Welcoming a dog or cat into your life can complete your home and warm your heart for years to come.
But as well as being a super rewarding, it can also be challenging, especially if you’re getting to grips with having a baby animal in your house for the very first time
Although 87% of 2,000 UK puppy and kitten owners say welcoming their furry buddy into their home was one of the best decisions they’ve made, they also admit it took more than three months on average to get a handle on things with their pet.
Dr Karen Heskin, vet and head of pets at Pets at Home, tells Metro.co.uk: ‘Despite the sleepless nights, the sharp teeth and sometimes crazy amounts of energy, pets very quickly become a loved member of the family – in fact, almost nine in ten agree that their new puppy or kitten has positively impacted their mental health.
‘With the right support and guidance, new pet owners will be able to manage the more challenging moments and spend more time making happy memories.’
That’s why Dr Karen has offered her advice on how to deal with the things pet owners wish they’d known when they first welcomed a kitten or puppy to their home.
‘I wish we’d known about the nighttime zoomies.’
For the uninitiated, the ‘zoomies’ are when your pets get random bursts of energy and decide to run around the house as if possessed.
‘It’s perfectly normal behaviour every now and again so don’t be alarmed,’ says Dr Karen, ‘just make sure they’re in a safe area where they can’t hurt themselves or break anything.
‘If your pet is having the zoomies every day – or night – then it could be a sign that they are under-stimulated. Try helping them to burn more energy throughout the day by increasing their playtime.’
‘I wish I knew how difficult it would be to keep up with his taste in cat food. It’s only taken three attempts with different brands to find his favourite one.’
Much likes humans, what pleases one kitty might not suit another, so Dr Karen says it’s normal to have to try a few different types of food out on your cat before you find their fave.
‘It’s best to feed both puppies and kittens a “complete” food which have all the nutrients they need to grow and build strong bones and muscles,’ she says.
‘These also come in smaller bite-size pieces which are easier for them to chew and digest.’
‘I wish I knew how sharp my puppy’s teeth were going to be.’
While your puppy might just be playing around, they might not yet understand that their little teeth can do damage.
‘Young puppies can be known to bite and chew from time to time,’ Dr Karen tells us. ‘It’s a key part of their development, as gnawing on different objects helps them learn more about the world around them.
‘It can also often be their way of trying to relieve the pain from teething.
‘There’s plenty of teething products to help with this, including chew, rope and activity toys.’
‘I wish I knew how little sleep I would get in the first three weeks with needing to let my puppy out every night to do his business.’
When it comes to toilet training, Dr Karen says it’s best to get a jump on setting a routine with your pup.
‘It can take several months for your dog to become completely house-trained,’ she explains, ‘but you can help them along the way by getting them into a good routine – take them out to the toilet before bed and first thing in the morning, as well as frequently throughout the day.’
‘I wish I knew a bit more about effective house training. It would’ve saved me from buying puppy pads which were just pulled up off the floor and used as toys.’
While some find puppy pads really helpful, others my well find that they look more like toys to their dogs.
Dr Karen says: ‘If puppy pads aren’t working for you, as we mentioned previously, it’s best to try and get into a routine as soon as possible.
‘A good sign that they’re about to go to the toilet is when they start sniffing around in a circle.
‘If they go to the loo outdoors, give them lots of praise while they’re going and a tasty treat afterwards, followed by 60 seconds of intense play, and they’ll soon associate going to the toilet with getting rewarded.’
‘One thing I wish I knew was how quickly pups get bored of their toys. We’re now 50 toys in and we’ve only had her for three weeks.’
Some pups can quite happily play with the same toys for months or even years, while others might get bored fast.
‘It’s normal for puppies to get bored quite easily given that they are naturally inquisitive and playful,’ says Dr Karen.
‘It’s important to have a range of different toys to keep them stimulated and engaged as they develop.
‘If your pup is getting through toys particularly quickly, it may be worth having two or three sets on rotation, so there’s always something new without the need to be constantly buying new ones.’
‘I wish I’d known how instinctive my kitten’s toileting would be. She’s great at using her litter tray, but the Yucca plant is just as attractive as the toilet.’
To a little kitten, plant pots can feel pretty similar to litter trays.
‘We always recommend removing large potted plants, like Yuccas, from your home as unfortunately these can be appealing toilet areas for kittens,’ cautions Dr Karen.
‘If there is an accident though, it’s important not to tell them off as you may scare them, and they won’t learn when they are afraid.
‘To help with toilet training, the first thing you should do when you bring your kitten home is place them directly in their litter tray as this shows them that this is their area.
‘Make sure you shower kittens with praise and gentle petting once they’ve successfully used the litter tray, and always give them a treat to positively reinforce the behaviour.’
‘I wish I had remembered to remove my curtains… they make an excellent monkey swing for my kitten.’
Kittens need a lot of physical and mental stimulation – making sure they get enough playtime can help keep them out of trouble.
‘Help keep them away from your furniture with exciting toy alternatives,’ recommends Dr Karen.
‘A tall scratching post is great for kittens who want to climb up high, along with toys on strings that they can reach for.
‘Different kittens enjoy different toys, so it’s good to try a few out to help you get to know which engage and stimulate your pet best.’
‘I wish I knew how loud my kitten could be when he wants something’
Dr Karen compares kittens to human babies – both tend to cry when they need something, be it attention, the toilet, or food, and it’ll be your job to try and figure out which it is at any given time.
‘Try and get to the bottom of what’s causing their crying and make sure they’re getting lots of both mental and physical stimulation to keep them occupied,’ says Dr Karen.
‘If you’ve tried feeding and playing with them and still can’t seem to get your pet to stop meowing or crying, it could be a sign of distress, so take them to the vet to make sure there isn’t something more serious wrong.’
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