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Caring For Your New Christmas Furry Friend

Now the Christmas and New Year celebrations are over, you might be entering 2024 feeling a little out of your depth as the realities of caring for your new furry friend unravel. Caring for a new pet can be overwhelming, with thousands of articles and new information at the click of a button it can be hard to know what advice is best. That’s why in this article we have highlighted the must-knows, do’s, and don’ts for caring for your new family member.

Puppies

Diet:

Puppies should always be fed a carefully balanced diet. Unbeknownst to some, puppies also need feeding more frequently than mature dogs. Just like children, puppies have big appetites as a result of playing, growing, and exploring. We suggest feeding your puppy four times a day initially (age dependent), this can be reduced to 3 times a day once a puppy hits 4 months (size dependent) and reduced again to twice daily as they get older.

When possible, try to feed your pup at regular intervals and establish a routine. This can help aid your puppies' digestion, and maintain a stable metabolism.

The quantity your puppy needs is dependent on its size, breed, and age. Whilst most food labels offer advice on how much they need, at Roundwood, we are also happy to talk through any advice on diets.

Creating a Safe Place:

Creating space and buying toys is important for your puppy to feel safe and know they have their own space. Although it can be hard to resist puppy cuddles, it is also important to allow your puppy to retreat and rest on its own.

Ideally, their safe space should be in a draught-free, quiet place where they can rest undisturbed. Crates and cosy beds should be used to create a ‘hiding space’.

Training:

Training from an early age is important to avoid unwanted behaviours in adulthood.

From a young age, begin to leave your puppy alone for short intervals in their designated safe space to prevent separation-related anxiety.

Toilet training must also be carried out from a young age with the understanding that patience and consistency are key. Taking your puppy to the toilet hourly is a good way to reduce accidents. Similarly, understanding your puppies' behavioural patterns and when they need to relieve themselves can help. We suggest always taking your puppy outside immediately after they wake, play, or are fed. When possible, use the same area of the garden during training and always praise them with treats after.

Socialising:

Puppies should be socialised with new humans, environments, and other pets from an early age to prevent unwanted adult anxieties and aggressions.

As your puppy grows their experiences will shape how their future behaviours therefore introducing them to other friendly vaccinated dogs can help give them positive interactions to model.

Exercise:

When your puppy is young (before they have had their final vaccinations), they get all the exercise they need around the garden and house. Once they are vaccinated, exercise should still be limited. A good rule of thumb is to walk your dog for five minutes per month of age (up to twice a day). Over-exercising your puppy at an early age can lead to problems with bone development and arthritis.

Health and Welfare:

Registering your puppy with a local vet for a check-up is essential.

At Roundwood, we can help advise you on vaccinations, diet, and how to maintain a worming and flea treatment regime as well. We also suggest getting insurance for your new pup. To learn more about puppy care, click here.


Kittens

Diet:

Similarly to puppies, kittens need lots of food. Feeding in regular intervals of up to six times a day can help make sure you’re providing the calories they need to grow. Alternatively, free-feeding can be used - this is when food is provided in their bowl all day long rather than having set meal times.

Again, use the packaging of your kitten food to check your kitten is getting the correct intake.

Creating a Safe Place:

Kittens also benefit from having a safe space in your home, particularly over the first few days/ weeks whilst your kitten is adapting to your home. Providing them with a bed, blanket, hiding places and things to climb can help them feel settled.

Socialising:

Similarly to puppies, kittens benefit from early socialisations and interactions with other people, children, and vaccinated pets to reduce anxieties in older age.

Exercise:

Like babies, kittens need lots of rest in between exploring. Spend time playing with your kitten and offering both mental and physical stimulation in between rest breaks.

Health and Welfare:

Similarly to puppies, kittens should also be given a check-up, worming and flea treatment and a microchip.

To learn more about caring for your kitten in more detail, click here.


Guinea Pigs

Diet:

Guinea pigs are herbivores and therefore need a diet that consists of hay and or grass, pelleted guinea pig food and fresh vegetables. Guinea pigs need hay or fresh grass to help aid digestion, however, avoid giving them lawnmower clipping as this could make them feel ill.

Creating a Safe Place:

Guinea pigs can be kept either inside or out. If you opt to keep your guinea pig outside, you will need to ensure they have a safe (predator-proof) enclosure in a safe and quiet area. Wooden hutches, sheds or wendy houses (around 10 feet in total) often make good homes. All guinea pigs' enclosures should have a separate sleeping area as well as an exercise ‘run’.

Because guinea pigs are vulnerable to extreme temperatures - both hot and cold - we suggest moving them inside in the colder months or providing extra shelter, bedding or pet-friendly heat mats.

A suitable guinea pig enclosure should have a living area, food, hay, water bottles, tunnels, shelters and an exercise run.

Socialising:

Guinea pigs are very social animals and therefore may get lonely if kept alone. We suggest keeping them in pairs when possible.

