Best Pet Supplies and Tips for Newly Adopted Cats and Dogs

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Adding a furry pal to your family? We’ve rounded up the gear and information you’ll need for a smooth transition.

WE’RE A BUNCH of animal lovers here at WIRED, and we think pets make life better. If you’re about to adopt a new furry friend, or have recently welcomed one, you’ll need a few things to get off on the right foot. We talked to a feline behaviorist, shelter and vet hospital staff members, and our own pet-obsessed coworkers to round up the gear and advice you’ll need to transition your new family member to forever home life.

When the pandemic first started, shelters across the country emptied out as people found themselves suddenly spending a lot of time at home. I’d be remiss if I didn’t emphasize that you still need to be sure you’ll have the time, patience, and desire to keep this pet once life is totally normal again. Also, remember that kittens and puppies turn into cats and dogs that deserve loving homes and shouldn’t be dropped at the pound for a younger model.

Fostering a pet is a good way to dip your toes in if you are unsure about the full-time commitment. Also, consider adopting or fostering a senior dog or cat or special-needs animal; they’re often overlooked.

Be sure to read our guides to the Best Dog Tech and Accessories and Best Cat Toys and Supplies when you’re ready to level up your pet’s gear.

Updated March 2022: We added more advice on what to expect and how to help your pet transition to your home. We’ve also updated links throughout and labeled helpful tips with a star .

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What to Expect
They need a little extra love, support, and patience. So you’ve adopted a new pal, congratulations! I know you want to get right to cuddles and fetch games, but give them time to get used to you and their new surroundings. This might be especially true when it comes to senior pets who have been through several homes or lived a majority of their lives in shelters.

I spoke with staff from Muttville Senior Dog Rescue in San Francisco—the shelter that WIRED art director Elena Lacey has fostered pups from. They offered a ton of advice and a peek at their take-home paperwork (you can find copies here) that can apply to all new pets, whether they’re babies or seniors. The shelter you adopt from may have their own paperwork for you to take home too.

Expect some skittishness and indoor accidents, even for housebroken animals. Don’t hit them or push their faces into it—that form of training is confusing and cruel. Be patient, show them where they need to go, and praise them effusively when they go there. If you’re adopting a senior pet, they may have a harder time holding it. No one says you have to live in filth, but if the sight of a little, uh excrement, will send you into a rage, maybe reconsider getting a pet.

“Just as the humans are going through a transition with a new family member, the dog is going through a big transition too,” says Kristin Hoff, Muttville’s Adoptions Manager.  “Setting up a schedule is really important for dogs so they can start knowing what to expect—twice a day feedings and more potty breaks than you think your new pup will need (expect mistakes and don’t get mad when they happen).”

Muttville staff also emphasized what they call the   rules of 3 when it comes to dogs. The first three days might be overwhelming, and they probably won’t act like their true selves. Even eating might be hard. In the first three weeks, they’ll start to get comfortable, recognizing your (and their) schedule, and will hopefully form a bond with you and any other animals in the home. By three months, your pup should be fully themselves and completely comfortable in their home. For dogs, Muttville says, predictability is comforting.

If You Have Kids or Others Pets at Home
Kids may not be as in tune to cues of anger, fear, or discomfort, so you should supervise interactions, showing them exactly what’s appropriate. You want everyone involved to be safe and happy, and you can’t blame an animal for acting out if little hands are yanking at their tails, stealing toys, or interrupting meal time.

When it comes to  introducing two dogs, Muttville says to take a “loose leash walk” so neither of the dogs feels anxious. Keep them 10 to 15 feet apart and slowly let them get closer if all goes well. You can eventually take their leashes off and let them play, if you find they’re comfortable together. At home, Muttville says to put away all the toys and food bowls that belong to your other dog, so there are no territory fights. When you won’t be home, you should keep the dogs separated at first, start with a week of that and see how things go. You can use crates or separate them using baby gates or doors.

Cats can be more difficult, whether they’re meeting another cat or a dog. Keep them separate, but let them get used to each other’s scents. You can use a blanket or towel for this and then allow each pet to smell the other within different areas of the house—so let the cat roam the living room and kitchen today while the dog is in the bedroom, and then switch the rooms tomorrow. If you’re introducing a dog and cat, keep the dog leashed at first, just in case. Be mindful and supervise them until you’re sure all is well.

More Tips (for Adoption or Fostering)
Foster parents, especially of senior and special-needs animals, are much needed and can help the pets get used to living in a home rather than being stuck in a cage at a shelter. You should have all the essentials listed in this guide for whatever animal you’re fostering, but Elena Lacey offered some advice based on her own experience as a foster parent that we think works for newly adopted pets too: Get some canned chicken, cream cheese, and hot dogs. “Often, they’re scared and don’t want to eat, or their tummies are upset,” she says. “Canned chicken is a pretty universal treat that won’t upset their stomach, and they almost always are excited about it.” If the animal will need medication, Lacey says cream cheese and hot dogs are a fail-safe way to get them to take it.

She also suggested looking into pet insurance. There are a lot of pet insurance companies out there, and we haven’t tried enough to offer one best answer. You can see if your employer offers it the same way they might offer health insurance for you, that way the cost will come out of your pretax paycheck. We also suggest asking around in any pet-specific groups on Facebook or Reddit and then doing your own research.

Find a Vet and Trainer Stat
If you don’t already have a veterinarian you like, try to find one before bringing your new pet home and set up an initial appointment. Ask if they use any telehealth services, too (we have recommendations if they don’t). This will come in handy when you have questions that might not require a trip to the vet. It’s a good idea to ask your vet what pet insurance they accept, too.

Puppies and kittens will benefit from a training plan, but it can be good for older animals too. There are behavior professionals who do virtual consultations, as well as offering in-home services. Your local PetCo might offer on-site classes, too. Ask the shelter and vet for suggestions. You can also find directories through:

Pet Professional Guild
International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants
Association of Professional Dog Trainers
Monks of New Skete Dog Training program
Feline behaviorist and training consultant Marci L. Koski (whom I spoke with when I was testing Pretty Litter) recommends Fear Free Happy Homes, no matter which pet you’re adopting. It has free resources and guides on training, health, animal anxieties, and much more, as well as tips on things like how to groom.

And of course you can try training your pet yourself. A clicker is a good tool for dogs, especially, and make sure to check out the plethora of experts available on YouTube, like Zak George (for pups) and Kitten Lady (for kittens), who have helped some folks at WIRED.

Socialization and Separation
I also spoke with Hannah Lau, who works at the Adobe Animal Hospital in Los Altos, California. She stresses the importance of  socializing your new pet—dog or cat—with other people and animals. If their life has been mostly in a pandemic social-distancing situation, you don’t want them to be scared of new people or animals they’ll eventually encounter.

At the same time, it’s easy to become attached to your new pet 24/7. Lau suggests giving your pet some  alone time so they can experience separation early on. You can talk to your vet for the best way to get them used to you being out of the house and download Muttville’s Alone Time Training PDF for tips.

The Necessary Gear
All pets will need some accessories from the moment you bring them home. You don’t need to go overboard right away—you can always upgrade and add to your supplies later after learning what they like—but they should feel comfortable and at home. Below, we’ve listed some of the essentials for cats and dogs.

I use Chewy for nearly all of my pet supplies. It has great customer service, a generous return policy, and automatic shipments if you get the same thing often. The site also has a section called Pet Central, with informative guides on pet parenting and all that goes along with it. If you already pay for Prime, Amazon works too, and it has pet profiles and subscriptions to litter, food, treats, and more.

 

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