Christmas Puppies and Kittens - Start the First Days off Right
Christmas is a time for gift giving and receiving. Personally, I would rather see people give or receive a pet at a less stressful time of year, but people still get pets at Christmas. If you are set on getting a pet at Christmas, please do not make this a total surprise to the receiver. If you do add a pet to your home, please be sure to follow this information to make this addition a good experience.
The first stop should be to a veterinarian who offers fun puppy and kitten exams. I stress the fun because this pup or kitten needs to have some treats and good experiences at the clinic to learn to like the veterinarian. Seek a clinic that offers low stress/pet friendly handling for this important first visit. Vaccinations can wait a week or so, but if fleas or worms are present those need to be treated. Most clinics will give away a puppy/kitten care kit which will have a lot of training and good health information to help you get off to a good start. When you get home - read the information! So many clients get this free resource and make little use of it - I love it when people actually read the information in the kit and use it.
For puppies get a crate and start using it the first day. Puppies have to learn to like the crate, so toss treats and feed the puppy in the crate. We have articles and videos on crate training on our clinic website to help you with crate training. Always make it a happy place for them. If your puppy is stressed in the crate, use the mother dog pheromone spray Adaptil/Comfort zone. Spraying a small amount in the crate or on a bandana before crating helps the puppy to settle. The spray can be used for car trips, on a bandana to wear when people come over as well. Our puppy kits include a coupon for Adaptil and I find it helps a lot of puppies adjust to the new home. Have the puppy sleep in the crate and never use it for punishment. If you use it for banishment, the dog learns to be afraid in it and that leads to crate anxiety.
For kittens, get a low sided box; a disposable lasagna pan with only one inch of litter in it works well. It has to be easy for the kitten to get in and out of so they can use it. Clean the box daily!!! For kittens, going to the bathroom is a marking behavior, so if it is dirty they will want to go elsewhere. The plain clay or activated charcoal litter is what most kittens like. Confining the kitten with the box at night helps them use it regularly.
Proper play is important for exercise, socialization and learning good manners for both dogs and cats. For puppies, have a ball, a tug rope and stuffed toy to choose from. Toss the toys around and get the puppy to play at least 15 minutes per day. If the puppy starts to nip or bite stop all play. For kittens, get a small ball, feather on a stick, and stuffed toy for the kitten to attack. Do not allow the kitten to grab or bite onto your arm. If they do, stop play and when they let go toss the toy away from you to have them direct play away. For adult pets, play is also important. Follow the same guidelines to start off a great relationship.
Take your new puppy or kitten out for car rides that are to fun places like the pet store. When people come over to your home, have them toss treats to your pet to have the pet learn people are good. This is socialization and is very important especially for our dogs. Don't let the harsh weather hold you back too much. Even a short trip in the car is good for them.
If you are adding a new friend to your home, there are some special rules for you to introduce and set up the home for pet harmony. It can get pretty detailed and I have articles at my website, but to make it simple - dogs and cats do not like to share. So every pet has it's own bed,food bowls, toys and do not allow them to swap or bug each other around these items. Feed pets in completely separate areas and remove the food bowls. Greet, feed and play with the established pet first and make time equal between both pets. These are some of the most essential rules to keep harmony with adding a dog or cat.
- written by Dr. Sally J. Foote