When you are getting ready to bring a new pet home, there’s a definite air of excitement. You may find yourself wanting to run to the store and buy half the items on the shelves. Experience has shown, however, that sometimes it’s best just to buy the essentials and leave the rest for a bit. Every pet has their own personality and you don’t want to buy toys that your dog or cat ignores. And you can’t stock up on too much food, because they may not react well to your choice. Make sure you have a good veterinarian.
• A litter box and litter. Do you want a domed litter box or a tray? Be sure that it is high enough so that litter won’t go flying out. If you are adopting a kitten, you won’t need as large a box but will have to replace it as your cat grows. Litter is a challenge, since you will have to choose whether to use pine, traditional clay, crystal or sifting/scoopable litter. One thing no one knows is how many varieties there are until you are truly looking at the shelves for the first time! Do your research. Cats don’t like change very much and it can be difficult to change brands once they get used to it.
• Bed or Perch. If you have room for a cat bed, it can be a comfort to your pet. Nestle it somewhere quiet, out of the way, where your pet won’t be disturbed. If you can afford a cat tree or perch, this is ideal in front of a nice sunny window where your pet can look outside and dream of chasing birds. Our cat’s favorite bed is in the bedroom: a box with a big pillow on it, covered with a blanket. He’s a big cat and likes to stretch out. His cat tree is right next to it, literally a step away. His territory.
• Toys. Pets need to play and keep physically active in order to remain healthy. Choose a few chase-type toys with which you can play with your pet (something like a feather toy on a stick or a little ball with a bell in it). Your cat may go mad for a laser-type toy, but you won’t know until he arrives home, so it’s best to wait with those. Twirl a couple of fuzzy chenille stems around a pencil and offer them to him to bat at and chase; ditto crumpled up balls of aluminum foil. Most cats love the thrill of the chase. They do like their kitty food treats, too.
• Food/water dishes. If you are choosing a larger dog, their utensils have to be bigger. If you have a wee pup, choose something they can reach easily. A long-eared dog has trouble with deep dishes – their ears get in the way! Short dogs need shorter bowls. Attached bowls look good, but remember dogs slurp and water can get into the food and vice-versa. If you are away from home working during the days, you may want to try a food or water dispenser.
• Collar and Leash. There are some great leashes out there – expandable ones up to 16 feet and more that stretch out of a handgrip. One problem: dogs can chew them if they have a thin string and ruin them in one go. You may want to invest in a long regular leash as well as one of the expandable ones, just in case. The collar should be comfortable enough that the dog will accept it, while sturdy enough to take the weight of a leash. Those hooks can be pretty big! Smaller collars for smaller dogs, sturdier collars for stronger or bigger pets. Choke chains are not recommended except while training pets.
• Dog-Proofing your home. If you have children, warn them that they will have to put away their toys or your dog may choke on them while chewing them up. The same thing goes for shoes, plants, paper or anything left lying around. Keep doors closed and train your dog not to go into areas where you don’t want them. If you have an older, established pet, respect their territory by gently and gradually introducing the new pet. Keeping new pets in one room or area is a good idea until everyone adapts. What you teach them at the beginning stays with them through life.