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Tips for New Pet Owners: Pet Supply Checklist

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Newsletter
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24petwatch:newletter/topic/new-pet-parents
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Welcoming a new dog or cat to your home can be one of the most exciting times of your life. It can also be a whirlwind of preparation, learning, and adjustment for everyone in your household, including your furry new family member.

To ease transition, we created a comprehensive checklist to help you make the crucial initial stages with your new pet a success. Use it to eliminate the questions and guesswork.

New pet supplies: What to buy 

According to the APPA’s latest statistics, American pet owners spent $103 billion on their pets in 2020, with an estimated $109 billion projected for 2021. That’s a lot of kibble, crates, and cat trees! So to keep your shopping spree manageable, we divided the checklist into sections.

  • An essentials list, which includes everything you’ll need on hand before bringing your pet home
  • Breakout lists of essential items specific to dogs and cats
  • An extras list of non-essential items to consider to make life easier for you and your new pet

New pet essentials checklist

Here are the most critical items every pet parent will need for a triumphant homecoming:

  • Collar - Look for safe, sturdy options appropriate for your new pet’s size and breed. An adjustable collar is an intelligent choice for puppies because it can grow along with your pup. For cats (yes, even “indoor” cats), look for collars with a breakaway clasp — a safety feature allowing cats to break free if the collar catches on something.

  • Identification tags – Some people believe there’s little chance their dog or cat could go missing. However, identification tags can help you get them back safely should that occur. Attach your pet’s ID tag securely to their collar and include their name and your updated contact information. ID tags can fall off, so be sure your new pet has a microchip implant correctly registered and linked to your updated contact information — ensuring it’s easier to get a hold of you if someone finds your lost pet. 

  • Food and water bowls - Your most durable, sanitary, mess-free option is a dishwasher-safe stainless steel bowl with a non-slip base. Depending on your dog’s size, you may want to consider elevated bowls. Cats and kittens tend to prefer shallow food bowls or dishes.

  • Food - For the first week in your home, avoid abrupt dietary changes that can upset your pet’s stomach by purchasing the food they were eating at the shelter or breeder’s. Based on their breed, size, and nutritional needs, you can always gradually transition your pet to a new food. Always feed your pet foods meeting the standards of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). You can find this information on food labels.

  • Treats – If used in moderation, tasty treats can be a helpful training aid. But, again, try to stick with treats your new dog or cat is used to, and don’t overdo it. Calories from treats can add up fast and don’t benefit your growing pet like a more nutritionally balanced diet.

  • Travel carrier or safety harness - You’ll need a safe way to transport your new pet to veterinarian visits and around town. For cats, it typically means a travel carrier big enough to allow your pet to turn around, but not so roomy they could use it as a litter box. Meanwhile, for dogs, consider a travel carrier, crate, or safety harness rated for your pet’s size and weight. For optimal protection, look for products that have undergone vigorous crash testing, like those listed as crash-test certified by the Center for Pet Safety.

  • Sleeping space - Whether you opt for a crate, a dog or cat bed, or a plush blanket, providing your pet with a cozy space of their own can help them feel more comfortable and secure in their new home. If possible, include a familiar item or scent to signal this space is safe. For new puppies and kittens especially, a blanket smelling like their littermates can be incredibly comforting.

  • Toys - Too many toys could overwhelm your new pet, so don’t go overboard at first. Instead, invest in a few safe, durable, age-appropriate toys to help you bond with your pet during playtime. Dogs (and puppies, especially) love chew toys. Look for high-quality materials that won’t splinter, fray, or break into smaller pieces that could get swallowed or stuck in their mouth. Cats typically prefer toys simulating hunting, like a wand with feathers or plush “prey” encouraging them to stalk and pounce. Always dispose of toys when they start to deteriorate to keep your pet safe.

