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News and Information about Dogs, Cats, and Pet Products

In the spirit of full disclosure, I admit that my family has done a great deal of work with rescue dogs of all breeds and sizes. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have a special place in our hearts for sweet kitty cats. In particular, I’ve experienced the unique ups-and-downs of bringing new cats and kittens into a home where dogs have established a benevolent (?) dictatorship. I won’t say it’s always been an easy transition — but in most cases, it’s also been extremely rewarding. Rescue groups like A.D.O.P.T., Anderson Animal Shelter, and NAHS — along with the Two Bostons team! — can offer some great tips for bringing a brand new cat or kitten home. The points listed below have really helped me in the past:

Litter box lingo
According to my vet, the idea that every cat has some sort of inner GPS that locates the litter box is a fallacy. So, much as I’d prefer to cover the litter box and hide it out of sight, it turns out the best location for a litter box is where it’s extremely obvious and easy for your new cat or kitten to find. In some cases, we’ve even ended up putting a litter box on every floor so kitty will always have access to clean, fresh litter (and will always seek out the actual litter box when it’s time to go). Our pet behaviorist explained that placing several litter boxes side-by-side doesn’t really help new cats or kittens acclimate – they just see all the grouped boxes as a single, gargantuan oasis of cat litter. This does not always help if said humongous litter oasis is in the basement, and kitty is way up on the second floor.

Plan on play time
Kittens and cats are naturally active at dawn and dusk – so they often want to play throughout the night. Providing plenty of playful exercise during the day helps tucker out your kitty and can even gradually “re-set” his/her time clock to reflect your family’s sleeping habits. When it comes to playtime, we’ve always loved the Kong Moppy with Feathers, the Play-N-Squeak Ball of Fury, and especially Yeowww! Brand Catnip, which is an ultra-pure form of catnip that can really rev up your feline’s energy and engagement level.

Brush it out
I was surprised to learn this, but very young kittens – especially those who were improperly weaned — often need help learning how to clean and take care of themselves. So brushing and grooming right from the start can be a huge help. If you start with a very soft, gentle brush like the Kong ZoomGroom Cat Brush, kittens will often learn to look forward to these brushing sessions over time. Plus, regular grooming can discourage matting in long-haired cats, and often reduces hairballs too.

Kitty Kit

Many vets and behaviorists suggest preparing a “Kitty Kit” before bringing your new feline friend home to meet the family. Many of the items mentioned in this blog may be helpful to consider.

 

Perching possibilities
Cats and kittens typically like to perch as they explore new surroundings, and in multi-pet families they often feel much safer in elevated spaces. In fact, in my house the cats have often ended up “claiming” the high areas while the dogs patrol their own floor-level turf (a consolation prize, of sorts, from the kitties). Tall cat trees, hideaways, and window perches can often help a new feline feel much calmer and more comfortable.

Carry on
Cat carriers safeguard your pet’s safety and security in so many situations – they’re not only for vet visits. Introducing the carrier early on helps kitty learn that it’s a safe zone not intended to cause anxiety. Leave it somewhere secure (and maybe even higher up), like a little welcoming “house” with the door open so kitty can wander in and out. Line the floor with a soft and cuddly blanket. You can even sprinkle a few treats inside the carrier so your cat associates going inside with a positive (and yummy) experience.

Tune in to the tail
Most pet behaviorists note that a secure-feeling cat has a relaxed body posture with ears and tail up, but not rigid. A cat in this state may also purr. But if you notice a straight tail, tail wagging or swishing, a tense body, or (certainly) hissing and spitting, it’s often a pretty clear warning sign that something very tense and unpleasant is about to go down. As you gradually introduce each new experience, reward good kitty behavior with a favorite treat (like Cloud Star Tuna Buddy Biscuits), a fun toy, an upbeat voice, petting, and/or extra playtime.

As a dog owner, I used to think that dog and cat treats and toys were basically interchangeable. Over time I learned that this is definitely not the case. Cats and kittens have different nutritional and socialization needs than dogs and puppies — so generally, I look for products that specifically say “for cats” on the package. If you’re ever in doubt, ask anyone on our Two Bostons team for assistance!

 

cat-and-dog-snuggling

 

My husband and I work with abused rescue dogs — and we’ve noticed that the addition of another pet in the family can really help each animal’s true personality “bloom.” In fact, most studies show that adding a new pet can be rewarding for animals AND humans – and through tons of trial-and-error, we’ve found that there are easy steps anyone can take to help ensure a smooth family expansion. We’re big advocates of the “Pet Parent 3-P’s” – be prepared, persistent, and patient. Here are a few insights we’ve learned along the way:

Introductions
It’s a good idea to have your new pet and existing pet(s) meet outside the home first, on neutral territory. Then, try to bring your new addition home when you can be around for the first few days. Remember that pets can feel jealous too, so it helps to plan quality TLC time with all the kids AND “furkids” in your family!

Supplies
Try to get the main supplies you need before coming home with your new friend. We’ve done this on the way home from the shelter, or a couple days before. Don’t forget a durable leash and collar (or harness, which puts less pressure on the windpipe), a high-quality food plus food/water dishes, and a sturdy ID tag. We also like to get a few new toys and a comfy bed. In certain cases, a security crate helps too.

Health
Make sure your existing dogs or cats are up-to-date on shots and in good basic health before bringing a new pet home. The first week after adoption, take your new guy or gal to the vet for a wellness check, and ask if he or she has been microchipped.

Expectations
Trust us … there are a few questions that are really helpful to work out in advance. For example: Who walks the dog at 6 a.m.? Who changes the litter box, and how often? Who’s in charge of feeding — how much, where, and when? Is the couch (the Tempur-Pedic mattress, Aunt Ethel’s heirloom rug, etc.) fair game, or off-limits?

Discipline
Just like humans, pets prefer some order. Let them know from the start who’s in charge. When you have to discipline, stay calm and use a stern, disapproving voice. But mostly, reward your pet when he or she does well! Many pets – especially those who have been without a loving home – respond amazingly well to enthusiastic praise. Once in awhile, sneak in a healthy treat too!

Housetraining
Just assume any brand new pup is NOT housetrained – so setting up a predictable routine (same time, same place, even a “cue word”) is absolutely key. Some pet parents really like the convenience of Poochie Bells, which hang from a doorknob so your pet can alert you when he or she needs to “go.” Ask anyone on the Two Bostons team to show you how they work!

What other special steps, tips and tricks have worked for you? We’d love for you to share YOUR comments below!
And don’t forget, the Two Bostons team can provide expert guidance when it comes to picking out the right homecoming items for your new pet.