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4 Tips for Being a New Pet Parent: Nutrition, Bonding and More

4 Tips for Being a New Pet Parent: Nutrition, Bonding and More

Congrats! If you’re reading this, you are likely a new pet parent and looking for guidance on this journey and how to ensure the best life for you and your new dog or cat. Lucky for you, we’re here to help guide you through  new pet parent tips  including health and grooming tips for pets, understanding their needs, nutrition essentials, and more. Just take it from Christina of HICC Pet® when she undertook her first time at pet parenthood,” Adopting a small dog (chihuahua) in my early twenties, and having never been a pet parent before on my own, I anticipated training and nutrition but didn't know about what was required outside of that. I quickly learned how easy and important regular vet checkups were, as well as signing up for pet insurance and keeping a log of her vet records.”


1. Understanding Your Pet’s Needs

For Dogs

  • Socialization:  Insufficient socialization during a critical developmental stage in puppies can lead to leash reactivity and potential dog or even human aggression. This idea extends to older rescue dogs, although efforts will largely involve reversing existing reactivity. While waiting for a puppy to complete vaccinations before public exposure, early socialization can begin by introducing them to people and controlled environments with other dogs.

  • Training:  Dogs often crave structure which can come with basic and extended training. Puppies often need more training than an older dog such as how to keep their sharp teeth to themselves and potty training. Implementing the basics such as sit, down, stay, etc, is also a great base for further extended training later on.

  • Exercise:  Dogs require exercise to prevent becoming overweight and to get them mentally and physically stimulated (which can help prevent destructive behavior). Many dogs crave exercise such as long walks or running so it’s important to keep this in mind for certain breeds as they all have different needs. It’s suggested to have at least one longer walk per day based on your dog’s capabilities as well as provide play time and mental enrichment. It is important to keep in mind that different dog breeds require different amounts of exercise. For example, breeds in working and sporting groups such as Australian Shepherds, Border Collies, Huskies, and German Shepherds require more physical and mental exercise. French Bulldogs require much less as well as need to be monitored for too much exercise which can result in heat stroke.

For Cats

  • Socialization: When coming into a new home, cats can take a bit more time to acclimate to their new environment. If you have any other pets, your cat should be separated from them and slowly introduced over time. Cats can greatly benefit from having other pets in the home, especially if adopting them at a very young age.
  • Litter box care: Cats are creatures that have the natural instinct to bury their waste as a defense system in the wild to prevent predators from finding them. And they can be super picky about where they do this indoors. There are multiple types of litter boxes and sometimes it can be a mini journey to find the one your cat prefers. We suggest starting out with an uncovered litter box as this is often what cats are the most comfortable with. They will also need to be cleaned out daily as cats prefer not to go potty on top of their previous excrement.

  • Scratching and play alternatives: Cats have a need to be able to extend their bodies and scratch. If you don’t provide them with a cat tree or scratchers, they will simply go for your furniture. If you find them doing this, remove them immediately and put them on the scratcher. Also, if they play inappropriately, it’s best to redirect them to something they should be playing with. Take it from Evann from HICC Pet® who said “As a kitten, Salem had a lot of energy and liked to bite/tackle people. To teach him not to bite people I gave him a stuffed cat to beat up and replaced it anytime he tried to bite me”, when she was a new pet parent.

2. Nutrition and Health Essentials

A key new pet parent tip is that a pet is pretty much just as healthy as you make them (aside from predispositions). This includes providing them with proper nutrition, preventative care, and more.

Nutrition and Diet

Dogs and cats often require a more complex diet than the typical discount store kibble. Their food is often a direct correlation to their health and maintaining their health as they age. Their food can keep their digestive system good, their coat nice and soft and hearts working as they should. The types of food varieties include kibble (dry food), standard wet food, raw food, and fresh food. Stick to limited, natural ingredients with the protein as the first or second ingredient


When it comes to cats, they should have wet food implemented in their diet at a minimum or be their entire diet. Mackenzie of HICC Pet® reported that “both of my cats eat wet food. One reason is to increase hydration, hopefully reducing the chances of UTIs. The other reason is that one of our cats was diagnosed with IBD which requires hydrolyzed food.”


If you’re unsure on how to choose the best diet for your dog or cat, we recommend speaking to a board-certified veterinary nutritionist for the most accurate recommendations.


"Both of my cats eat wet food. One reason is to increase hydration, hopefully reducing the chances of UTIs. "

Mackenzie, HICC Pet

Physical and Mental Stimulation

While some of us would love to just sit around all day and do nothing, including some of our pets as well, we know it’s not the healthiest option for us and them. Even the pets who want to just lounge and sleep need some form of daily exercise. Keep in mind that the level of exercise your dog or cat needs or can handle is often dependent on both their age and breed. For example, Australian Shepherds and Border Collies NEED more daily exercise as well as mental challenges such as running agility courses. These aren’t breeds for us lazy people. Bengal cats are also more active and require more exercise and stimulation compared to my little domestic long hair who’d rather sleep all day.


