PUPPY AND KITTEN FUN CHECKLIST
We’ve written before on the subject of “Must Haves” for new puppy- or kitten-parents, so this puppy and kitty season, we’ve decided to focus on FUN!! If you’ve missed our previous articles on this and many other pet care topics, check out the Blog tab on the Twisted Whiskers website. Besides the fundamental life-supporting necessities, your puppy or kitten needs stimulation, exercise and environmental enrichment in order to develop into a healthy, well-rounded ragamuffin.
ANXIETY ISN’T FUN….
Those first few days in a new home, away from the comforts of mum and siblings or other kennel mates, can be scary and a bit overwhelming for pups and kittens. Don’t be alarmed if your new baby doesn’t appear confident and ready to explore immediately. He or she will need a few days to get used to the new surroundings. Their anxiety may also affect their appetite for the first meal or two, which isn’t anything to worry about if they start eating by the third meal and don’t appear listless or ill.
Like all babies, the furry ones also thrive on routine – creating a regular schedule early on for meals, sleep times, play and toilet visits will help instil trust in the new arrival and create a stable framework they can depend on.
The first night (or three) is usually a disruptive affair for everyone, with many puppies panicking and crying for mum. As tempting as it may be, trying to settle the little one into your bed isn’t ideal, unless you plan to allow them to sleep on the bed forever. Your dog won’t understand why he’s being banished from your bed all of a sudden, once he’s a bit older and the size of a small dinosaur.
Dogs like to be near their “pack”, so give puppy his own bed in your room or that of an older child. In this way he learns that he has his own space but is also close by to his new human “pack members” for security. You’ll also want to be alerted when he wakes up and needs to be taken out to do his toilette. Crate training is a process recommended by many dog behaviour experts and is very helpful in toilet training and in giving your pup a sense of safety and security.
Kittens may favour the dark comforts of an igloo-type bed and it’s best to keep them safely confined in a room, separated from other pets and where they cannot get their tiny selves lost in foreign territory. A small kitten can hide away in the most unlikely of spaces, resulting in hours of frantic searches, so always place her in a room with food and a litter tray whenever you leave home. That way you can be sure that she doesn’t get injured or lost in your absence. As solitary animals, cats don’t usually enjoy being fussed over as much as dogs do and can find this overwhelming. Allow kitty her space and let her determine how much contact she’d like from her new humans, while ensuring that you spend daily quality one-on-one bonding time with her.
It goes without saying that no introductions to other family pets should happen on the first day and ideally only once the new addition has had a chance to settle down and shows less defensiveness towards the existing pets in the household. When these introductions do take place, they must be closely monitored at all times. If there is any sign of stress or aggression in either party (the new baby or the resident pet/s), discontinue the interaction immediately and leave it for another day. If possible, formulate an introduction plan beforehand, with the assistance of a certified animal behaviourist. Advice from these experienced professionals can be invaluable in preventing trauma and ensuring that the process is as smooth and non-threatening as possible for all concerned. Giving this make-or-break phase the time and focus it deserves can help facilitate happy pet relationships for the future. The TW Blog has some super articles devoted exclusively to this topic.
Pheromone-based anxiety-alleviating products like Feliway (cats) and Adaptil (dogs) diffusers, can also be incredibly useful in helping new babies settle in and reducing stress in resident family pets. Switch them on 48 hours before the new furkid arrives, as they need to warm up properly to be effective.
Plush toys are a great start to help littlies feel like there’s another furry body close by. They won’t last long for large breed pups or power chewers but are a great comfort on the first couple of nights. The Pet Stages Purr Pillow is a delightful first toy for baby kitties.
Few kitten socialisation groups exist. As natural solitary predators, they cope well in their own company, provided they have enough to keep them busy and stimulated. That said, many breeders and rescue groups won’t home a single kitten to a family where the people are away all day and there are no other pets in the home. It’s ideal to take two kittens together so that they have company.
As pack animals, puppy socialisation is vital for all breeds of dogs, not only to provide a foundation of manners and acceptable behaviour in the new human world they need to function in but also to master the nuances of dog-to-dog interactions. This will determine how flexible your pup will be as an adult and how many different outings and adventures you’ll be able to share with him. A well-socialised dog is a pleasure to be around and welcomed in many more places and situations than an unruly, timid or aggressive one.
Doggy day-care is also a superb way of ensuring that dogs experience “pack life” and enjoy enriching time with their own kind, away from their regular environment. Services like these, provided they are safe and professionally managed by persons well-versed in canine behaviour, are a real boon to busy pet-parents who must be away at work during the week. Twisted Whiskers has the details of the best doggy-day-care facilities in the area – ask us, we’ll hook you up.
