You Got a New Pet for the Holidays, Now What?

shallow focus photo of white and brown cat

There is so much planning that goes into adding a new pet to the family. What type of pet, the breed, where to get the pet from, housing or bedding needs, food and more. After all this careful planning you may find yourself asking, what do I do once I get the pet?

There can be so many differing opinions out there on the internet that can lead to confusion. We always recommend referring to reputable sources and websites, and of course your pet’s veterinarian. To help you set your new pet up for success, the doctors at Hill & Harbour Veterinary Center have put together a list of their top tips of what to do now that you have added a new member to the family.

New Cats

Dr. Packard, our resident cat whisperer and the proponent for our certification as a Feline Friendly Practice (which we hope to have in early 2021), shared her top tips for ensuring your new kitty is off to the very best start.

1.  Like puppies, kittens need socialization too!  The socialization stage for kittens begins very early at about three weeks of age and ends between 12 and 16 weeks of age.  Kittens should be gently handled for at least 5 minutes each day throughout the socialization period to bond with humans and develop into friendly, calm, and well-adjusted cats.  Every effort should be made to avoid adverse experiences
during this time which can lead to a chronic fearful response.

2.  Teach your kitten early to love her carrier.  This will save a lot of frustration when she needs to be transported as well as reducing her anxiety when traveling to veterinary visits.  Please visit our website here for instructions on helping your cat become comfortable with her carrier and tips for picking the best carrier.  

3.  Environmental enrichment is important to prevent kittens and cats from becoming bored, which can lead to maladaptive behaviors such as overeating and litter box issues.  Places to climb such as cat trees, toys that satisfy their natural desire to hunt, and acceptable substrates for scratching are all important to keep cats happy. Visit Ohio State University’s Indoor Cat Initiative for information about creating an enriched environment for your kitten.

4.  It’s natural for cats to scratch! But you can live harmoniously with your cat and still maintain nice furniture by enriching your home with items that your cat can scratch.  Visit the American Association of Feline Practitioners for information about preventing or stopping inappropriate scratching.

5. Cats are territorial, so care must be taken when introducing a new kitten or cat to other household cats.  Click here for step-by-step instructions on making these introductions go smoothly.

New Exotic Pets

Dr. Snow is our resident small mammal and exotic veterinarian (yes, he sees cats and dogs too). He offers a huge wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to these pets. Now that Dr. Snow is a member of our practice, we are able to offer appointments for a variety of pocket pets and birds.

1) Pocket pets are a large category of small, household mammals including (but not limited to) guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, mice/rats, chinchillas, hedgehogs and gerbils. Although we group them together like this, each of these animals has very specific requirements and needs. These animals make wonderful pets and companions and are typically low-maintenance.
 
2) Small pets require unique housing and diets and have very different requirements between species.  For example, guinea pigs are similar to humans and primates, and require vitamin C in their diet on a daily basis.  Improper caging and diets (referred to as husbandry) can often lead to disease over a period of time.  Researching what your pet needs before purchasing it, is important to make sure the proper care is provided.  Your veterinarian can also help you make sure the husbandry you are providing is
appropriate for your new pet.
    
3) Just like our dogs and cats, pocket pets also require routine veterinary care.  Annual visits and exams are an essential part of preventative medicine for these animals.  Many of these species are experts at hiding pain and disease, making regular checkups an important part of their care. For more information and resources about small pet care, visit this website.

New Dogs

Dr. Schoen rounds out our list with his top tips for new puppies. Whether you are a new dog owner, or you haven’t had a puppy in a while, these 5 tips are sure to help make your puppy’s transition into your family a smooth one.

1) You should have your new puppy seen by us within the first 14 days of adoption so that we can answer any of your questions that you may have, to ensure that they are healthy, and to vaccinate them in a timely fashion.

2) Prepare yourself to find a trainer ASAP.  ALL new dogs (and owners) can use professional advice on how to ensure that their pet remains happy, well trained, and anxiety free.  The sooner you start the training process the better the outcome.
 
3) Keep your new pet isolated from other pets in the household until we have seen your newest addition and have ensured that your pet is healthy and free of infections and parasites.

4) Ensure that your puppy is eating an AAFCO accredited (should be seen right on the food bag’s label), nutritionally complete, puppy diet that is formulated for the correctly sized (small, medium, large breed) dog.  Also ensure that you are using a proper measuring cup and following the feeding guidelines outlined on the back of the bag of food.

5) Did you know that you can watch Hill and Harbour’s NBC 10’s PetPro segments right from our website where you can see Dr. Schoen answer some of your most common veterinary questions?  Check out the various topics that he has chatted about and have all your queries answered!

Congratulations on the latest addition to your family!

Thank you for entrusting your new family member to us. We look forward to meeting your new pet and to helping you keep them healthy and happy. Wishing you and your family the very best in 2021.

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