I have vivid memories as an eight year old going to chose my new kitten. Selecting her from the litter was easy as she was the most playful, social, black and white bundle of fluff. I named her Panda on the spot and she snuggled under my shirt on the ride home. I was to be her new carer, provider and protector and from that day we shared a special bond. Everyday after school I would sprint home from the bus stop in anticipation of seeing my new little friend.
Caring for Panda gave me good company, a degree of responsibility, and believe it or not taught me a thing or two about patience and respect. Being assigned jobs was part and parcel of owning a pet, including feeding, providing water, and litter box cleaning.
Taking a kitten or puppy away from it’s mother and siblings though can be a traumatic experience and it can take up to two weeks for them to get used to their new surroundings. Experts say that if they are taken away too early, they may miss out on important behavioural and emotional development stages. So it’s recommended that a puppy can be adopted between 7-9 weeks of age, and a kitten between 8-12 weeks.
If you’re planning on getting a new puppy or kitten, here are a few important points to consider:
When you get your kitten or puppy home
- To help transition your pet, for the first couple of days keep everything calm and quiet, with not too many people around. They need plenty of rest so always allow your kitten or puppy to sleep uninterrupted. Don’t worry if your pet is timid or hides for a few days. This is quite normal behaviour.
- A good idea is to keep your pet in a confined, well ventilated area during this transitioning period, with water, food, scratching/climbing structures (for cats), safe toys, litter, and a comfy bed, box, basket or crate (for puppies). Remove dangerous wires, curtain cords, or items your pet can chew or get tangled in. Remove breakable or scratchable items. This safe refuge will help them feel comfortable in one part of your home.
- As tempting as it is, avoid overhandling, and put a strict limit on playtime with children to reduce the risk of unnecessary stress on your new pet. It’s important that very young children are supervised when giving cuddles as they may liken their new adorable pet to squeezing their fluffy teddy.
What to feed a new kitten or puppy
- Continue to feed your pet the same food they were eating before you brought them home. A sudden change of diet combined with the stress of adapting to a new home can cause stomach upsets and diarrhoea. Kittens have small stomachs and have to be fed little and often, like babies. There are foods which have been specially formulated for puppies and kittens because they have different nutritional needs to their fully grown counterparts. Read and follow the feeding instructions carefully. Fresh drinking water should be available at all times.
Health check-up for a new kitten or puppy
- If it hasn't already had one, a new puppy or kitten will need a health check-up shortly after arrival. This will give the vet an opportunity to give any vaccinations necessary and advise on flea treatment, worming, neutering, microchip identification and other general care.
Toilet training your new kitten or puppy
- With regards to toileting, being confined to one space (easy-to-clean flooring is recommended) helps with toilet training and avoids the risk of ‘accidents’ elsewhere in the house. There are also some very effective, natural pet potty training aids and 'accident' clean-up products available to help you through this stage.
- Puppies have limited bladder control, so need a toilet break after eating, drinking, sleeping or playing. Take them to the toilet last thing at night and first thing in the morning and regularly throughout the day, using their lead to take them outside in the garden. Cats are very fussy about their toilet habits, and kittens will usually have learnt to use a litter tray by copying their mother in their early days. It’s important to keep the litter tray about 1.5m away from their food and water bowls.
- From day one, it’s important to set the routines that you intend to establish for the future. Don’t fall into the trap of letting your adorable new pet sleep close to you at night, particularly when they first arrive, because this can set an undesirable precedent for nocturnal games and excitement and no sleep for you!
For more information on caring for a new puppy or kitten check out https://www.rnzspca.org.nz/help-advice/animal-care