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Pet-Proof Your Home

Essential tips on how to get your home ready for your new four-legged family member

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Patrick McMullan

This article is sponsored by Petco. It does not reflect the work or opinions of the NBC OTS editorial staff. To learn more about Petco, visit Petco.com.

As any cat or dog adopter will tell you, rescuing a pet from a shelter is an incredibly rewarding experience.

But before you bring your new four-legged family member home, it’s important to prepare your household for the new arrival. In addition to endless cuddling, playing and companionship, a new pet also means increased responsibility. As an animal’s primary caregiver, their wellbeing will depend on you.

Fortunately, there are a few simple things you can do prior to a new pet’s arrival to optimize their health and happiness. That’s why we spoke to Dr. Whitney Miller, Director of Veterinary Medicine at Petco. Follow her six essential pet planning tips and your adoption journey will be as smooth as it is enriching.

Stock Up
Like anything in life, the key to a successful pet adoption is preparation. And that begins with stocking up on all the right items specific to your particular pet’s needs. From toys to treats, dishes to ID tags, bedding to carriers, you’ll want to make sure you’ve purchased everything that will keep an adopted pet happy and healthy.

This is especially true for food, where knowing a pet’s health history and dietary needs will help you ensure they’re getting the nutrients they need.

“Ask the shelter if your new adopted family member has any identified food sensitivities,” Dr. Miller says. “Consult with your veterinarian to get some recommendations that are optimal for your new pet’s specific needs. These can be based on your pet’s breed, energy level, life stage, health concerns and other factors. Then work with partners at your trusted pet retail store to find a brand that fits your budget and pet’s needs.”

Build a Team
While caring for a pet is a full-time commitment, you’ll need a team of trusted professionals to give the care you can’t always provide. To do so, you’ll want to start early, building relationships with a network of veterinarians, trainers, groomers and walkers that both you and your pet can rely on.

One of the best ways to ensure that your new furry family member gets off on the right paw is to get a good veterinarian. Dr. Miller suggests doing so before your pet arrives home:

“Before you bring your new shelter pet home, make sure you have a relationship with a veterinarian who will be able to do a health check-up right away and get your new family member off on the right paw with any vaccines or other preventive care. This will reduce the chances of your new pet getting sick, and give you a chance to ask an expert any questions you may have.”

Pet Proofing Home Design
Since pets are inquisitive by nature, your new dog or cat is bound to explore his/her new digs. That’s why it’s important to keep anything hazardous or valuable out of paw’s way.

Dr. Miller’s pet-proofing suggestions include: identifying and removing any toxic houseplants; using child safety locks on cleaning supply closets; unplugging electric cords to prevent any chewing-induced shock; creating a designated sleeping area; and in the case of cats, keeping washing machine and dryer doors closed as kittens tend to creep inside.

Rainy Day Fund
No matter how much you care for your new pet, their lives are bound to be as unpredictable as ours. Which means injury and sickness can strike when we least expect it. Dr. Miller recommends starting a rainy day fund to ensure that an unexpected veterinarian visit won't break the bank. 

“You might not need it—and hopefully you won’t—but having emergency money set aside for accidents or illnesses is a smart idea. Veterinary visits are critical when your pet is sick or injured and they can get costly. In an emergency, it is a good idea to have at least $300 to $400 set aside. If a pet breaks a leg, the cost can run over $2,000.”

Mark Their Territory!
Your pet should feel secure in their new home. If they have access to a yard, you’ll want to make sure:

  • It’s outfitted with appropriate fencing
  • A dog cannot dig and escape
  • Any open water is secured
  • They know where invisible boundaries are located
  • They’re tagged and microchipped
  • They have flea and tick prevention

As stated earlier, you’ll also want to create designated sleeping areas. Dr. Miller says this gives a pet his/her own area in the household.

“It is good to have bedding for your pet in the areas of the house you spend the most time in, and in a quiet area of the house away from the hustle and bustle. That will give your new family member his own space to spend time with the family, and to get some quiet time when they are tuckered out.”

Teach Kids Too
Perhaps no one in your family is more excited about a new pet’s arrival than your children. But while pets and children get along very well, it’s important to establish a few playtime rules first.

“Always supervise play and interaction between children and pets,” Dr. Miller advises. “Gentle hands with no pulling, pushing or leaning are best. Teach children to respect your new pet early on, and when playing always have a toy for the puppy/dog to put in its mouth. Small children should not attempt to pick up or carry your new pet. If any of the children’s skin is touched by the pet’s mouth, stop playtime to give the pet a break. Keep the play sessions short and fun to prevent over stimulation and encourage positive play."

To encourage safe, happy and healthy play, Dr. Miller also strongly advocates working with a trainer and involving your kids in the training of a new pet.

“A trainer will be able to set up a training plan with you and your puppy, ensuring that you are working toward you and your family’s goals. But it will be up to you and your family to incorporate the training into your daily life and keep consistent with the training. Consistency and patience are two main components of successful training and creating appropriate habits.” 

With more than 50 years of service to pet parents, Petco is a leading pet specialty retailer that focuses on nurturing powerful relationships between people and pets. Visit your local Petco for the best products, services, advice and experiences that will keep your new pet physically fit, mentally alert, socially engaged and emotionally happy.

With more than 50 years of service to pet parents, Petco is a leading pet specialty retailer that focuses on nurturing powerful relationships between people and pets. Visit your local Petco for the best products, services, advice and experiences that will keep your new pet physically fit, mentally alert, socially engaged and emotionally happy.
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