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Essentials of Puppy and Kitten Care: A Guide for New Pet Owners

Inviting a new puppy or kitten family member into your home is an exciting time and wonderfully memorable. Seasoned owners are familiar with all of the preparations and attention your new pets require, but for first-time owners, the excitement may make it easy to forget the practical side of ownership! 

With so much to learn about how to give your pet the best start in life, becoming a new owner can sometimes feel daunting, and even with all the excitement, the added responsibility can be stressful too. But there’s no need to worry! The professional Fort Collins veterinarians at Coyote Ridge Veterinary Clinic have helped welcome countless puppies and kittens into their new homes, getting them settled and ready for the world. Read on for our comprehensive guide for new owners to learn about the essentials of puppy and kitten care! 

Choosing Your Puppy or Kitten 

The first step, while often overlooked, is considering which breed is the best for you. Every dog and cat has its own unique personality, but there are some instincts and behaviors that some breeds are born with. The difference between cats and dogs is, for one, fairly significant, with cats being capable of spending most if not all of their time indoors, whereas dogs certainly need their outdoor time with walks. But for dogs specifically, their individual breeds can have a definite variety that’s worth considering, so ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Do you have a lot of indoor or outdoor space? Less space may mean a smaller dog and more space may be more accompanying to a bigger dog. 

  • Do you have allergies to cats or dogs? It might be worth selecting a breed that doesn’t shed. 

  • Would you prefer a bouncy and energetic pet or something more laidback and quiet? Cats and dogs are very different in this regard, and some dog breeds have more energy and require more walks and attention than others. 

Puppy and Kitten Preparation

The first couple of weeks of pet ownership are full of excitement, but moving to a new home with a new family can be stressful for your puppy or kitten, and it can be stressful for you too. The best way to make this transition go as smoothly as possible is to undertake some preparation, and by planning ahead you can rest assured that you and your puppy or kitten can get the best possible experience when they arrive. 

Consider stocking up on some of the essentials so that you don’t find yourself running out to the store while they’re at home. Your new puppy or kitten would certainly appreciate a soft place to sleep such as a bed or big pillow. Getting something specifically for them will help create a safe space that they can always retreat to, and you won’t have to worry about them getting their fur and smells on your furniture if you’re concerned about that. It would also be worth buying a couple of toys and chewy treats for their enjoyment, and perhaps a good stockpile of wipes, towels, fabric cleaning supplies, and lint rollers to quickly and easily remove stains, odor, and hair. Finally, you’ll want to get a leash and collar for the puppy and litter essentials for the kitten! 

Puppy and Kitten Care Checklist 

What follows is a comprehensive list of things you’ll need to take care of once you have your puppy or kitten at home. 

Pet Insurance 

You may want to consider buying some form of pet insurance in order to avoid surprising expenses should your furry friend get sick, need surgery, or require some other form of treatment. Be aware that it is essential to get insurance while your pet is healthy, as pre-existing conditions will not be covered by the insurance policy. Lifetime insurance policies are usually the best way to go. 12-month policies can be more affordable, but they may exclude conditions that arise during the renewal period. 

Register with a Vet

Knowing that your pet has access to excellent medical care brings a lot of peace of mind, especially at the beginning of your ownership journey. Routine appointments and expert oversight are key to their future health, so sign up with a vet and schedule them for regular check-ups to keep your puppy or kitten happy and healthy. Reach out to Coyote Ridge Veterinary Clinic if you’re looking for a Fort Collins vet

Book Vaccinations, Get Flea and Tick Treatment

There are plenty of different infectious diseases that can be seriously harmful to your puppy or kitten. No matter how careful you are with your new pet, it’s impossible to protect them from all the diseases out there, so we recommend getting them treated with a standard vaccination program as soon as they are the right age. Puppies and kittens normally get their first vaccinations around 7-8 weeks old, so it is possible they’ve already received their primary vaccines by the time they’ve joined you, but there are also vaccine boosters that your pet can get once they’re about one year old. 

Along with vaccines, it is well worth (especially for dogs) to get flea, tick, and worm treatment throughout the course of their life in order to keep them safe and healthy. 


Puppies’ and kittens’ bodies grow in critical ways during the first few months of their life, so you’ll need to select the correct food that is specially formulated for them. Continue feeding them the diet they are used to (for example, the type of food the breeders used), but make sure to speak to your vet to ensure that it is the correct one. 

Keep in mind that several small meals are better than fewer large ones for puppies and kittens, and make sure that fresh water is always available to them! 

Neutering and Spaying

Be sure to discuss with your vet whether or not neutering and spaying is the right choice for your pet. Neutering and spaying is very common - it is required in some dog parks and daycares, and it helps reduce the overpopulation of pets that leads to unwanted litters and eventual euthanization. However, there can be some health issues associated with neutering and spaying, particularly with young dogs of large or giant breeds. 

Settling Them In

How your puppy or kitten is welcomed into their new home can have a big impact on the first few months but also the rest of their life, shaping how they develop into adults. Be sure to give them a lot of care and attention in order to build a strong connection between you and your pet, and it is essential that you provide them with socialization opportunities. By introducing them to other animals, young children, elderly people, and loud sounds (car, doorbell, vacuum, washing machine, lawn mower), you can help them grow into a well-rounded, happy adult that isn’t easily startled and knows how to interact with other animals and people. 

Illnesses to Worry About

Keep a close eye on your puppy or kitten in the first few months of life as they are more susceptible to illnesses that can be seriously harmful or even fatal if not caught in the early stages. If you notice the following symptoms in your puppy or kitten, be sure to contact your vet right away: 

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Lack of appetite

  • Poor appetite

  • Diarrhea 

  • Extreme tiredness

  • Vomiting 

  • Swollen, red eyes or eye discharge

  • Inability to pass urine or stool 

  • Pale gums 

  • Swollen or painful abdomen

  • Nasal discharge

If you’re ever worried or unsure, don’t hesitate to call or visit your local veterinarian. 

The Perfect Start for Your Puppy or Kitten

Inviting a puppy or kitten into your home is the start of a new adventure. It can undoubtedly be one of the most rewarding experiences, though it may be stressful at times. Don’t forget that vets are a great resource for information and advice as you take on this new responsibility, so if you’re expecting a puppy or kitten soon, consider reaching out to a Fort Collins vet like Coyote Ridge Veterinary Clinic to give your new friend the perfect start in life.

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