There are so many different ways to exercise your dog or cat physically and mentally. Here’s a list of physical stimulation ideas:

Dogs

  • Walking

  • Running

  • Swimming

  • Agility

  • Fetch

  • Hiking

  • Treadmill (great for areas with high temperatures)

Cats

  • Active playtime with wand toys

  • Walks if they’re harness-trained

  • Trick training

  • Hide and seek

Whenever you are playing with or exercising your pet, always keep an eye out for overheating and overexertion. This looks different for both dogs and cats and all breeds and individual animals will have their own limits.


Mental stimulation is also a huge part of dog and cat’s overall health and wellness. Mental stimulation also makes them tired as well! Some dogs can walk for an hour and still have pent up energy but if you let them stop and smell the flowers, that will actively wear them out. Ideas for mental stimulation:

Dogs

  • Puzzle toys (you can DIY or buy them )

  • Scent games

  • Stop and smell on walks

  • Training

  • Chasing bubbles

Cats

  • Puzzle toys (you can DIY or buy them )

  • Cat-friendly plants

  • Provide surfaces to scratch

  • Cat trees to play on

  • Lick mats

3. How to Strengthen Your Bond and Overcome Challenges

The reason we ultimately adopt pets is because we want that love and bond that they create with us. But it doesn’t always just come naturally or you can have ways to strengthen that bond even more. The more you do activities together, especially one on one if you have other pets, the more that bond will grow. Ideas for bonding include:

  • Going for walks: Talking your dog or even your cat for leisurely strolls can create a fantastic bonding experience. Just remember to stop and smell the roses together! Make sure to take a pack of HICC Pet®’s Travel Wipes for any unexpected messes along the way.

  • Playing with toys: Interactive play sessions not only provide entertainment but also strengthen the bond between you and your pet. Discover their favorite toys and engage in playful interactions.

  • Lounging together: Whether you’re sitting and chilling on your couch, watching a movie with your dog or cat curled up with you or lounging in bed, this special time together is comforting for your pet and strengths your bond together.

  • Training: Training sessions offer mental stimulation and reinforce obedience while deepening your connection. Whether you're teaching new tricks or reinforcing basic commands, the bond formed through training is invaluable.

  • At-home grooming: Regular grooming not only keeps your pet looking their best but also strengthens the bond between you. Consider using HICC Pet's Deodorizing Glove Wipes for fur cleansing and care as well as the Hypochlorous Acid Skin Care Spray for gentle skin care maintenance. These products offer a hassle-free way to ensure your pet's hygiene and well-being while strengthening your bond through attentive care.


One of the keys to maintaining that bond is by listening to your dog or cat. They have A LOT to say but often get ignored as they can’t speak to us. But they are always communicating with us. You can learn a lot about your dog or cat by understanding their body language and sounds. They may communicate if they’re stressed, in pain, having anxiety, or uncomfortable in the situation but also that they love you and are comfortable in your presence. Understanding your pet's subtle gestures, expressions, and sounds helps you connect on a deeper level, building trust and respect.


4. How to Navigate Challenges

It’s quite common for our pets to display certain behaviors that inevitably frustrate us beyond belief such as the effects of separation anxiety, destructive behavior, and going outside the litter box/having potty accidents which can be quite challenging to deal with. First of all, getting angry over something your pet did is completely validated. The thing to remember is that you cannot direct that anger towards them as they don’t do it on purpose as there is usually some other underlying cause. But, by trying to understand the deep-rooted cause to the negative behaviors can help you try to resolve it. For example, separation anxiety may stem from fear or insecurity, while destructive behaviors could indicate boredom or pent-up energy. Litter box discrepancies may signal health issues or environmental stressors. Recognizing these signs is the first step towards finding solutions that benefit both you and your pet.


By integrating strategies to tackle these behavior issues or setbacks (if they didn’t used to happen), you can help create a more harmonious household environment for everyone involved. This involves implementing positive reinforcement techniques, setting clear boundaries, and providing mental and physical stimulation. It’s not as difficult as it may sound. For example, interactive toys or engaging in regular play sessions can both redirect those destructive behaviors as well as alleviate boredom. But in the end, consistency and patience are the overall key to resolving this behavior. But if that doesn’t work, you may need to have your pet examined by a veterinarian incase the behavior is being caused by an underlying health condition or involve a professional trainer.


It's common for pets to exhibit behaviors like separation anxiety, destructive actions, and accidents outside the litter box, which can be frustrating to deal with. While feeling frustrated is understandable, directing anger toward them isn't productive, as these behaviors usually have underlying causes. Understanding these root causes, such as fear, boredom, or health issues, can help you find solutions that benefit both you and your pet.


Conclusion

Deciding to become a new pet parent can be both fulfilling and challenging but remember that support and guidance are always available. By implementing the tips and strategies discussed, you can navigate the challenges of pet ownership with confidence. Prioritizing your pet's health, understanding their needs, and strengthening your bond will lead to a fulfilling and harmonious relationship for years to come. With dedication and patience, you and your dog or cat can enjoy a life filled with love, trust, and happiness together.

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Please note that the information provided in this article is for educational and informational purposes only. We are not veterinarians, and the content shared here should not be considered professional veterinary advice.

If you have any questions regarding copyrights or the use of materials in this article, please contact us for clarification.

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