By Jean Hofve, DVM
Selecting “The One”
While a majority of people say their cat just "showed up" - and if one shows up for you, please take it as the honor that it is! - we typically exercise a little more choice when it comes to dogs. Researching breed characteristics is a must. Choosing a puppy or kitten to match
your lifestyle is critical for the long-term success of your relationship. If you
are an apartment dweller without much time for long romps in the park, choose a small breed of dog, or one that needs less exercise. Perhaps
a Yorkshire Terrier or Pug would be well suited, but a Beagle or Border Collie would not. No matter how much you fall in love with a particular puppy,
if his heritage and breed characteristics are not right for your lifestyle - it’s
best to keep looking.
Visit shows and local breeders to get a better feel for the breed you are interested
in. It's estimated that 25% of dogs in shelters are purebreds, so contact your local shelters and rescure organizations if you are set on a particular breed. Age is no object to adoption, either; animals of all ages, from litters of puppies and kittens to elderly fellows, are always
in need of “forever” homes.
Cats differ, too, from breed to breed – so if you have the opportunity, definitely do the same
homework you would if choosing a dog. Kittens and very small children are not usually a good combination, but an easy-going young Ragdoll or Maine coon might be just the thing for an active young family.
Once you have chosen your new companion (or rather, she has chosen you!), prepare
her new home in advance. She’ll need places of comfort and safety. A
cozy bed of her own is a must, even if she’ll be sharing yours some of the time.
For puppies, a large crate or corral is essential for any times she will be unsupervised.
Better yet is a room with hard floors, such as a kitchen that can be gated off with
baby gates. Learn about proper crate and house training before you bring her home.
If you start out by leaving her for too long in a crate or without a proper set-up,
she may learn to fear confinement.
For kittens, provide a cat tree or hidey hole to retreat to for naps in safety.
Some cats prefer a high perch, and some prefer a cozy “cave”, so you may need to offer
both until you learn your kitten’s preferences. It is usually best to start your
kitten out with just one room to explore and become accustomed to. Once he has settled
in for a day or two you can gradually expand his territory.
For any puppy or kitten, traveling and acclimating to a new home is quite stressful.
You can help immensely in setting the stage for a smooth transition for your companion
by supporting them with Flower Essences, Pheromone products and other calming remedies:
Certain flower essences, like
Spirit Essences New Beginnings are designed to help support your little
companion’s emotional state as she settles in. These can be added to the water or
massaged into the ears or paws.
Calming pheromones are natural “scents” produced by nursing mother dogs and cats
that soothe and calm puppies and kittens.
Only Natural Pet Phero-Soothe spray can be used in the carrier or crate and car prior to travel,
as well as spraying directly on bedding and around the house to help reduce stress.
Sentry Pheromone Calming Collars can be worn by your pet to offer a calming "scent" at all times.
Routine, Routine, Routine
Kittens and puppies thrive on routine – and this is especially important to housetraining
a puppy. Feeding at regular intervals along with taking your puppy out on a schedule
is THE BEST way to avoid a long, drawn-out housetraining process. If you follow
a routine from day one, you’ll have him trained far more quickly and with fewer
“mistakes”. Read a good book on training such as
The Other End of The Leash or
Don’t Shoot the Dog.
Cats are creatures of habit, so set up the right habits from the start. Cats prefer life to be predictable, so go slowly when introducing him to his new environment
and housemates, keeping things as calm as possible. Kittens typically do not need
much training to use a litter box. However, no matter what
litter you ultimately intend to use, it may be wise to start with some of the
same litter your kitten was accustomed to in his previous environment and make a
gradual transition. For the first day or two, it can be helpful to place the kitten
in the box periodically and gently help him paw a bit of the litter so he gets the
idea. Scratching in sand produces a reflex to "go" - making most kitty box training amazingly quick and easy.
