A Year in the Life: The Puppy and Kitten Edition

You’ve welcomed home a brand-new, four-legged bundle of joy—congratulations!

You’re in for a giggle-filled year, but it won’t go without frustrations, mishaps, and lost sleep. Your puppy or kitten’s first year is one of her most important, so ensure you’re on your A game when it comes to rearing her right.

That youngster life

Puppies and kittens have three modes: sleep, play, and eat. They will spend the vast majority of their time—15 to 20 hours per day—in sleep mode. Be prepared to witness plenty of dreaming activity, too. Puppies and kittens may jerk and run in their sleep as they dream about playing with their littermates and chasing butterflies. Make sure your new friend has a space to call her own that includes a soft bed. For puppies, you may choose a crate, and for kittens, you’ll want to cordon off a small area to include a bed, a food bowl, and a litter box—bathrooms are great for this.

When your puppy or kitten isn’t sleeping, you can expect her to be playing, and the older she gets, the more playful she’ll become. As your new addition approaches 8 weeks of age, every moving object will be fair game for pouncing, so make sure your home is puppy- and kitten-proofed.

Puppy and kitten checkups

We know it pains you to see your tiny new friend get poked and prodded, but it’s imperative to her health. At your new pet’s first veterinary appointment, we’ll check for anatomic abnormalities, listen to her chest to make sure her heart sounds normal and her lungs are clear, and check her fecal sample to see if she’s harboring any intestinal parasites.

Whether she’s a puppy or a kitten, she’ll need initial vaccines with follow-up appointments for boosters. Before we start her vaccines, we’ll talk about what you envision her lifestyle to be. Gone are the days when every pet gets every available vaccine. Instead, we try to tailor each pet’s vaccine schedule to fit their lifestyle. Typically, youngsters get vaccine boosters every 3 to 4 weeks until they are about four months old to keep them protected against infectious diseases.

Parasite control

At some point in your puppy or kitten’s neonatal days, she was likely exposed to intestinal parasites, which are transmitted either through the placenta in utero or through the mammary glands while nursing. Intestinal parasites, like roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms, not only deprive your growing youngster of nutrients, they can also feed on her blood, causing life-threatening anemia.

We’ll check your pet’s fecal sample for parasites so that we know what we’re up against, but we’ll deworm her regardless of her fecal results—the life cycle of intestinal parasites means that eggs won’t always be present in a fecal sample even if adult worms are present in the intestines.

Your new pet should also be protected from external parasites, including fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. We’ll recommend appropriate preventive medications to keep these blood-suckers at bay.

Food for thought

During your pet’s veterinary visits, we’ll discuss her nutrition and offer recommendations on appropriate foods and treats. Your young pet should be eating a high-quality food specifically formulated for growing puppies and kittens. Kittens form food preferences while they are young, so introduce them to both dry and wet foods at an early age, which will make tailoring their diet much easier when they are adults. Puppies should be fed rations that are specific for puppies and dependant on their size. Large-breed pups should be fed a formula specific for large-breed puppies to prevent them from growing too fast for their frames.

If you have questions about your pet’s diet, please ask us. Misinformation about what is good and bad for pets abounds, but as veterinary professionals, we can guide you to the best options.

Stick to a routine

Puppies thrive on routine—keep her days simple while she’s still learning the ropes. Potty training will be easier this way, and because your pup will feel more confident each time she succeeds at the little things, a daily routine will set her up for success. 

Remember that these are the days that you impact your pet’s future behavior the most. Set—and stick to—rules and boundaries early so the adolescent and adult versions of your pet are polite and obedient. Puppies should attend basic obedience classes and practice commands daily. Kittens may not require obedience classes, but they still need to know which behaviors are appropriate and which are not. 

Both puppies and kittens can be “mouthy,” meaning that their teeth contact your skin more than you’d like. Their moms and siblings would scold them with a squeal if they were being too rough, so speak to them in a language they understand. A high pitched, “Ouch!,” accompanied by a time-out can drive home the message that your pup or kitten used a little too much force in her play. Biting and mouthing is completely normal for puppies and kittens, but be sure to set boundaries so everyone has fun. 

We are thrilled that you have a new pet in the house, and we know that your initial days together might be filled with anxiety and questions. We’re here for you, so let us know how we can help, and give us a call to schedule your initial puppy or kitten exam.

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