Summer of Fur
Spring is mating season for pets, and unfortunately many pets, both parents and their homeless babies, end up in animal shelters and rescues across the country. Whether it's a feral cat whose kittens alerted the local animal control services or simply a family that got overwhelmed by a litter of squealing puppies, this time of year sees more pets needing homes than any other.
If you’re ready to take home a furry new friend this summer, there are 10 things you should do to help prepare yourself, your family and your home to make good on the promise your heart already decided you were going to make.
Photo Credit: phoebebattye
Do Your Homework
You know if you’re a dog lover, cat lover or even a rabbit lover. But do you understand the type of care your chosen pet will need?
You need to do your homework and make sure you’re choosing a pet that fits with your family’s lifestyle. If you’re a single professional who is gone long hours, a dog may not be right for you. A cat is a better fit to stay home alone for longer periods of time.
If you’re an active person with a yard, you can choose a larger dog that needs exercise. Not so active? A smaller dog that doesn’t require as much activity might be the right choice.
You have to make sure you are committed and financially capable of taking care of a pet, too. Cats can live up to 20 years, while small breed dogs can live 15-17 years. Average annual veterinary expenses run from $350-$2,800 per year, per pet.
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Choose a Shelter or Rescue
Each year, millions of pets are abandoned in shelters and rescues and unfortunately some do not find their forever home before they are killed. Choosing a recycled pet could save a life and will bring you years of joy - ask anyone who has ever adopted a dog.
Choose a reputable shelter or rescue group and ask all the questions: Will the pet be spayed or neutered? Will it have all of its shots? Microchipped? Was the dog tested for heartworms or was the cat tested for Feline Leukemia? Spend time with the pet at the shelter/rescue to make sure it is right for you and your family.
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Before you bring your new family member home, you should get all the supplies you will need. According to the Humane Society, you should purchase high-quality food (not containing meal or byproducts at least as the first ingredients), a collar, leash, food and water bowls, toys and an identification tag for your new dog or cat. For cats, you should also have a litter box, cat litter and a scratching post.
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Your new pet will also need a carrier or in the case of dogs, at least a pet seatbelt harness for the ride home. Pets should never be allowed to roam free in vehicles. If you plan on crating your dog at home, this could be the same crate you plan to use there. But you must make sure your pet has enough room to stand up and turn around.
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Introducing New Pets to Existing Furry Family
Introducing your new furry friend to the one you already have can be tricky. For dog parents getting new dogs, trainers recommend that the dogs first meet on “neutral” territory. If it can be arranged outside of the shelter or at a dog park, those are good. Once home, take it slow. Your new dog should be confined in an area not dominated by the existing dog. Allow them to sniff each other through a baby gate or under the door for at least a couple of days. Introduce them again slowly outside of the house first.
New dogs and cats should also be introduced to existing cats slowly. If you’ve chosen a dog, it should be predetermined to be cat-friendly by your shelter or rescue. Let your new dog sniff the cat through the door. Introduce them slowly to one another inside the house, but don’t force the cat to hang around. It is typically the cat that will decide when it’s a good time to make friends. Existing cats may be more territorial to new cats. Make sure each cat has his or her own litter box.
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Bringing Home the New Cat
According to the Humane Society, your new kitty kid should be contained in one room for a few days. It should be a quiet space with his food, litter, toys, scratching post and plenty of visits and love from you and the family. If the cat is always hiding under a bed or in a closet, don’t force him out, but rather talk to him and give him some treats. In the first few days, you can slowly let him access to the rest of the house and other pets. Make sure he always knows, though, where his litter box is.
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Bringing Home the New Dog
Unless there is an existing pet in the home, new dogs don’t necessarily need to be confined. Try to bring your new dog home when you have a few days off and can spend time together. If you’re not allowing your new canine kid on the furniture, place a cozy dog bed in each room where you’re spending time together. Don’t allow unattended access to rooms until you’re sure your new pup is potty trained. Be patient, this is a new life for both of you, even dogs that are considered housetrained by rescues and shelters sometimes have accidents in the first few days in a new and strange place.
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Establish Rules and Routines
These first few days and weeks are the time to establish the rules and routines for your new pet. Get into the habit of feeding, exercising and playing with your pet at the same time. It’s amazing how soon your pet will adapt to the routine. If you don’t allow them on the furniture, don’t allow them to establish this pattern during the “honeymoon” phase. The habits they establish now will last a lifetime. If you have a dog, professional training by a positive reinforcement-training advocate is recommended, especially if you are a first-time owner.
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Your pet may have come with a veterinary record, but once your new family member is established in the home, it’s important to find a vet you and your pet are both comfortable with (most pets are not comfortable with any, but you’ll be able to tell by their bedside manner if a doctor is right for your pet) and have them re-examined. It is best to get to know a vet before an emergency arises. If your pet wasn’t spayed or neutered or didn’t have heartworm or feline leukemia tests, it should be done immediately.
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Be Loving, Be Patient
“Finally, be reasonable in your expectations. Life with you is a different experience for your new companion, so give him time to adjust,” advises the Humane Society. Imagine if your life was suddenly changed completely from your family to your surroundings. Rescued animals, although not abused or physically injured may have also experienced some trauma. Give them extra love and extra time to adjust. The rewards in the coming years will be priceless.
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