FUN AND GAMES
On the days your pup doesn’t go to day-care, ensure that he has a choice of 4 or 5 activity toys and chewable treats. This will keep him out of mischief and distract him from rearranging the decor or being tempted into a spot of unauthorised gardening…. Choose toys that suit his size and chewing power, and avoid those like stringy rawhides, hooves, rubber balls, etc. that could pose a choking hazard. These should be offered only when you’re around to supervise. Begin building up a stash of toys that can be rotated every couple of days to prevent boredom – keep the ones he isn’t using in a doggy toy box. Many puppy parents make a fun game of letting their pup choose his own favourites each day before they leave for work.
Puzzle toys that dispense food are super, as the mid-day meal can be put inside and they provide hours of activity and reward for busy puppies.
To borrow the term from well-known cat guru, Jackson Galaxy, with many cat parents now opting to keep their babies exclusively or partly indoors for safety reasons, it’s vital to “catify” their space. Many cat species in the wild are tree or mountain dwellers, and an aerial perspective is just as important to their domestic relatives.
In the interests of saving your curtains, providing vantage points like ledges or shelves at varying heights along the wall, or giving your kittens access to the highest spots in the room, is a great idea. Tall, sturdy cat “fur-niture” like cat trees and jungle-gyms can be a welcome addition to even the most exquisitely designed rooms.
Twisted Whiskers has recently launched a stunning range of imported, EU-quality cat trees in the finest plush and a variety of beautiful neutral shades. With replaceable parts, they will never look shabby. Your felines will love diving on and off all the different platforms, pouncing out of hidey-holes, or lounging in the hammocks (which support up to 25kg of Maine Coon magnificence…. space for two!) Contact Twisted Whiskers stores for more info or to order or browse the range on our website.
The “catio”, another of Jackson’s famous “cat-isms” is a fabulous DIY project for those who own a tool belt and aren’t afraid to use it. The internet abounds with designs, from super simple outdoor window boxes to elaborate moggy mansions – and everything in between. Catios provide a safe, enclosed outdoor space for kitties to bask in the sunshine and fresh air, even if they live indoors.
Taking your puppy on adventures outside of the home is super-important. It’s been proven that a dog can fully investigate all the scents on your property within half an hour. After that, it’s all pretty uninteresting. Unless someone wheels a skateboard past the gate. Or a hadeda lands on the lawn. Or a truck drives past. This is part of the reason your dog greets you so enthusiastically when you come home – you bring “news” from the outside world all over your clothes and shoes. Allowing your puppy to accompany you on as many outings as possible from an early age, will ensure that he’s always being exposed to new sights, smells, sounds and experiences. And, of course, being able to be close to you, his human pack members, is first prize! As mentioned before, a thorough process of professional puppy socialising will go a long way to setting up this type of lifestyle for your puppy and his family. TW has details for Jo’burg’s best puppy socialising schools – we’ll happily refer you.
Exercise is as important for our pets as it is for us and dogs, particularly, love going running or hiking with their human “pack”. However, if you’re a serious exercise fanatic, please check first with your veterinarian that the activities you plan to share with your dog are appropriate in terms of his age and level of fitness. Large and giant breed puppies, specifically, should NEVER be run or over-exercised before their bones have stopped growing (around 18 months of age). Particular care also needs to be taken with older or overweight animals.
Cats tend to prefer exploring on their own. They aren’t a “captive audience” like dogs are and can usually find their own way out of a property. In the interests of your kitty’s safety (and, from a much broader perspective since cats are hunters, the safety of small wild animal and bird populations), it’s imperative that your property is completely secure so that kitty can’t venture past the garden wall, that she is kept indoors with only supervised outdoor access, or has a catio to spend her unaccompanied outdoor time in.
The world is a big place for a tiny kitten (even if the garden is secure) and we strongly recommend that all kittens be kept exclusively indoors, unless supervised, until they are 6 months old. After that, they can be trained to use the yard as their bathroom, instead of the litter tray. By this stage they will be agile and confident enough to enjoy an enclosed garden space when they choose to, and quickly learn to come back to the comforts of home through an open window or sliding door.
Many cats have successfully been harness-trained, and their humans take them for Walkies, on occasion even together with their canine companions! Breeds like Burmese and Bengals are particularly open to being harness-trained.
If you’re serious about enriching your pets’ lives, all that’s required is a little imagination. And online resources abound. Visit Twisted Whiskers for a stunning array of toys and accessories for kittens and puppies, great advice on all aspects of pet-care, and a range of kitty fur-niture guaranteed to blow their whiskers back!
© Written By Twisted Whiskers