Welcoming a new pet home

Meeting the basic needs of cats and dogs helps ensure good behavior, good health, and good quality of life. These needs involve pets’ surroundings and interactions with people and other animals in your home. Providing a familiar, predictable, and comfortable home where a pet has some control over his or her environment and interactions can help reduce stress.

Home environment

Dogs and cats check out their surroundings mostly through their little noses, sniffing all around. When cats rub against surfaces, they’re laying down scent marks. To help promote calmness and feelings of safety and security, consider avoiding cleaning substances that disrupt these scents. Avoid using any ammonia-based products, as the smell may encourage cats to urinate. It may also be useful to try synthetic pheromones (available from many vets), which can help make dogs and cats feel more relaxed.

When first introduced into a new home, cats in particular need to feel safe and secure. During the first few days after you bring a cat home, keep windows fastened and doors closed. You can help a cat adjust to a new space by keeping him or her to one room at first and slowly extending the space he or she has access to. Once the cat appears comfortable, expand his or her environment a little more.

Dogs and cats are naturally curious and may get hurt if left alone in certain places. Open windows and balconies can put them at risk of falls. Medications, vitamins and supplements, and substances that are toxic to animals— including garden chemicals, poisonous plants, and even some human foods like chocolate and chewing gum— should be kept away from pets at all times. Make sure your pets have access to areas with temperature control and ventilation. Dogs in particular are sensitive to heat and while some may love laying by a warm fireplace, it’s important, in any environment, that they have the option to find cooler temperatures when necessary.

Dogs and cats can’t get enough of positive and consistent social interactions. Knowing what your pet likes can help your relationship grow. Signs that dogs are relaxed and approachable include a neutral and relaxed tail, a loose body posture, and a slightly opened mouth . Cats will let you know they’re relaxed and willing to interact by slowly blinking, purring, rubbing against you, approaching and staying nearby, and rolling on their side.

Already have several pets?

Dogs and cats can live happily together as long as you meet their basic needs. Adopting littermates or animals that are already good pals is the best way to ensure pets get along. It’s often easier for an adult animal to accept a new puppy or kitten than another unfamiliar adult. Here are some other ways you can help make a new pet’s homecoming as smooth as possible (and encourage a lasting peace):

  • Introduce your pets slowly, and give them time to become comfortable with each other. If the resident pet feels insecure or under threat or that he or she isn’t in control, it can result in stress and conflict.
  • Have your pets first meet on neutral territory. This could be in a room that the resident pet doesn’t spend time in (more likely in cats) or an outdoor area that is unfamiliar to both (more likely in dogs).
  • Before introducing a new dog to dogs already living in the home, walk them all outdoors, keeping them at a distance of at least twenty feet apart. Revisit areas of the walk so each dog can investigate the other’s scent. If they seem comfortable, slowly start to bring them together so they can interact.
  • Praise good behavior. If they start to show signs of conflict or stress, distract them with a treat or toy.
  • Provide sleeping places and litter trays for each pet throughout the house, to prevent competition.
  • Provide a special place for each dog to have his or her meals without worrying about another hungry dog eating his or her food. Encouraging an easygoing feeding routine can help reduce stress and conflict.
  • Consider using a baby gate to separate dogs, especially when they first eat in each other’s company.

If you play your cards right, your pets could be best friends. Dogs show affection by staying close as well as licking each other’s faces. Cats groom, get close, or rub against each other to show their affection.

Helping your pet feel confident

The first weeks of life are crucial for helping your puppy or kitten become used to their new home. It helps them to relax and enjoy life, cope with challenges, and enjoy the company of other animals (including people).

Adjusting to life as a pet early on can have a big positive impact on a pet’s behavior into adulthood. In dogs, the first twelve weeks after birth are crucial for boosting confidence, though it depends on the dog. In cats, the first seven weeks after birth are important. To prevent stress and to allow plenty of time to play around with their mother and siblings, puppies and kittens should not be separated from them before seven or eight weeks.

It’s important to note that building a pet’s confidence continues well into a pet’s “teenage years.” New owners have a responsibility to keep up the education and encouragement that the breeder started when he or she were first born.

House training

Toilet or house training is essential for puppies and kittens as they grow up. Good training can help keep everyone happy and healthy and prevent pet owners from getting grumpy with their pets!

Puppies

Toilet training puppies can be a complicated and lengthy process, with some breeds and individuals easier to train than others. You have to know what’s required and create a routine. Puppies generally need to go to the bathroom just after waking up from a nap. Puppies have weak bladders and need to pee often (every one to two hours). They may also pee spontaneously when excited. Puppies often need to relieve themselves shortly after a meal (within fifteen to thirty minutes). They don’t like to go to the bathroom near their living area and may get stressed out if they can’t pee far from their beds. Kennel or crate training can help puppies understand the best spaces for living and sleeping. Whenever puppies go to the bathroom the right way, be sure to give them plenty of praise and a tasty treat.

Don’t punish puppies for going inside the house—instead, don’t react at all. Rewarding good behavior and ignoring bad behavior is particularly effective in helping dogs learn the right way to act. Over time, the dog will become so used to good behavior that he or she won’t need treats; instead, a simple command will do the trick. Commands are especially handy when it’s important for a dog to go to the bathroom at a specific time—at a rest stop in the middle of a road trip, for example.

Kittens

Kittens usually need very little toilet training. Just prepare a litter box before bringing a kitten home and show it to him or her, and that should do the trick! When it comes to litter trays, bigger is better. Some cats prefer an enclosed tray, while others prefer the open type. You can tell a cat likes a certain kind of tray if he or she seems relaxed while using it. Still, it’s a good idea to get an open litter tray because it’s easier to tell when it needs to be cleaned. No matter what kind of tray you have, be sure to remove waste at least once a day and add fresh litter as needed. Keep litter trays away from dogs and children, and always wash your hands after cleaning. For cats that go outdoors, set aside a patch of dirt they can use as a kind of outdoor toilet area. This can help prevent them from going to the bathroom in the neighbor’s yard. If you have a kids’ sandbox, be sure to cover it so cats don’t use it as their own personal litter box.