The challenge of hav­ing a new pet in your life

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - LIFESTYLE - PETE WEDDERBURN

SUSIE had done her re­search care­fully when she chose her first dog. She had vis­ited a well known dog rescue cen­tre, and with the help of their team, she’d been matched to a five year old ter­rier called Rosie. Rosie was a ner­vous, quiet crea­ture, but Susie knew that she was the one for her. There was an im­me­di­ate emo­tional link, with Rosie hud­dling in to­wards her for com­fort at once.

The rescue cen­tre gave Susie as much help as they could: Rosie had been mi­crochipped, spayed, vac­ci­nated, and treated for fleas and worms. Susie was given a small sam­ple of the food that Rosie was used to, and she was given a care sheet that out­lined the routine that Rosie was used to. But as she drove away from the rescue cen­tre, Susie re­alised that now she was on her own: Rosie and her­self were start­ing a new life to­gether, and it was up to her to make sure that it worked out well.

When you get a new pet, that’s the ul­ti­mate truth: an­i­mals can­not be re­spon­si­ble for them­selves. As their owner, or guardian, or companion, or how­ever you like to see your­self, you are the one with the power, the au­thor­ity, the knowl­edge and the abil­ity to control what hap­pens in your pet’s life. If you get it wrong, your pet will suffer the con­se­quences. But if you get it right, your pet will go on to have a healthy, en­joy­able life.

So where do you start? Susie was for­tu­nate: with the help of the rescue cen­tre, she and Rosie had hit the ground run­ning. All of the ba­sic boxes had been ticked. If you get a pet from a different source (e.g. if you buy a puppy from an on­line pri­vate sale), you have more work to do on your own.

The most ef­fec­tive short cut is to take your new ar­rival to the vet: in any case, this is usu­ally needed be­cause pup­pies and kit­tens need to have vac­ci­na­tions, with the last one usu­ally be­ing given at 10 – 12 weeks of age. This tim­ing is use­ful: as well as giving the nec­es­sary vac­ci­na­tion, your vet is able to give you a run down of the ba­sic im­por­tant facts of what needs to be done.

Vac­ci­na­tions, mi­crochip­ping, nu­tri­tion, par­a­site control, spay and neu­ter­ing, so­cial­i­sa­tion and train­ing, pet in­sur­ance: these are the main ar­eas that need to be dis­cussed. Most new own­ers are only vaguely aware of the lat­est rec­om­men­da­tions in each of these ar­eas. Vets do this stuff ev­ery day, so they are fully up to date with the best ad­vice, and they’re happy to pass it on to you. Our clinic, like many, al­lows a dou­ble appointmen­t for first pet vis­its, giving a full half hour to go through ev­ery­thing.

Even if you have taken on your pet from a well-in­formed rescue cen­tre, it can be worth that first visit to the vet. Your new an­i­mal can then be reg­is­tered of­fi­cially, their body weight recorded, and a plan for long term flea, tick and worm control can be put into place. This all makes it eas­ier if your pet falls ill or has an ac­ci­dent: your vet al­ready has all of the nec­es­sary in­for­ma­tion about the an­i­mal.

It’s a big mo­ment when you ar­rive home with your pet: the world has changed for both of you. From now on, you share a new daily routine, and it’s im­por­tant to get that right. An­i­mals love a reg­u­lar sched­ule, so that they know what to ex­pect. There are few hard and fast rules, but in gen­eral, there’s an av­er­age pat­tern which suits many peo­ple and pets.

First, when you get up in the morn­ing: if you have a cat, they love break­fast early on, so a small meal makes sense. Many peo­ple leave dry kib­ble down for their cats to graze on, but this isn’t a good idea: obe­sity has be­come very com­mon and it makes sense to give a mea­sured amount of food ev­ery day to prevent this. It’s bet­ter to feed sev­eral small meals a day: this mir­rors how cats eat in the wild, hunt­ing small prey fre­quently. Ideally, use a food re­leas­ing toy to feed them so that they need to work a bit, burn­ing up en­ergy around meal times.

If you have a dog, the gen­eral rule is that it’s bet­ter to ex­er­cise be­fore eat­ing, and this is a great way to start the day. On av­er­age, a dog should be taken for a walk for 20 to 30 min­utes twice daily: this gives them the men­tal stim­u­la­tion they need as well as the physical ex­er­cise. And by the way, it’s good for you, and it’s good for the re­la­tion­ship be­tween you and your dog too.

Af­ter the walk, it’s break­fast time. Most dogs do well with two smaller meals a day rather than one big meal. Choose their diet care­fully: there are many op­tions, but the main goal is to find a diet that is tasty, good for their health, and con­ve­nient and af­ford­able for you. Do your re­search: talk to peo­ple who you know with healthy dogs, and discuss the topic with your vet. Be wary of on­line ad­vice on this topic: there are many strong opin­ions based on “fake news” out there.

Most dogs are happy to snooze and just lie around for a few hours af­ter break­fast, idling while still be­ing close to you. A short walk at lunch is ideal: break­ing the routine of the day.

Then in the evening, it’s time for an­other de­cent walk and an­other meal.

Vari­a­tions in the routine are wel­come: no hu­mans or an­i­mals would choose to have ex­actly the same day, re­peated end­lessly. But a good, simple daily routine, planned when you first get your pet, is a sen­si­ble place to start. Both you and your new pet will settle more quickly and live health­ier, hap­pier lives.

It’s im­por­tant to es­tab­lish a good sched­ule for a new pet

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