Did you add a new furry family member during the holidays? Starting your pet off on the right paw will help ensure a long, heathy relationship. Becky Dan Director of Marketing and Community Outreach, Nashville Veterinary Specialists and Animal Emergency offers some advice.
Help your new pet feel at home
By carefully introducing the new pet to the animals already living in your home. Dogs should be taken to a neutral area, such as a park or neighbor’s yard, where they can meet each other without the current dog feeling she must protect her home from the newcomer. Cats should be allowed to explore their new home freely, but for their protection, put the current dogs, other cats and small animals such as hamsters, in a cage or in another room separated by a door. The animals can smell each other, and get used to each other, before meeting face to face. Immediately put a stop to any aggressive behavior.
Children should be encouraged to sit quietly and allow the new pet to approach them. A dog or cat could become overwhelmed by excited children, causing them to growl, bite or scratch out of fear. Everyone should learn to approach all animals safely. This means paying attention to the animal’s body language, and approaching the pet from the side, not head on, as this can be mistakenly read by the pet as a sign of aggression.
Give each pet separate food and water bowls, in separate spaces. Feeding your new and existing pets in different locations will help prevent conflicts over food. If you are introducing cats, provide separate litter boxes.
Housebreaking (potty training).
Dogs are naturally clean animals, and they will keep “their space” clean. The trick is the make a young puppy understand that “his space” is not just a small area around where he is currently standing, but the entire house. Start by limiting his access by using baby gates or a leash to keep him in the room with you. When you see him getting restless or circling, take him outside to do his business. Gradually increase the areas in the house where he can explore unsupervised, and he will soon learn to keep the whole house soil free. Also, take him outside as soon as he wakes up from a nap or right after playing. Dogs should be fully house trained by six-months of age.
Cats are easy to litter box train due to their instinct, passed down from their wild ancestors, to camouflage their odor as to not attract predators. Place your kitten in the litter box and let her explore and play. Make sure the litter box is in an area and at a height the kitten can early reach.
Pet-proofing your house
Many plants and foods in our homes are toxic to pets, so do some research to find out what items to keep out of reach of your pets. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has a web site loaded with useful information on items to kept away from your furry family members.
Establish a relationship with a veterinarian as soon as you adopt your new pet. Your vet can give you information on vaccinations against viruses, and preventions for fleas, ticks, heart worms and other parasites.
Throughout the years, as your pet ages, pay attention to things like the color of her gums and eyes, plus any lumps, bumps or unusual behavior she may develop. These could be the early signs of a serious medical condition, so bring them to the attention of your vet. Just like with humans, diseases that are caught early in pets are much easier to treat then when they reach a more advanced stage.
Enjoy every minute you can with your furry family members. Pets remind us to play and to live in the moment, so have fun and spend time with your new pet.