Congrats on Adopting Your Puppy or Kitten!
Now, Welcome to the Wonder Year
By Arden Moore – The Pet Health and Safety Coach™
Like many of you during this pandemic, I celebrate unexpected mini-victories. Since it began, I’ve driven less. Which has made the value of my 2018 Toyota Rav 4 feel more like a 2019 model. My cooking skills have been upped, saving me lots of money due to closed restaurant dining rooms. I have also saved hundreds of hours of time not being inside airports or on airplanes. Instead I have made only one short getaway by car to a nearby pet-friendly campground. Another victory is this quarantine time has created a pet adoption boom. That one tops my list! It means dogs, cats and other companion animals unleashing joy, laughter and love on the kids being homeschooled and people who have been stuck working from home.
ENTERING THE CHALLENGING WONDER YEAR
If you adopted a puppy or a kitten, welcome to the Wonder Year, as in you wonder where your sanity and uninterrupted sleep has gone. Be patient. Your four-legger will grow into a wonderful and loyal furry companion. I know firsthand. I adopted a kitten and a puppy in early 2020 – within six weeks of one another. Neither were planned. First to arrive was Rusty, a then six-month-old orange tabby I adopted in late January. Then came Emma, a sick pup found wandering in our neighborhood in mid-March with no collar or microchip identification.
The addition of these two to our furry Brady bunch has been a tale of two temperaments. The ever-curious, always-searching-for-food Rusty rarely had an off button. He loves flying through hoops, coming to a whistle for treats, walking on a leash and pestering playtime from all of us, including mellow, 90-pound Bujeau, my Bernese Mountain Dog mix.
Meanwhile, little Emma spent much of her puppy year fighting for her life. She tested sky high for heartworms. We worked closely with Dr. Deb Charles at the Casa Linda Animal Clinic to slowly and steadily rid Emma of these menacing parasites with a series of medications. And, to prevent further heartworm damage, we also had to limit Emma’s physical activity. On walks with our dogs, Kona and Bujeau, we put Emma in a sling pouch or pet stroller. She is now heartworm-free, on regular heartworm preventives and loves playing and taking long walks.
GET YOUR KITTEN AND PUP OFF ON THE RIGHT PAW
The first year spent with a kitten or puppy can be fun, fascinating – and frustrating. Keep in mind, they aren’t born with instant manners or come with training manuals. Most spend waking hours chewing, climbing, pouncing as they vigorously explore their environments and test their abilities. Many puppies and kittens double in size and sport adult teeth within five to six months of age.
As your furry youngsters grow, here are some helpful health, nutrition and play tips:
- Do a room-by-room safety inspection. Make sure to pet-proof your home before your pup or kitten arrives. Remove any dangerous small objects that can be swallowed like sewing needles and thread, jigsaw puzzle pieces and dental floss. Keep medicines in cabinets – not on counter tops – and block access to curtain cords or electrical cords.
- Do not engage in any hand play. Puppies and kittens need to learn at an early age that hands are not toys. Playful hand wrestling can unintentionally teach them to bite or attack hands and other body parts in play. Instead, redirect their high-energy play with wand toys for kittens and tennis balls tossed or rolled for puppies to chase and catch.
- Set up your new pet for potty success. Newly adopted kittens fare best with small litter boxes with low sides to help them access. Young pups have tiny bladders, so establish a routine in which your pup is ushered outside to potty as soon as he wakes up, after meals, after playtime and before bed. Praise and treat when he potties outside and never punish your pup for any indoor accidents. He is still learning proper bathroom habits.
- Start training on day one. Don’t delay. Puppies and kittens grow up fast and you don’t want bad habits to become permanent ones. Be consistent by using the same voice commands and hand gestures so you cause confusion. For example, always say, “touch paws” as you raise your open hand for your young pet to touch with a front paw. Check into kitten kindergarten and puppy classes available in your area that are following CDC health guidelines. And don’t forget the treats to reward the behavior you want to promote.
- Perform friendly head-to-tail checkups regularly. Get your kitten and puppy used to having his paws touched, ears handled, mouth opened, nails clipped and coat brushed gradually and always in a setting with no distractions and plenty of treats. I do these inspections on Emma and Rusty weekly and my veterinarian says both are easy-to-examine patients.
- Make crates, car trips and veterinary clinics welcoming. As a Fear Free Pet Certified Professional, I advocate ways to reduce FAS (fear, anxiety and stress) in pets. And start early. Take the front door off the crate, position it in a favorite area of your home for your new pet, add some comfy bedding inside and toss treats in – or even better – feed your new pet inside the opened crate. Take short car trips at first with your young pet in a crate or safely secured in the backseat with a pet travel harness and treat before, during and after the quick jaunt. Provide treats and towels for your new pet to sit on the exam table to make veterinary visits something to look forward to.
- Don’t delay at-home dental care. By age three, between 70-80% of cats and dogs show some sign of dental disease. Beat the odds by booking annual wellness veterinary exams and by cleaning teeth and gums with effective, brushless dental water additives, sprays and gels, such as the veterinarian-approved products by Pet King Brands. If you enter the special code, arden10, at checkout, you will receive 10% off.
I am proof that you can get through the Wonder Year safely and sanely. Emma and Rusty continue to make me smile and keep me wanting to be a better hoo-man. I do relish those times when they nap and they usually like to nap together.
Arden Moore wears many collars in the pet world. She is a best-selling author, master certified pet first aid/CPR instructor, pet behavior consultant, host of the Oh Behave Show on Pet Life Radio and happy pet parent to a Furry Brady Bunch in Dallas. Learn more at www.ardenmoore.com.