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7 Things to Remember About Your Pet's First Night at Home

 by simone on 15 Jun 2014 |
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It’s very exciting for everyone, humans and animals alike, on the day your new pet moves in. Whether a puppy, kitten or adult pet is joining your family, there are a number of things to do that will ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible and that your pet can adjust happily to their new home. Be patient with your new pet and remember that it may take time for them to feel comfortable and secure.  

1. First and foremost
When bringing a new pet into a home they will have some stress, confusion, anxiety and fear. They are in a totally different environment and separated from what, and who, they have known before. All pets should be given time to adjust, and space. Despite your best efforts, kittens and puppies will no doubt have toilet accidents in your home. Even house-trained animals may have accidents during this period of adjustment. 

2. The essentials
Ask the breeder, shelter, foster carer or whomever has been responsible for your pet's care to verify whether microchipping and registration, vaccination, flea and tick prevention, worming and desexing has been performed or is needed. This is not just for the health of your new pet, but also for the health of any of your existing pets. 

You should have a collar and identification tag ready with your pets name, your name, phone number and address. You need to have a bed and bedding, toys, food and water bowls, litter trays, litter, scratching post, food and treats ready for your new pet. Ask what food your pet has been eating and continue with this food. If you want to change the food or diet of your pet, this should be done gradually.

Cats and kittens should be set up in a quiet, safe room and confined there for the first few days. A laundry or bathroom (with the toilet seat closed) will work well or ideally, make it the room that will be the cat’s escape/own room. At first, this room should not be shared with an existing cat. Set the room up with food and water bowls, bed, a scratching post, toys and litter tray. Cats will be more sensitive to changing environments so may spend much of the first few days hiding and shying away from you. 

Once the cat has had a chance to settle, close all the windows and doors to outside areas and open the door to the cat’s room to let them explore your house. 

3. Pet proofing your home and garden
Check each room of your home for anything than could harm your pet such as choking hazards, electrical cables, heavy items that may fall or tip, cleaning products, medicines and unsuitable foods. Young animals love to chew, jump, bite, scratch and play so put anything valuable safely away - and that goes for shoes too! Cats in particular are masters of crawling into holes and small spaces. Make sure that any holes in walls or other places where they may get stuck are covered up. 

You’ll also need to check your garden to ensure there are no gaps in the fence or gates, poisonous plants or garden products and that any pools or ponds are fenced off. 

4. Outdoors
Under supervision, give puppies and dogs time to explore the house and garden at their own pace, always using a leash in any unfenced areas. It is not recommended for a cat or kitten be allowed outside of your home for three weeks, unless on a lead. They must be completely familiar with the house before heading out. A cat may wander off or become disoriented. After some supervised or leashed outings, the cat should recognise the garden as their territory and know its way around. If birds and small animals are regular visitors then make sure your cat’s collar includes a bell. Use meal times or treats to encourage the cat to come inside at night.  


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5. Introducing the family
Take introductions slowly and do not overwhelm the new pet. Introduce the human family members first and then any other pets one at a time. Remember, never leave young children alone with the new pet. 

Your new pet needs to know your scent, be comfortable and trust you. This will generally be easy with dogs, puppies and kittens whereas older cats may be wary. Enter the cat’s room, sit on the floor and let them approach you. Allow them to sniff your hand and gently pat their head and under their chin. If they don’t approach you, try later. Introduce the rest of the human family in time. Meal times and treats are good barrier breakers. 

Introducing other pets is a trickier beast (pardon the pun). Introductions should occur one pet at a time and it is important that you make any existing pets know they are loved and have no need to feel threatened by the new arrival. 

For dogs, during the first meeting keep both on leads and at a safe distance. If there is no aggression displayed, allow them to get close enough to smell and greet each other. If there are any problems, separate them and try again later. Use treats to reward good behaviour and reassure both dogs that everything is okay. If needed, continue with short, supervised meetings until the dogs become friends. Introducing a new puppy or dog to a cat is best done at a meal times so that meetings are associated with food and positive experiences. 

With more than one cat, place a pillow or bedding item of each cat in the space of the other to familiarise them with the other’s scent. You can gradually let the cats spend time together.

6. Toilet training
When you first bring a dog home encourage them towards a spot in the garden where you want them to relieve themselves. Reward them once it is done. You’ll need to take puppies outside regularly, for instance after meals, after a nap, before bedtime and after waking. Watch to make sure your dog or puppy doesn't try to urinate in the house. If you notice them lift their leg, take them out to the preferred spot.

If you have a large house, you may want a two litter trays set up for the cat to use during their first 6-8 weeks. As the cat becomes more familiar with the house’s layout, gradually move the second tray closer to the permanent tray, eventually removing the second tray completely. 

7. Sleeping 
Although hard to resist, it is not recommended that you allow pets to sleep in your bed. Cats and kittens should be set-up in their own room for the first weeks and their bed, litter tray, food and water bowls should always remain in that room or whichever will be their escape/own room. 

Place your dog or puppy's bed or crate where they can see and hear you at night time such as in your bedroom or just outside your bedroom with the door open. Make sure they are comfortable and warm and give them a toy to chew on. Having them close also allows you to easily take them outside if they need to relieve themselves. 

Puppies will feel particularly isolated and will bark and whine to be near you. Verbally reassure your puppy or dog if they are whining or barking but do not give them much attention as this will encourage them to continue. As they settle into the home and family, you can move their bed further away to their permanent sleeping spot. 

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