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New Pet 101: What to Do When You Adopt a Puppy or Kitten

puppy kitten adoption
A Siamese kitten and Dachshund puppy. Getty Images

OK, so you went to the shelter, fell in love with a puppy or a kitten, and now the little lovebug is sitting in your lap and you have no idea what to do next. It’s cool, we’ve got you! There are some very important basics you’ll want to take care of right after adopting a pet, so Us Weekly hopped on the phone with Best Friends Animal Society to get a rundown of exactly what to do once you get home with your new furry BFF.

Related: Stars Who Adopted Dogs in 2017

Pick up your pencils, it’s time for New Pet 101.

1. Prepare Your Home
For puppies, that means setting up a crate — a vital step in getting your doggo to poop and pee outside. “Confinement is a really important part of raising a puppy,” Best Friends Animal Society Behavior Consultant Glenn Pierce tells Us. “It’s a huge part of house-training, which is a huge part of bringing a puppy home. You want to make sure your puppy is comfortable staying in a crate, and sleeping in a crate.”

For kittens, you’re going to want to prepare a small “safe space” for your new roomie — a.k.a a spot they can chill out with their litter box and food, where they won’t get overstimulated. “This allows the cat to have a safe zone,” Best Friend Animal Society Veterinary Technician Heather Purdy tells Us. “It basically gives them security, instead of going from a cage at a shelter to a three-story house. It also allows the owner to get to know the animal and bond with their pet.”

Pro tip from Purdy: Get your kitten acclimated to its travel carrier by placing it in that safe space you’ve created. It’ll make trips to the vet a lot easier.

Related: Celebrities Obsessed With Their Cats

2. Find a Great Vet
Depending on whether you adopt your little one from a shelter or a random friend whose pet gave birth to a buncha babies, you’ll either be presented with a medical history … or not. But either way, get thee to a local vet for a full physical of your critter to make sure they’re healthy! This is especially important if you have kids in the house, and as an added bonus, vets can help you microchip your pet if it isn’t already.

“You want to establish a relationship with a vet, and get medical records to the vet right away,” Pierce tells Us. “Puppies need vaccine boosters until they’re about six months old. So if you adopt a puppy at eight weeks old, you have months of high maintenance medical needs to pay attention to.” In other words: Don’t put this important step off for one minute!

Also, a quick note on kittens: Purdy points out that they’re generally terrified of the car, vets, other animals, and, well, anything brand new and intimidating. Try to find a feline-only practitioner, and if that’s not an option, a vet that has cat-centric hours. “Cats don’t dig riding in the car,” Purdy says. “The vet can be really scary for a cat, so trying to set the appointment up not to fail that cat is really helpful.”

puppy kitten adoption
A labrador retriever puppy with tabby kitten. Tim Davis/CORBIS via Getty Images

3. Brush Up on Socialization
Dogs and cats are very different when it comes to how social they are as young animals. A puppy should be socialized with other dogs and people ASAP to ensure it grows up to be friendly and outgoing. “The most important thing for a puppy is making sure it’s properly socialized,” Pierce says. “Puppies go through a once-in-a-lifetime development period starting age three weeks to five months. During that time, they have learning flexibility that they never have again — so it’s important to expose them to new experiences in a way that they feel safe and happy. A puppy who doesn’t get that proper socialization will default to fear.”

Related: Hot Hunks Walking Dogs

Two great socialization tips? Take your puppy to the vet without an appointment just so he can get used to it, and also try signing your guy up for classes with other dogs and a good relationship-based trainer.

Meanwhile, kittens need to take it more slowly. As Purdy notes, they can get overwhelmed around too many new people or in too big of a space, so get them used to you and your family with visits to the safe area you’ve made for them.

4. Gather Your Supplies!
This is sort of a no-brainer, but you’ll probably want to stop off at a pet store after adopting a new animal. (Or better yet, have all the supplies before bringing your new furry BFF home!) Puppy must-haves include crates, wee-wee pads, proper identification (read: a collar and tag!), toys, a comfy bed, treats, and food. Kitty must-haves include scratching posts, a litter box and scooper, food (keep it away from the litter box), toys, treats, a carrying bag, and a comfy place to sleep.

Us Weekly articles and content are for informational purposes only. Nothing contained in Us Weekly articles and/or content is or should be considered, or used as a substitute for, veterinary or professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you believe your pet may have a medical emergency, call or visit your veterinarian or your local veterinary emergency hospital immediately.