Separation anxiety is normal for many animals, and can be prevented, and often managed, by
gradually getting your pet accustomed to being alone. Start with
short departures – just a few seconds at first, then a minute or two, until you see how your puppy or
kitten reacts. Gradually increase the time you are away until your little friend
can be alone for up to several hours at a time. Again, using calming remedies such
as HomeoPet Anxiety and/or Loneliness / Home Alone Flower Essence can help support your pet through the
learning process. See the article about
Puppies, especially, should not be left for the entire work day. Dogs are pack
animals and do not like to be alone for such long stretches; not to mention there
is no way a puppy can hold its bladder that long. Consider a dog walking service,
a friendly neighbor, doggy daycare or a combination of solutions. When he is left
alone, make sure he has an “approved area” for elimination with puppy pads or newspaper.
Do not crate him for longer periods until he is older. A general rule
of thumb is that a puppy can "hold it" for as many hours as his age in months; so a 2
month old can hang on for two hours at the most between potty breaks, a 3 month old can wait 3
Healthy Food & Treats
Start your companion out with a variety of top quality foods to support his growth and development
and build a strong immune system. The fresher the foods we eat, the healthier we
are, and the same holds true for our four-legged friends. A raw diet is the closest
to your puppy's or kitten's natural instincts. If you are not prepared to try raw, consider
easy to prepare
Home Prepared, or
Freeze Dried foods. Using these along with a
good quality canned food for kittens and
canned or dry for puppies will provide all their growing systems need. It is
not necessary to feed a bag or can of food labeled “puppy” or “kitten” as long as
the food is labeled "for all life stages." Please see
What You Need to Know About Your Pet’s Food for more information.
Feed your new friend frequently in the beginning – at least 3 to 4 times per day (more often if they're very young). At
5 to 6 months you can slowly transition to 2-3 meals per day by gradually reducing
the amount of the mid-day meal and increasing breakfast and dinner a bit. Keep in
mind that at around 6 months, or at the time of neutering, their growth process slows down, so watch
your companion’s waistline and reduce the amount you feed if necessary. Overfeeding your puppy or kitten can set them up for health problems, such as joint issues and obesity. Puppies and kittens should be trim and
fit, not chubby and round.
Do not leave food out free-choice unless you cannot find a way to provide a mid-day
meal when you are at work. Free-choice feeding is a set-up for unhealthy eating
and elimination habits. Not only does free-choice feeding frequently lead to overweight pets, it is also a strain on their developing immune and digestive systems. If you must leave food out when your kitten or puppy is
younger, be sure to eliminate free feeding once he is old enough to transition to
2-3 meals per day. For cats, who would naturally catch several mice or birds per day, a meal in the morning, right after work, and at bedtime is ideal.
Vitamins & Supplements for Optimal Health
Diet is the foundation of any animal's health - but what can you do in addition
to a healthy diet to insure your puppy's or kitten's optimal development and strong
immune system? Provide supplements tailored to her needs:
Kittens and puppies are more vulnerable than mature animals to parasites and disease
because their immune systems are still developing. In addition, they are under a
good deal of stress as they leave the safety and familiarity of their mothers and
try to learn the ways of living with a human family. Most holistic veterinarians
highly recommend supplementing all puppies' and kittens' diets with
colostrum to help boost their immature immune system for at least a month or
two after weaning. If you are caring for a young orphaned puppy or kitten, colostrum is absolutely essential.
To support the proper digestion of foods nature wisely endowed every vegetable,
fruit and animal food source with enzymes that help break it down. These enzymes
are destroyed, however, by heat and processing. Every dog or cat that is eating
a processed food (anything other than raw or lightly cooked) diet should receive
digestive enzymes with each meal. This will not only improve digestion and the
assimilation of nutrients, but it will also help protect against the development
of allergies and immune disorders such as IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) which
can be caused by poor digestion.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)
EFAs are required in the diet – they cannot be produced by the body (hence the “essential”
in the name). These essential fatty acids are necessary for proper formation of
cell membranes, production of hormones, proper cardiovascular
function, and development of eyes, brain, skin and coat.
Fish oils are the best source of Omega 3 EFAs (Omega 6s are abundant in the diet) and most dogs and cats enjoy the taste
as long as you start slowly.
