Few things are as exciting as bringing home a new pet, but if you’re unprepared, it can also be a confusing and stressful experience. Dogs and cats, unfortunately, cannot talk to tell you what they need to be safe and comfortable, so lets look at some essential supplies you should have on hand before bringing home your new best friend.
If you’re adopting a cat or dog from a shelter or buying one from a breeder, be sure to ask for a ziplock bag of his food to take home with you. We recommend using Dog Food Advisor or Cat Food Advisor to select a good, high-quality food for your pet, but do not immediately switch him to the brand you select. Mix the food from the ziplock bag with his new food, gradually increasing the old food-to-new food ratio over the course of a week. This will help his digestive system acclimate to the new ingredients and avoid diarrhea and accidents during the “getting to know you” phase. Select sturdy food and water bowls that will not scoot or topple over when your pet voraciously chows down after a good run or play session.
Collars should fit loosely enough to fit two fingers between the collar and your pet’s neck. Some obedience schools will recommend a metal pinch collar while training your dog, and these should slip easily over your dog’s head. Cats should always have a breakaway safety collar that will easily unclasp if they (as cats tend to do) find themselves in tight spots where their collar may be caught. Always keep an ID tag on your pet’s collar with your pet’s name, your phone number, and other critical information.
Leather leashes are best for larger dogs, and they are highly durable, but nylon leashes will work well for smaller dogs or casual walks or playtime. Retractable leashes are not recommended for exercise or walking because dogs should always be trained to walk at their human’s side, but retractable leashes can be used when taking your pup out to potty in a unfenced yard or unfamiliar surroundings.
Unless you’re very dedicated to toilet training your cat, you’ll need a litter box. For kittens, consider a small litter box low to the ground so kitty can get in and out easily. As your cat grows, upgrade to a larger litter box with a higher profile to catch any litter your new cat accidentally scoops out of the box while covering her mess.
While covered litter boxes are useful if you have a dog that thinks the litter box is a snack bar, the dust kicked up from clumping litter can be harmful to your cat’s lungs when confined to the small space of the litter box. If you must use a covered litter box, we recommend using clay litter without clumping properties or taking off the litter box door to allow for better ventilation.
Dogs, in particular, will gravitate towards a “den-like” space of their own. Providing a crate for your dog will give them a safe place to retreat to for naps (or during thunderstorms!), and crating your new pup will help during the housebreaking phase. Dogs are reluctant to eliminate in their “den” and will learn to control their urge to go until you take them outside.
While some view crate-training as cruel or neglectful, it is actually quite safe and reasonable. However, dogs should not be left in crates for several hours at a time. While you’re at work, have a dog-walker or family member, friend, or neighbor come to take your dog out to eliminate and exercise at least once during the workday. When housebreaking is complete, well-trained dogs are often safe to roam freely during the day. Cats simply need a plastic carrier to be used for car rides and temporary confinement in the event of extreme weather or other situations that may be stressful for your kitty.
Dogs and cats are likely to encounter minor illnesses and injuries during their lifetime with you, and it is important to be prepared when they do occur. Click here for a list of items to keep in your pet’s first aid kit.
Keep a variety of grooming tools on hand suitable for your pet. Dogs with short, flat coats will require a different kind of brush than long-haired dogs. Long-haired breeds of dogs and cats will need a mat comb and slicker brush to remove loose undercoats that can cause mats and hairballs. Additionally, nail clippers, canine toothbrush and toothpaste, and pet shampoo are all critical to have on hand.
Dogs and cats need stimulation, even when you’re away, so we recommend spoiling them with chew toys, stuffie toys, squeaky toys, beds, scratching posts, puzzles, jingle balls, and treats.
Your new cat or dog will be a loyal and loving companion for many years. Starting out with the proper supplies can ensure a smooth and pleasant experience for the whole family. As always, take your new pet to a trusted veterinarian within a week of bringing him home for a wellness checkup, any outstanding vaccinations, and to schedule an appointment for fixing and microchipping, if needed.