  • House cleaning supplies – The adjustment period is likely to be a bit messy. Keep extra rags and towels available for wiping muddy paws and cleaning up spills. Purchase paper towels, extra absorbent pads, enzyme cleaners, and stain and odour removers for potty accidents.

  • Pet cleaning supplies - Even if you don’t plan to bathe your dog or cat right away, it’s a good idea to have items like wipes, shampoo, and conditioner on hand, just in case you need to. Plus, it’s never too early to start brushing your new pet’s teeth. Pick up some pet-appropriate toothpaste and toothbrushes so that you can build healthy dental habits.

  • First aid kit - Along with standard supplies like bandages, pet-safe thermometer, hydrogen peroxide, and spare leash and collar, also include essential information like your veterinarian’s name and phone number, as well as your pet insurance policy number and contact information.

New dog or puppy checklist

  • Dog crate - Select a crate that’s large enough for your dog to stand up, turn around, and then lay down with their legs spread out. The crate should be comfortable but not so big your dog could soil it and still have a clean place to lay down. For a new puppy, consider a crate with a divider, so you can adjust the size of the crate as your puppy grows. And don’t forget to invest in a comfortable crate cushion or bedding.

  • Harness and leash - While a collar is a great place to hang your dog’s ID tags, attaching a leash to it could damage your dog’s neck or windpipe if your dog pulls too hard on the leash. A harness distributes the pressure so it won’t hurt your dog. It also gives you more control while you're out on a walk. Look for a harness that hugs your dog, but not too tightly. Your dog’s legs should have a full range of motion, and your dog shouldn’t be able to wiggle or slip out of the harness. To start, a basic 6-foot leash with a standard snap clasp should suffice. You can always explore different leash styles and specialized clasps (like D-ring or safety-latch clasps) once you and your dog know each other better.

  • Poop bags - Keep a ready supply of bags on hand to dispose of dog waste. Look for convenient bag-dispensers you can attach to your leash. Some even feature flashlights for nighttime walks and treat compartments so you can provide positive reinforcement for outdoor potty behaviours.

New cat or kitten checklist

  • Litter box and supplies - To encourage your new cat to use a litter box instead of your floor, start with an open, roomy litter box that is low to the ground and has an easy access point. If possible, use kitty litter familiar to your cat. As a general rule, you should have one more litter box than the number of cats in your home and one on each floor of your home.
  • Scratching post - A scratching post can help keep your cat’s sharp claws off of your furniture and busy with more appropriate materials. To encourage your cat or kitten to use the post, scatter some cat treats or organic catnip near the scratcher to attract them.

New pet extras checklist

The first few weeks with a new pet are about survival and adjustment. After everyone settles into a comfortable routine, focus on the additional items you’ll need to help your new pet thrive.

  • Grooming tools, such as brush, comb, de-shedding tools, clippers for fur, nail clippers, or nail grinder
  • Training clicker
  • Treat pouch
  • Food storage container and scoops
  • Puzzle toys and feeders
  • Protective gear for extreme weather, such as cozy coats and booties or cooling jackets for hot climates
  • Playpen or exercise pen
  • Pet stroller

New pet parent tips for success

Preparing for a new pet is one part of setting the stage for success. The other essential ingredients are time and patience — with yourself and your new dog or cat. Some experts use the “rule of threes” when welcoming a pet into their home.

According to this rule, in the first three days, your pet may be a bit quiet and reserved as they try to adapt to a brand new environment. However, within three weeks, you can usually expect your pet to start feeling more comfortable. You may even begin to see more of their personality emerge, or they may start to act silly and engaging. Within three months, your new pet will likely feel secure and consider your home their home.

Author Bio

Tonya Wilhelm is a dog-training expert who teaches positive ways of preventing and managing behaviour issues with a holistic approach. Named one of the Top 10 dog trainers in the US (twice), she has helped thousands of parents build happy relationships with their dogs using humane, positive training methods. You can learn more about Tonya on her popular blog, Raising Your Pets Naturally.