Puppies and kittens are, at least in my opinion, incredibly cute and one of the best parts of life and the internet. They’re tiny, curious, loving, and cute as heck! While these things are all true, it’s also true that every puppy and kitten will grow and they’ll also need a lot of specific care and training! There are so many things to know before getting one and many things to do while taking care of one!

While there are many things that you’ll need to do regardless of your new pet’s age, there are some things that are specific to adopting a puppy or kitten. Here are just some of the things to consider if you’re thinking about getting a puppy or kitten:

Before: Do Your Research

Doing your research means learning about all kinds of things. Where will you get the puppy or kitten? What breed do you want (or are you okay with any breed)? What kind of training will you do and what classes do you want to take? What kind of care do puppies and kittens need? What kind of care will they need later in life? Are you ready to work on training and take the dogs on regular walks? Are you okay with cleaning up poop every single day (both on walks with dogs and in litter boxes) or cleaning up something gross on occasion? Do you have the funds to help? Some organizations do help out with vet care or food but pets can be expensive!

All of these questions and more are important to ask and both reflect on and eventually answer.

One of the biggest things to really think about before getting a puppy or kitten is the breed and eventual size of the pet. Puppies and kitten are cute and tiny but they will grow over time! If you get a Great Pyrenees puppy, for example, you’re going to eventually have a very large dog. Even Golden Retrievers are going to get bigger, getting to be 60-80 pounds!

Before: Prepare Your House

If you have decided to get a puppy or kitten, getting your house ready is the next step! This means getting supplies (like food* and water dishes, beds, toys, pee pads, litter boxes, etc) and potentially investing in things like baby gates and storage to help limit the amount of stuff that your new puppy might try to chew on. While you can’t plan for everything, having some things set up beforehand can help smooth the transition!

*With food, ask the breeder or shelter what kind of food the puppy or kitten is eating. While you don’t have to feed them that same food for the rest of their life, transitioning to new food takes some time. Drastically switching any dog or cat to new food can cause some stomach upset and a few other issues. Slowly introducing the new food with the old can help the transition!

And if you have a yard, you might want to have a fence! Some organizations, like Fences For Fido, help build fences for those who are low-income and if you don’t have the resources to do so.

After: go to the vet

In addition to the usual routine vet care that you’ll have to do every year for the rest of your new pet’s life, there are a few things you’ll have to take care of with a puppy or kitten. While many places, especially rescue groups and licensed breeders, will have puppies and kittens up to date on vet care when you bring them home, there might be a few more vaccinations you’ll have to do after bringing your new pet home.

And unless you’re planning for more puppies or kittens down the road, you should think about getting your puppy or kitten spayed or neutered. If your cat will be indoor/outdoor, getting them spayed/neutered will help decrease unexpected kittens down the road! For dogs, getting spayed/neutered can, in some situations, help with behavioral problems.

AFTER: Training and Obedience

For puppies, training can help strengthen your bond with them and can build good habits and behaviors. Consistent work with your dog can help with housetraining (see below) and can help you in the long run. You can, for example, leash train puppies so they don’t pull you off your feet. You can also work on voice control so they come when called (making going to the off-leash park more fun!).

Positive reinforcement is used by some trainers and creating good habits are easier than breaking bad ones. Working with a trainer can help!

Other things to know

Exercise: Puppies may have a whole lot of energy but a ton of exercise all at once can actually do some damage to their joints! During their first few months/years, puppies are still growing and their growth plates (the cartilage between long bones) are still developing and shifting. When they’re older, these growth plates are dense bones but it can take several months for these plates to fully develop.

During this time (anywhere between 8-20 months depending on the breed!), too much exercise can have a detrimental and long-term effect on the puppy. Shorter but more frequent bouts of exercise are better for puppies until these growth plates are fully developed. Doing that can mean tiring out your puppy without causing long-term issues!

Housebreaking: Both puppies and kittens will need to learn how to go to the bathroom in the right spots. For puppies, this will mean learning to go to the bathroom outside, like on walks and/or in the yard. For kittens, it’ll mean learning to use a litter box! Praising dogs when they go to the bathroom outside and cleaning the litter box every day are both great places to start when it comes to housebreaking.

The biggest thing to avoid when housetraining your puppy (or adult dog) is to not yell at them if you find a stool in the house, especially if you didn’t see them do it. Yelling at them can cause more anxiety and stress for the dogs and they won’t make the connection that you’re yelling about the stool. It may cause them to start eating their stools out of fear!

The good news is that there are plenty of resources online that can help with housetraining. Plus, there are trainers and other experts all around the Pacific Northwest that can help with behavior. For some online resources, here are some places to start:

Puppies and kittens are great but they are a big commitment. These animals will often be with you for 10+ years and will grow out of their cute baby phase (and into a still cute dog or cat!). Puppies eventually become dogs who eventually become seniors (and that goes for cats too). Having pets is a responsibility and one that should be taken seriously.

If you’re not sure if you’re ready for the responsibility of taking care of a pet but still want to have some time with animals, try volunteering with your local rescue! Plus, many rescues rely on foster families. Fostering is a big commitment as well but it can help a rescue animal eventually find their forever home!

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