Exercise:

Both indoor and outdoor guinea pigs should have the opportunity to run and explore. An outside run should be no less than 24 square feet. Guinea pigs are active up to 20 hours a day and only sleep in short intervals so having a lot of places to explore and exercise is necessary.

Health and Welfare:

Guinea pigs need brushing and grooming often. To keep your guinea pig healthy and clean, be sure to daily spot-clean their enclosure and carry out a deep clean once per week.

As guinea pigs are prone to eye problems and therefore it is important to use dust-free bedding and soft hay in their enclosure. A healthy guinea pig should look alert with bright eyes and a good coat.


Rabbits

Diet:

Similarly to guinea pigs, rabbits should be provided with a diet of hay or grass and fresh vegetables and fruit. Small quantities of high-fibre pellets should also be given.

Hay should make up three-quarters of your rabbit's diet, with limited fruit and vegetables. When offering fruit and vegetables, avoid giving your rabbit anything acidic and be sure to wash them before.

Creating a Safe Place:

Like guinea pigs, rabbits can also be kept both inside and out. An outdoor rabbit should be provided with a large hutch in which they can hop, stand and stretch as well as a bedding area.

A large exercise should also be provided in a shaded area, away from direct sunlight, wind and rain. Similarly to guinea pigs, rabbits left outside during winter months should be given extra bedding and protection from cooler temperatures.

Socialising:

Rabbits are sociable creatures that live in family groups in the wild. If your rabbit is alone, you must ensure you are providing them with enough social interactions to avoid them becoming lonely or even depressed.

The best way to interact with your rabbit is on the floor, as they are prey animals, and being picked up can cause them unnecessary stress.

Exercise:

All rabbits need both physical and mental stimulation daily. Providing natural safe chew toys, tunnels and cardboard boxes can help keep them stimulated. Hanging root vegetables on a string can also provide mental stimulation.

Health and Welfare:

Similarly to guinea pigs, a healthy rabbit is alert and lively. Symptoms of illnesses include discharge from the eyes or nose, diarrhoea, and weight loss. Dental problems are also very common in rabbits so be sure to check them regularly.


Hamsters

Diet:

Hamsters appreciate a varied diet made up of everyday hamster food, small amounts of root vegetables and low-acidic fruit. In the wild, hamsters are omnivores and live off a mix of plants and insects. When possible, provide your hamster with protein-packed treats like mealworms.

Creating a Safe Place:

Hamsters need a safe home where they can explore and feel comfortable. Tubes, tunnels, and bedding that they can burrow in can help keep them stimulated and happy.

Hamsters get stressed by loud noises and are nocturnal so should ideally be kept in a spot away from loud noises, and drafts.

Socialising:

Not all hamsters are sociable. Whilst some species like Syrian hamsters prefer to be alone, other species such as Russian dwarfs enjoy living in groups.

Exercise:

To make sure your hamster gets enough exercise, we suggest providing them with an enclosed area with treats and toys which they can explore. However, be sure to keep an eye on them whenever they are out of their cage as hamsters are masters at escaping!

Avoid using hamster exercising balls as they often offer more stress to your hamster than fun. Hamster balls can result in stress, shock, and over-exhaustion, as well as injuries and potential infections from faeces build up.

Health and Welfare:

Like guinea pigs and rabbits, a hamster’s teeth never stop growing and therefore they should be provided with wooden chews and teething blocks to allow them to naturally grind them.


Rats

Diet:

Like hamsters, rats are omnivores and benefit from a fresh, healthy and balanced diet made up of rat pellets, fresh fruit and veg. Rats need essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals from their diet. Avoid harmful food such as citrus fruits, walnuts, grapes, and dairy products.

Creating a Safe Place:

Suitable enclosures for your rat(s) should provide them with the space to climb, stretch and explore. Avoid wired floor cages as these can cause foot injuries. All rat enclosures should have a comfortable bedding area, and be away from direct sunlight. Because rats have sensitive smells, it is best to also keep enclosures away from areas with strong artificial smells (such as candles, or smoke).

Socialising:

Rats are social creatures and need the company of another rat. Rats also enjoy human interactions and love the warmth and contact of their owner.

Exercise:

As well as having a large enclosure in which they can explore, rats should also be exercised outside of the cage for at least an hour daily. When outside the cage, be sure to supervise them and keep them away from hazards.

Health and Welfare:

Rats need checking regularly to ensure they are healthy. Pet rats have a variety of common problems including tumours, breathing difficulties, obesity and overgrown teeth.

Rats also suffer from being in an environment they do not like. If you notice your rat is doing repetitive movements (such as chewing cage bars), developing bald patches (from excessive grooming), or appearing overweight, it may be a sign that they are bored and not enriched.

Taking care of a pet, no matter how small, can be hard. That’s why we at Roundwood's are here to help you along the journey. To ask for more advice, give us a call on 020 8459 4729.


Order Dr Hannah Parkin's Amazing Guide To Caring For Your New Puppy.
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