Did you know that animal shelters see the highest number of owner surrenders in the first few weeks and months following Christmas? While a new puppy or kitten may seem like the ultimate gift, a new pet is a huge responsibility and long-term commitment that many unsuspecting families might not be ready for. Here are some things to consider before adding a new member to your family:
The initial cost of a new puppy or kitten can vary greatly depending on if it was gift from a friend, adopted from a rescue group or purchased from a breeder. However, no matter how you got your new addition, they all require veterinary care and basic supplies. Similar to having a new baby, puppies and kittens need more frequent doctor visits in their early months and years to ensure they are getting the needed medical care.
Some of the costs required to keep your new pet healthy and happy include vaccines, monthly prevention, pet food, litter supplies, bedding, leash/ collar, and toys. Pets can be a rewarding addition to a family but there is a financial responsibility that comes with all the wonderful tail wags and purrs.
"When my husband and I decided to get a Dachshund puppy we knew and understood that back issues are common to the breed. We decided to set aside a savings account for our new puppy. It sounds silly but we wanted to be prepared in the event he needed to be treated. Hopefully, we will never use it and will have money towards a family vacation." ~ Amanda (Office Manager at PTAH)
Puppies and kittens will be due for their first round of vaccines around 6-8 weeks of age. Due to the presence of circulating maternal antibodies that are still present in a puppy or kitten’s bodies at 6 weeks, we recommend vaccinating closer to 8 weeks of age. After their first round of vaccines at 8 weeks, your new puppy or kitten will need to come back for at least 2 more visits at 12 weeks and at 16 weeks. At this time, your pet will also be checked for intestinal parasites and started on monthly heartworm and flea/tick prevention.
Smaller puppies and kittens that need to split up vaccines at their visit may require an additional visit after 16 weeks to complete their vaccine series. To ensure your pet is protected against potentially fatal diseases such as distemper, parvo, feline leukemia, or rabies, it is crucial that vaccine boosters are administered timely and kept up to date.
We recommend having your pet spayed or neutered at around 5 to 6 months of age. This is also a great time to have your pet micro-chipped. Please check out our blog on spaying and neutering to read more about the benefits of fixing your pet!
Although there are general recommendations for puppies and kittens, each pet is an individual, and your veterinarian can discuss and recommend the best medical care plan for your pet.
Puppies and kittens should be fed a specially-formulated diet until about 1 year of age (or per the recommendations of your vet). Puppy and kitten diets are generally more calorie dense and contain added nutrients to help support growth that adult diets don’t usually contain. Speak with your vet to decide which puppy or kitten diet is best for your new pet.
Did you know some puppies and kittens need to eat more frequently than adult pets? Puppies and kittens, depending on their size, may need to eat anywhere from 2 to 4 times a day! Small breed puppies and kittens are at higher risk for hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, and need nutrition more frequently so it is important that someone is home regularly to feed and monitor them throughout the day.
Puppies and kittens also require a lot of time and attention! Teaching your new pet skills like crate training, potty or litterbox training, and basic commands like responding to their name can take some time. Some puppies may find it difficult to learn exactly where and when to use the bathroom before the age of three months, so accidents can be expected during this time. Even once they have learned where to go to the bathroom, puppies may not be able to hold their bladder for longer than a few hours at a time until they are older, so frequent potty breaks (including early-morning bathroom trips) and lots of positive reinforcement are essential to teaching your puppy to go outside.
It is also worthwhile to work on crate training with your puppy. Crate training allows your puppy to feel relaxed in their own private space while providing you peace of mind knowing your puppy is safely contained when you need to leave them unattended. For more information and tips on crate and house training, check out Veterinary Partner’s article: House Training and Crate Training
While cats tend to naturally gravitate towards using a litter box to bury their business, don’t be frustrated if your kitten doesn’t take to it right away. For optimal litterbox training results, provide an easily-accessible, clean litterbox that is easy for your kitten to get in and out of. We recommend putting the litterbox in a quiet, private area where your kitten can feel comfortable.
Other things to consider
Before adopting a specific breed of puppy or kitten, we recommend doing some research or speaking with your veterinarian about special considerations for that particular breed. For example, a breed with high energy demands like a German Shepherd or a Belgian Malinois are not a good fit for a family who are away from home a lot and can’t dedicate several hours each day to exercising and occupying their dog. Working breed dogs are typically very smart and need a lot of physical and mental stimulation to fulfill their needs. Dogs with too much drive or energy and not enough to do may resort to destructive behaviors to entertain them and occupy their time. Similarly, if you are an active family that wants a dogs to go on runs and play fetch with the kids in the back yard, a chihuahua may not be the best fit. Luckily, there are plenty of breeds that are suitable for different lifestyles, so take time to learn which breed might be the best fit for you!