continue to visit them so they can get used to your presence. As long as they are eating and using the litter tray, there should be no cause for alarm. If your cat is very timid, they may not want to come out to eat. In this case, try moving the food bowl closer to their hiding place and leaving the room.
You may want to try offering a small treat or using an interactive toy, such as a fishing rod toy with feathers on the end to tempt your cat from their hiding place. Play is a good bonding tool because it is less intimidating than physical contact, relieves stress, and provides mental stimulation and an outlet for pent-up energy. You may find it is easier to encourage play at dawn and dusk when cats are naturally more active.
Meeting the family
Once your cat seems confident with you, introduce other (human) family members, one by one. Children are likely to be excited about the new arrival, but it is important to keep them calm. Let the cat come to them and when they do, show the children the correct way to gently stroke and interact with them. Children, particularly young children with little experience of cats, need to learn how to treat cats appropriately. Even the friendliest cat will defend themselves if they are pushed or pulled too much so be sure they understand they are not a toy. Avoid picking your cat up in the early stages – wait until they have settled in and knows that you are not a threat.
The big outdoors
Don’t let your cat go outside until they have fully adjusted to their new home and knows where their food will be coming from – this usually takes between three and four weeks. If your cat has not been neutered, don’t let them out unsupervised until the operation has been carried out by your vet. Kittens should always be supervised when outdoors. When you let your cat out, do it when they’re hungry so that you can tempt them back inside with food, until they are used to coming back to the house freely. For more information see Cats Protection’s Essential Guide: Neutering – family planning for felines.
Introducing other pets
When introducing your new cat to other pets, it is much better to control the situation rather than leave the animals to sort it out for themselves. First impressions are all important and a negative start may lead to lifelong conflict.
For lots more information on introducing your new cat to both other cats and to dogs download the Cars Protection cat care welcome home leaflet at http://www.cats.org.uk/documents/cat-care-leaflets-2013-eg02welcomehome and visit www.cats.org.uk
National Pet Month’s Top 10 tips for responsible pet ownership
- Think carefully before getting a pet and learn about its special requirements.
- Ensure your pet is sociable and well trained.
- Provide a nutritious and well balanced diet.
- Provide suitable housing and bedding.
- Clean up after your pet and worm it regularly.
- Protect against disease. Your vet can provide you with advice.
- Prevent unwanted litters and neuter your pet when appropriate.
- Groom your pet regularly.
- Control your pet and ensure it is properly identified.
- Take out pet insurance for dogs, cats, rabbits and horses to cover against unexpected veterinary fees and third party liability.