Of all the childhood memories that stay with us, one has to be getting a baby pet. If you've been lucky enough to experience this, you'll remember the softness of a puppy's coat or the excitement of holding a kitten for the first time. As adults, getting a pet can be as much fun – with the added benefit that we get to organise their arrival.
Before the big day
With spring marking the start of the kitten and puppy season, many people choose to bring home a furry friend in the months of April to September. You may know a neighbour whose pet has recently given birth, or may be in touch with a reputable breeder. In any case, while any animal will bring lots of joy into your life, there's nothing like the satisfaction of adopting a pet in need. So our first option would be visiting your local rescue centre.
Once you've chosen who your new kitty or pup will be (or, in many cases, once they've chosen you!), you want to make sure they've spent at least eight weeks with their mother and siblings – this is vital for their development.
In the meantime, you can puppy- and kitten-proof your home. Be sure to hide exposed electrical cords the little ones may be tempted to chew and see if any of your plants may be toxic to pets. Lilies, for example, are extremely poisonous to cats – so your kitten shouldn't be anywhere near them.
Remember having a pet is a big commitment, so discussing tasks with the family is a good start. Who will walk the dog? Who will be in charge of feeding and grooming? Having a routine that's consistent will also help your pet adapt to their new life.
In terms of pet essentials, these are some of the items you may need:
- A carrier for trips and visits to the vet
- Food for puppies or kittens
- Water and food bowls
- A collar and lead (for dogs)
- A litter tray and litter (for cats)
- A scratching post (for cats)
Some people also find pheromone calming products useful when welcoming a new pet into their family. The soothing pheromones of Adaptil or Feliway replicate the scent from the animal's mother, helping to create reassurance and reduce those stress and anxiety feelings a young pup or kitten may have when going to a new home. We recommend, for example, spraying your carrier and car with a calming spray 15 minutes before using them, or plugging in a diffuser at home one week prior to your pet's arrival.
★ Top tip: When you first go to meet your future fur baby, leave a blanket or old t-shirt with them to use as bedding. Animals rely heavily on their sense of smell and being able to take that piece of clothing with them when you finally collect them will make them feel more at ease.
First day in your home
The day is finally here! As you arrive home, consider your little feline or canine friend may be a bit unsettled after the trip. If you're bringing home a kitten, we suggest picking a quiet room in the house where they can stay for a couple of days before they explore other rooms.
Resist the temptation to hold and cuddle your pet at first: at this early stage, it's best to let them approach you. As they familiarise with their surroundings, they'll be ready to meet other members of the family (including fellow pets).
★ Top tip: Use play as a way to break the ice. Not only is this a great bonding activity, but it will feel less intrusive, too.
After a few days
A few days in, your pet should start feeling more comfortable. They may start coming out of their shell, become more playful and begin to respond when you call out their name. Don't worry if this isn't the case, though. Some pets are shyer and may need longer to adapt.
Keep an eye on their eating and bathroom habits. It's important your pup or kitty eats regularly and that their poo is 'clean'. By this we mean free of blood or parasites.
Be gentle and understanding with your furry friend. Their instinct will be to chew, scratch and get into all kinds of mischief. But over time, they'll learn to use their litter tray and toys instead of your carpet and shoes.
Don't be disheartened if other pets still act a little hostile towards their new brother or sister. It can take weeks for animals to befriend or even tolerate one another. Make sure they have separate beds and bowls, as this will prevent further discord.
Some days in, take your new friend to the vet. They'll do a general health check and look for fleas, ticks or anything unusual. This is also an ideal time to discuss vaccinations, microchipping, neutering and, potentially, pet insurance. But don't worry – you won't need to deal with all of this at once!
★ Top tip: If your cat has access to a garden or outdoor area, make sure they're only allowed outside when they've totally adjusted to their new home. This can take several weeks. In general, pets should refrain from going outdoors until after vaccination and, especially for cats, only after spaying/neutering.