Ready for a Furry New Friend?
We’re here to help you on this adventure! This guide is packed with important information to help you and your new furry friend arrive at a happy and healthy destination—together.
What to consider
One of the most important considerations for pet ownership is acknowledging the lifelong commitment it entails. Dogs live 10 to 15 years and cats can live up to 20 years. As your life changes, your pet deserves to always be a part of it.
If you are ready for this commitment:
- Take things slowly.
- Looking for a pet is a lot like dating. You may fall in love right away or you may need to kiss a lot of muzzles before finding the right one.
- Don’t fall in love with an online photo. Make sure you can spend some time with your potential new friend and ask lots of questions.
- Be sure you understand what’s included in the adoption price (spaying/neutering, vaccinations, parasite prevention, etc.), as well as the return policy.
How to choose a new pet
Most shelters and rescues will tell you everything they know about the animals in their care, though keep in mind their behavior in your home may be different from how they act at the shelter. Your lifestyle, and how you want your new friend to fit in, are important considerations.
Just like people, each dog is an individual. Any dog is capable of being friendly and social, or fearful or aggressive. Any animal with teeth may bite. Whichever dog you pick, get to know his or her specific personality and traits. Respect your pup as an individual, and you’ll have a best friend for life.
When choosing a dog, consider:
- Age: Puppies are babies, which means as cute as they are, they are a lot of work. Older dogs tend to be calmer and may even know basic commands like “sit” or be house trained.
- Personality. A dog with a calm, gentle temperament can be a great companion, but rowdy dogs can be a lot of fun if you are willing to work with them.
- Size. While dogs of all sizes make good family pets, a large, rambunctious dog may inadvertently knock toddlers and small children down. Mid-sized sporting or herding breeds can make playful buddies for kids of all ages, and while toy and other small breeds often like to cuddle, they are easily injured if dropped or handled roughly by small children.
- Energy level. It’s important to be realistic about your own activity level. Some dogs need lots of exercise, and if they don’t get it, excess energy can lead to behavior problems.
If you are a “cat person,” adoption is a wonderful option because so many lovely cats end up in shelters through no fault of their own. And if you were hoping for a kitten, every spring through summer is “kitten season,” when shelters are overwhelmed by litters from unaltered cats.
When choosing a cat, consider:
- Age. Kittens are still babies and need plenty of affection and attention. They are also extremely playful and energetic! Because they are tiny and fragile, they are prone to injury from grabby little hands or impatient older animals.
- Independence. If you are away from home a lot, an older, independent cat may be a good choice.
- Vocal. Like people, some cats are just plain chattier than others. Siamese and similar breeds will probably be loud and vocal.
How to Prepare
First, make a plan. Where will your new friend sleep? Eat? Stay when you aren’t home? It helps a lot to think ahead so you’ll have all your supplies before you take your new friend home.
- A soft collar with a name tag that has his name and your phone number.
- A leash long enough for your dog to have some space when walking with you, but no retractable leashes—they are just not safe, for dogs or humans.
- Bowls for food and water.
- Soft toys and chew toys like Kongs that you can stuff with canned food and freeze for long-lasting entertainment.
- Dog crates, X-pens and baby gates are all great for creating a safe place that will keep your pup where you want him.
- Litter box, scoop and litter
- Bowls for food and water
- A soft bed
- A collar
- Toys, toys, toys
Dog and cat food
We can suggest the best options for your new friend depending on species, age, current health, etc. Just give us a call at (480) 893-8423.
Pheromones are odorless and colorless chemical signals that send a comforting message to pets. While there are several on the market, best known are Adaptil, for dogs, and Feliway, for cats. They can be sprayed in a car or kennel, or you can use a diffuser to keep the pheromones present in your new pet’s room, easing the adjustment to a new home.
How to prepare your home
Whether you adopted a dog or cat, young or old, look at your home through their eyes. Try getting on your hands and knees for a new perspective and move anything you don’t want them to get into. Cover or move loose wires, make sure trash cans have sturdy covers, and depending on the size of your home, close doors or section off places you want to keep them out of.
For cats or kittens, set up a small room (like a bathroom), with a cat box and litter, a nice bed, toys and food and water. The small room acts like a kennel, keeping your furry friend safe as she settles in, then gradually introduce her to the rest of the house.
For dogs, if you have a fenced yard, check for holes and low spots that they might wiggle through. It’s a good idea to go out in the yard with your new dog to make sure he doesn’t find a hole you missed or jumps on outdoor furniture to jump into the neighbor’s yard. Consider crate training or use baby gates to section off places where he is allowed to go.