Many of us take a
daily multivitamin supplement to ensure that we receive a basic amount of important vitamins
and minerals. Even the best diet for our dogs and cats of fresh raw foods can be
lacking in some essential vitamins and minerals. Think of a multi-vitamin supplement as health insurance. Making sure the body has everything
it needs for proper cell function and growth will keep your little friend’s health
at its peak, possibly reducing your veterinarian visits and costs in the long run.
If adding 3 separate supplements to your pet’s diet sounds a bit daunting, try our Only Natural Pet Super Daily Vitamins and Enzymes Skin and Coat Formula. This
combination supplement includes flax meal to provide the essential fatty acid component.
Vaccinations & Deworming
The controversy surrounding vaccinations for kittens and puppies is an important
issue for consideration by every dog and cat guardian. Appropriate vaccinations can help prevent
serious illnesses, but overvaccination stresses the immune system of any animal, and can
cause adverse reactions and contribute to long term chronic diseases. When it comes
to vaccinations; the fewer that are necessary the better for the animal’s long-term
If possible, wait to vaccinate puppies and kittens until 9 - 12 weeks of age. Prior to that age, in most cases, antibodies from the mother's milk prevent vaccines from taking hold. Ask for vaccines with the fewest antigens (a 3- or 4-way is preferable than a 7-way, or multiple vaccines), and give each vaccines three weeks apart if possible. It takes 10-14 days for a vaccine to become effective (3-4 days for intranasal vaccines). Until 16 weeks of age (or as advised by your veterinarian) keep your companion safe by avoiding exposure to public areas such as parks and pet stores. Keep them close to home and only expose them to animals you know are healthy. DO NOT vaccinate a sick animal - if your puppy or kitten is not in perfect health, delay the vaccines until he is.
The core vaccines that most holistic veterinarians will recommend include, for kittens:
feline panleukopenia and rabies (which is required by law in most states, even
for indoor cats). For puppies: parvo, distemper and rabies. Again, research this
issue and understand the risks and benefits for any non-core vaccinations your veterinarian suggests.
If your companion’s risk of exposure is small, then it may be wise to avoid non-core
vaccines. Consider administering a remedy such
Newon Homeopathics Thuja within two hour of the injection. Thuja is also the primary vaccinosis (adverse reaction to a
vaccine) remedy for all species. If you must have your pet vaccinated, it is a
good idea to give a dose of
Thuja 30C . It is also helpful in case of
immediate vaccine reactions, such as vomiting or diarrhea occurring within a few
hours of the shot.
For more information about vaccination issues please see the article
What You Need to Know About Vaccinations and the article
Vaccination by one of our consulting veterinarians, Dr. Jean Hofve. In addition,
we encourage you to support the
Rabies Challenge Fund for further research into the area of vaccines and regulations.
Most puppies and kittens will have worms during their first weeks of life no matter
how healthy their mothers are and how clean the environment. Regardless of whether
or not your companion was dewormed prior to your taking over her care, have a stool
sample analyzed by your veterinarian during your first visit. Prescription dewormers
from your veterinarian are safer and more effective than over-the-counter chemical
dewormers available at pet stores, such as piperazine..
Herbal and homeopathic dewormers are available as well, but should be followed
up with another stool sample to insure that all infestations are cleared.
Grooming / Flea Control
Grooming is not only about maintaining a healthy coat, but it is also a time for
bonding with your little pal. Choose a
comb or brush suitable to your kitten's or puppy’s coat. Make grooming enjoyable
by offering frequent treats during the process. Keeping little
nails trimmed frequently can help avoid scratched legs and furniture and will
keep your companion more comfortable as well. Grooming and handling your little
one prepares them for veterinary visits and examinations.
One of the risks of owning a bundle of fur is that it can attract unwanted visitors
to your house – such as fleas and ticks. Get a
good flea comb to check for fleas if you see your kitten or puppy scratching.
Be prepared by keeping some
All-In-One Flea Remedy on hand. If fleas are a problem in your area, you'll need to treat the animal's bedding and favorite resting spots with the powder as well.
