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08.21.09

Adding a (Four-legged) Member to the Family

Babies are wonderful additions to a family that can bring great happiness, but also require special attention. This, of course, applies to puppies and kittens as well. Before bringing these furry bundles of joy home, there are a few things you should know and preparations you need to make for them.

"The first thing to consider is if there is already another pet in the house," explains Dr. Mark Stickney, Director of General Surgery Services at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. "If there is a pet there already you will need to be prepared for dominance issues as the old pet will think it is the king of the house."

Because of these dominance issues, it is best to introduce your new puppy to your current dog on equal ground outside the home if possible.

"This way the dogs can sniff each other out and get to know each other in an area where neither dog feels ownership," notes Stickney.

When you initially bring the puppy home, try to do so when the older dog is out of the house and let the puppy explore for a while. Then you should confine the puppy to one room and let the old dog back in to sniff around and figure out that the puppy is there.

"This process should really help get the dogs used to each other and in most cases is really fairly quick and easy," states Stickney. "However, the process for acclimating cats to new kittens is slightly different as cats tend to have more problems adjusting to a new roommate."

With kittens you want to put them into their own room with food, water and a litter box. Let the old cat and the kitten sniff each other through the door and over a couple of days to a week let them into more and more areas of the house, making sure to supervise their first face-to-face visit.

"Unfortunately cats can be mean to a new cat for up to a year so you will need to be prepared for a long duration of family strife," warns Stickney. "If you are having a lot of trouble with your kitties getting along you can pick up a cat pheromone such as Feliway at the pet store. It resembles the pheromone they secrete when they are happy and should help to calm them."

Weather you have another pet or not there are some things you will need to prepare for any new pet coming into the house. Water and food bowls, food, a collar, and a bed would be a good start.

"If you already have a pet it is important for your new pet to have its own separate food bowl and bed," states Stickney. "You should also feed them in separate areas so they don't compete for food."

One additional thing you should have if you are getting a puppy is a kennel. It can aide in potty training and also give them a safe place to go.

"Just make sure you do not use the kennel for punishment reasons or they will no longer feel safe in it," explains Stickney.

Cats like to climb and scratch so if you are bringing home a kitty it would be a good idea for your sanity and the fate of your furniture to have a scratching post and/or a cat tower. You will also need a litter box and litter.

Once you bring your new puppy home the first thing you should do is schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.

"The most important thing you can do for your new friend is to make sure they are healthy," notes Stickney. "As soon as possible take them to get a check-up, any vaccinations they need and have them put on a heartworm preventative and flea control."

Even once you have taken care of all their needs there is probably still going to be a period of adjustment. New puppies and kittens are babies and can get scared and cry during the night or when you are not with them.

"If your new pet is crying at night I would suggest giving them something that smells like you, such as the shirt you wore that day," suggest Stickney. "Ticking clocks and the stuffed bears that are made for infants that stimulate a heartbeat are also very effective in calming dogs and cats."

Although it might be a process getting ready for a new pet, the rewards almost always outweigh the negatives. If you start out right by making sure they are healthy and happy they very well might do the same for you.

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