Welcoming a puppy or kitten into your home? Well, this article will help you with what you need to know as you begin this very exciting journey. From choosing the right food, to important DO’s and DON’T’s, healthy treats, toilet training, play time and toys.
You can also download our helpful guides: the New Pet Checklist and Routine Care Guide to get you started.
What to feed your puppy or kitten
Your best option is to invest in a recommended brand of pet food that has been scientifically formulated to be a complete and balanced diet, so that it covers all of your puppy or kitten’s essential needs. These young pets need high amounts of protein and the right minerals, vitamins and fats.
Investing in a good quality diet from puppy and kitten stage right through to their old age, is one of the best ways to avoid long-term conditions and ailments including degenerative joint disease; diabetes; dental problems; urinary tract disease and skin and coat concerns.
Ingredients to look out for in puppy or kitten food
Here are just some of the ingredients to keep an eye out for when choosing food for your puppy:
- Protein | Critical to muscle and skeleton development, high quality protein will provide the essential (and non-essential) amino acids that are vital for a balanced diet.
- Minerals | Calcium, phosphorous and potassium are required for the development of healthy bones. Glucosamine and Chondroitin are joint nutrients that helps with the formation of cartilage and bone growth.
- Vitamins | along with minerals they function together to support the immune system, as well as skeletal, muscle and nervous system development and maintenance.’ Vitamins can help everything from cell repair to brain function.
- Fat | Provides energy and is a source of essential fatty acids that are necessary for optimal functioning as well as supporting a healthy skin and coat. Energy is exactly what your puppy needs from his or her food and fats (lipids) are a key source of this energy (and also make the food taste good!).
- Fibre | Dietary fibre supports gastro-intestinal health and help manage conditions such as constipation or diarrhoea. The right balance of dietary fibre can help with nutrient absorption, without causing unnecessary strain on the gut.
- Antioxidants | Vitamin E, C and Beta-carotene improve blood circulation, reduce inflammation and supports your puppy’s immune system.
- DHA and L-Carnitine | DHA supports brain development and active learning while L-Carnitine supports the functioning of a healthy brain.
From three months old, kittens are growing so fast that their need for energy dense food is about three times more than that of an older cat. Keep an eye out for:
- Essential amino acids | A kitten or cat needs the essential amino acids to be in their food for healthy muscle and cell development.
- The right fibre | A kitten’s digestive system is not fully developed so too much fibre isn’t a good thing.
- Antioxidants and vitamins | Ingredients like vitamin E, C, taurine and lutein can help build the immune system and overall health.
- Protein | Kittens do not use plant protein very well so you’re looking for quality animal or fish protein.
- Carbohydrates | In kitten food there should also be minimal to zero carbohydrates (grains/maize).
Highly recommended puppy and kitten food:
How much to feed your puppy or kitten and how often
It is important to use the feeding table on the food bag or pouch as your guide. It’s also a good idea to speak to your vet about your pet’s diet. It’s likely that you’ll start with splitting their food into two or three meals a day. Sticking to feeding times is a good way to help your new family members feel settled too – they’ll start to get a feel for routine, boundaries and what’s expected of them.
When you first welcome your puppy or kitten home, don’t make any drastic changes to their diet as this may lead to tummy upsets. Speak to the rescue organisation or breeder (whoever has been caring for your pet to date) and stick to this diet for a few days before slowly transitioning.
A few important dos and don’ts
- Steer clear of cow’s milk | For puppies and kittens, cow’s milk isn’t a good option. Once kittens have been weaned they lose the enzymes needed for them to digest the milk, so it isn’t digested very well. Milk is also quite high in lactose and fat. For puppies and kittens, milk can cause upset tummies and obesity.
- Always have fresh water available | Make sure your pet knows where to access fresh water (keep a bowl in the same place, all of the time).
- Don’t give table scraps | Table scraps can be high in sugar, salt and fat. It’s much better to stick to their pet food and healthy treats.
- Use the power of the healthy treat! | Pick a recommended brand of healthy puppy biscuits or chews or cat treats (you don’t want anything high in sugar, preservatives or salt) and use these to help teach your puppy or kitten the behaviour you’d love to see more of (i.e train and reward).
- Research any foods that should be avoided | There are some foods that should be avoided completely. For example: chocolate, coffee, tea, energy drinks, grapes, raisins, onion, garlic, xylitol and raw meat, raw eggs and raw fish (due to the chance of salmonella), also any small bones or bones that are easy to chip and tear (these can rip at teeth and gums).
Other key aspects of puppy and kitten care
There is so much to learn when it comes to puppy and kitten care but we have created this Pet Checklist (download it here) which includes everything you may need for your new addition to the family – it also comes with a voucher to save R100 on your purchase.
In addition, to make it easy to remember all the important things like when your pet will need vaccinations, deworming or tick and flea treatment, we have a hand ‘Routine Care Guide’ that you can download here and stick onto the fridge.
Toilet training your puppy or kitten
The most important thing here is patience. For a puppy it can take up to 6 months to be fully house-trained. The good news is, there are several products available to assist with this. For puppies you will need some training pads and training spray and for kittens, a good cat litter and suitable litter tray.
Training your puppy or kitten
Making the most of the first weeks and months is like finding gold when it comes to training your puppy or kitten – many animal behaviourists consider there to be a ‘window’ of up to four months when it is far easier to ensure your puppy or kitten will be well socialised (i.e. able to be around other cats or dogs happily) and able to grasp key commands and behaviours. With positive reinforcement (including healthy pet treats mentioned above) and consistency, puppies and kittens are able to learn so much – from responding to their name and good toilet habits to simple commands and key dos and don’ts around your home.
Play time is important for puppies and kittens
Be careful not to over-exercise a puppy or kitten. In the first year especially, focus on play time and bonding rather than anything strenuous. Invest in some great toys for your new pet and use them to help with training, to prevent scratching or chewing or just to play, play, play.
Recommended toys include:
Get in touch
Remember, we are here to help so visit your local Absolute Pets store or get in touch with us online, or on Facebook.
Happy & Healthy