1. Take some time to puppy/kitten proof your home. Puppies and kittens will try to eat just about anything they find in their environment. Make their environment safe by securely storing household chemicals, medications, and other hazardous materials. Most houseplants are toxic, at least to some degree, so keep house plants out of reach as well. Puppies and kittens are not very coordinated, so make sure to block access to stairways if you live in a two story home to prevent trauma from falls. Close off access to any small spaces that they might be able to crawl into and then not get out. Holiday treats such as chocolate can be toxic, so make sure to keep them away from your pets.
2. Feed a high-quality diet appropriate for the age of your new pet. For kittens and puppies under a year of age, that would be a food labeled for “growth” or “puppies” or “kittens.” If your new fur baby is over 1 year of age, then an adult maintenance formulation is preferred. Puppies and kittens should be fed according to the diet recommendations for their weight. With puppies, the total daily recommended amount should be split into three feedings until they are over 6 months of age, then split into two daily feeding after that. Grain-free diets that contain peas or legumes should be avoided, because they have been linked to heart disease in dogs and cats. Raw meat-based diets can carry disease causing bacteria, and puppies and kittens are even more at risk for food borne illness than adult dogs and cats, so don’t feed raw meat or bone diets. Avoid any diet or treats from China, as there have been several recalls of pet foods and treats that have ingredients sourced from China. Cow hooves, pig’s ears, and freeze-dried meat treats have all had problems with salmonella contamination, so they should be avoided as well.
3. Enrich their environment with appropriate toys. For puppies and dogs, these are toys that can’t be ripped up and swallowed, like Kong rubber toys or Nyla bones. Rope toys can be dangerous if the puppy can strip off individual threads and swallow them, which can get caught in the intestines and cut through them. Likewise, string toys for kittens can be dangerous if the kitten tries to eat the string. If you are buying a collar for a kitten or cat, make sure it is a breakaway collar that will come off instead of choking the cat if it gets caught on something.
4. Make an appointment to bring your new fur baby to your veterinarian ASAP. Some veterinary practices (like Ashland Veterinary Hospital) offer free new pet exams to make it easier to start your new family member off right. Your vet can identify any potential health issues if they exist, recommend a vaccination and deworming schedule, and answer any questions you might have about your puppy or kitten’s care. Your veterinarian should be the first place you turn to when you need advice on any aspect of your fur baby’s life, that’s why we are here. Happy New Year!
Dr. Stephen Tesluk is a graduate of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and has owned Ashland Veterinary Hospital since 2005.