All-in-One powder is safe for use on puppies and kittens as young as 6 weeks.
If you will be walking your puppy anywhere other than your own yard, consider using
Herbal Defense Spray to avoid bringing home fleas from the park or a neighbor’s
yard. Be sure to read our article on natural flea control if you are in a high-flea area!
Chewing & Scratching
There is no way around it – puppies must chew and kittens must scratch; and even
kittens will need to chew when teething (around 4-6 months of age). Like housetraining or any other learning
experience the better you set your new friend up for success, the better the chance
for a healthy and enduring relationship between the two of you. Many a puppy and
kitten are given up for adoption due to chewing or scratching inappropriate items
– like shoes, carpet and furniture.
Remember that these are totally normal, natural behaviors – so don’t punish them for chewing or scratching. Simply
re-direct the behavior to appropriate objects and remove inappropriate ones. For
puppies, anything within reach is fair game – they just don’t know that your favorite
Italian stilettos or the TV remote aren’t puppy toys. It is up to you to puppy-proof
and keep things out of reach. Along with keeping inappropriate items out of reach,
be sure to keep plenty of
appropriate toys and
chews on hand and within reach. Be prepared with a variety of chews that are
appropriately sized so you can find out what her favorites are. See
Chews Wisely on the Only Natural Pet Blog to explore some options. Stuffed
Kong toys or a
Planet Dog Mazee are favorites for those times your pup will be left unsupervised but
may need a “pacifier.” Stuff the
Kong with some Organic Peanut Butter and some
small treats - he is likely to enjoy this treat so much he may not even notice
you’re gone. To make the game last longer, put the stuffed Kong in the freezer for
awhile before giving it to your puppy.
Kittens need to scratch, stretch and climb – it’s in their nature. Again, don’t
punish natural behavior – direct it to appropriate areas. Provide at least one high
scratching post such as the
Ultimate Scratching Post, that your kitten will be able to stretch on even when
full grown. It is a good idea to provide more than one scratchable surface. The
Scratch Lounge is easy to move around the house wherever your kitten
seems to be attracted to scratching. Placing one behind the sofa or other tempting
furniture sets your kitten up to avoid mistakes. Apply
Sticky Paws BEFORE your kitten comes home so she is never attracted to those
surfaces from the day she arrives. There are behavioral solutions to all scratching problems, so please work with your kitty's natural needs, and DO NOT DECLAW! If you don’t want her sleeping on the backs of
your furniture, you’ll need to provide a cat tree or other high ledge she can call
Toys and Exercise
Don’t forget the fun stuff! Kittens and puppies are like kids, both their minds and bodies are active and growing. They need to keep exploring and learning as they grow. Toys and games are their best learning experiences, so provide
them with a variety of things to satisfy their needs.
Kittens need chewy toys for teething like the
Chase the Hemp Cat Tails or
Catnip Chew Ring. They also need something to chase such as the
Go Cat Da Bird or
Kong Laser Cat Toy. The
Peek and Play Toy Box is a big favorite for growing kittens. But the best toys are the ones that come with you on the other end! Regular interactive play will help you keep your kitty slim and trim, and will prevent the many behavioral problems that can develop in bored, lonely cats.
Puppies love a good game of
tug o’ war, but don’t forget to let her win occasionally. Another favorite is
something cuddly for naps yet floppy for those times he feels ferocious and wants
to shake his prey back and forth and unleash the wolf within – try a
Simply Fido Organic Plush Toy.
Remember to get a
collar or harness and
leash for walks in the great outdoors. Even kittens can be allowed to explore
safely with a secure
harness and leash. Fresh air is a necessity of life even for indoor kittens
Puppies and kittens are notoriously accident prone, so it may be prudent to invest
first aid supplies. Choose your veterinarian
with care – don’t just go to the closest clinic. Ask at the local shelters, at shows
and dog parks to find out who the best vets are in your area. You can check the
American Holistic Veterinary
Medical Association’s Referral Page for a list of holistically trained veterinarians
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