Congratulations on your new pet! No matter the type or the breed, your new family member will require a lot of attention. Even if you have an older pet, they will need to connect with all of your family members, become a responsible member of the household, and be happy in their space.

Privacy is Key

No matter the age of your new pet, everyone needs a break now and then. Make sure that your new pet has their own space. If you have a new puppy that you are picking up from their birthplace and taking from their litter, take an old tee shirt with you. Make sure you can get close to mama dog and her other pups. If allowed and she’s willing, pet her with that old tee shirt until it’s coated in her scent. Wear the tee shirt home, holding the puppy or their crate. They will adjust to you more quickly if they recognize you as family.

Making Introductions

If you have pets in the house already, introducing a new pet can be a challenge. Cats are particularly prone to mistrusting outsiders. In addition, if you bring your new cat home via automobile, they will likely be completely freaked out, as most cats don’t like the car. Try having a friend bring the new cat into the home, and ignore the new cat while the old cats work out their feelings. If you have an alpha cat already, do your best to get the alpha cat to at least tolerate the new kitty; the others will follow.

Explaining the Rules

Every pet needs to understand that there are places for sleeping, bowls for eating and drinking, and places for going to the bathroom. For young pets, make sure that you take them to the same spot outdoors to do their business, or provide a young cat access to a new litter box. Kitties who avoid using another cat’s litter box can get a nasty infection and come to fear the litter box altogether, because going to the bathroom hurts! Regardless of how you start the bathroom process, make sure to have a party when your new pet has success. Treats, praise and a positive tone of voice are all a great investment in learning the specifics on housebreaking.

Going to the Doctor

Before you pick your pet, take the stress of yourself by finding a source of affordable pet insurance. Carefully study the prices of regular meds, like flea treatments and heartworm pills. Even if spaying and neutering are covered, pets can be expensive. Also, work some fun into the process. If you only take your dog in the car to go to the vet, you will teach him to associate “car” with “neuter”, which won’t make him excited to get in the car the next time. Take your dog to the dog park. Go out for a drive and bring special treats, such as bits of cooked bacon or tiny chunks of hot dog, with you to make time in the car a fun treat. Cats and other pets may never like traveling in the car. Should your cat fight getting into the carrier, place the carrier on the floor with the door end up. Wrap your cat in a towel and lower them into the carrier, then close the door and slowly lower the bottom of the carrier to the floor so you can carry it. Carry it as gently as if it were a baby carrier; there are many pets who hate getting bounced around.

Specialty Pets

If you’re dying for an iguana or a cockatiel, study up! Make sure you know what they need. If your iguana needs a hot lamp to keep them warm, make sure you have all of that gear set up before you collect him. Birds often need special seed, and may require a specific temperature or amount of daylight. Finally, study your new pet and learn the signs of illness. A sick bird can become terribly sick in a very short time, so have the contact info of a recommended vet at hand at the first sign of illness.

Pets are a part of the family, but if you don’t show them the rules, they won’t be successful. Be patient and celebrate the wins. Accept that there will be messes, aggression, and scratched furniture. Life can be both messy and beautiful!

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