What to do if you have children
Remember, safety first. Any dog or cat will bite if provoked. Children are fast-moving, loud and unaware of an animal’s body language. They are tempted to hug and kiss dogs and cats or disturb a sleeping animal, which can lead to bites and scratches. Unfortunately, social media is full of photos and videos depicting children in unsafe situations with pets because parents think it looks “cute.”
Learn and teach children about animal body language. And never leave young children unsupervised with any pet no matter how well you think you know the animal. For more information about kids and pets, here’s a good resource.
SUB: What should you do in the first day
When heading home, make sure your new dog is on a secure leash or your cat is safely in a carrier, and go home and chill.
Your new friend has been through a lot (perhaps losing a family or living in a stressful shelter) and will need time to decompress, just like you do when you travel and have jet lag. Most new pets take about three days to shake off that “where am I now?” feeling.
Your new friend may sleep a lot or not feel like eating, so be patient. It also takes time to get to know you and your house rules, and for you to get to know your new friend. Slow introductions and lots of patience will help them settle in.
When you first get home with a new dog, take a few minutes to walk your leashed dog on your lawn or property. Show him where you want him to go potty, and when he does, tell him what a good dog he is. If you go right into your house, he may have an accident. Plus, a short, encouraging walk will help him settle after a car ride, or if he is scared or nervous.
Don’t let kids crowd him, don’t take him to meet new people. Talk to him softly, show him where his bed is, give him a few of his new toys. Take plenty of short walks until you learn what his signal to go out is.
Take your new cat into the room you prepared, close the door and then open the crate or carrier door. Your cat will come out when she is ready; don’t reach in to get her. You can hang out in the room with her, maybe talking softly to her, or leave the room and check on her later. No pressure.
What should you do in the first week
Gradually make your pet’s world larger. For cats, allow them into other rooms in your home. If you plan to let your cat go outside, wait until she has bonded with you and knows where her home is. Never allow kittens outside. They are too young to be able to find their way home.
Depending on your dog’s exercise needs, help him get to know his new neighborhood by walking around the block and increasing distance in concentric circles. Avoid dog parks until he knows his name and will reliably come when you call. Also be sure he is up to date on vaccines, including Bordetella, before meeting other dogs.
If you’ve changed your pet’s name, start using it and reward with treats if they respond. Dogs love routines, so get into one that works for you both, like a short walk, breakfast, longer walk, nap, etc. Gradually introduce people from outside your home and watch body language for cues on whether he is stressed.
What should you do in the first month
You can start your new pet off on the right paw with a preventative care and regular wellness visit in your first 30 days together.
Here are the basics:
- Vaccinations with boosters are especially important for young puppies and kittens as they do not have full immunity from many serious infectious diseases. For example, the parvo virus in dogs and panleukopenia in cats are both deadly gastrointestinal diseases. It’s critical to ensure your puppy or kitten has completed the entire series of combo vaccinations to keep him or her protected.
- A wellness visit is important because this exam helps us detect any possible health problems early. Common, treatable problems can be found before they are noticed by their owners.
- A microchip provides secure, reliable and permanent identification, which greatly increases the likelihood that your pet, if lost, will be returned home to you.
- Fleas, ticks and heartworm-carrying mosquitoes are out in full force year-round. We can help you choose the best parasite preventions for your pet.
The first month is also a good time to start training your dog, because a dog with manners is makes life easier for you both. Look for a class or trainer who used positive reinforcement as a training approach. A calm voice and treats for good behavior beat yelling and punishment for all mammals.
When should I get my new pet spayed/neutered?
Spaying or neuteringyour pet has health benefits, in addition to helping with pet overpopulation. Spaying your female puppy or kitten before her first heat offers the best protection from uterine infections and breast tumors.
Most female cats will go into heat by 6 months of age, so it’s a good idea to spay them at around 5 months. Female dogs also reach puberty at about 6 months of age, but this can vary by breed. Smaller breeds tend to go into heat at an earlier age, while large and giant breeds may not come into heat for the first time until they reach 18 months to 2 years of age.
Neutering yourmale pet at approximately 6 months helps prevent testicular cancer and certain prostate problems.
After the first month
Most pets take about three weeks to get settled into a new routine with new people. It takes closer to three months before they feel truly comfortable and really bond with their new family. Be patient and give them plenty of time to become a member of the family. It will be worth the wait.
We’re Here to Help
We want to help set you and your new furry family member up for a lifetime of success and happiness! Bringing a new pet home is a joyful occasion but can come with a few challenges.
Here are some useful tips from the ASPCA to make your new pet’s homecoming as easy as possible.