How to Prep for a New Dog or Cat

Last Update: December 9, 2022

What is the best puppy food? What supplies do I need for a new dog? What is the best canned kitten food? If you’re welcoming a new pet to your home, these questions (and more) are likely on your mind. Don’t wade through the sea of queries and products alone—let our trusty guide provide some answers.

Tips for Preparing Your Home

Before we dig into shampoo and kibble, here are some other aspects of preparation to consider.

Host a family meeting

When welcoming a pet, it’s important to have a family meeting and establish some ground rules. Decide together who will be responsible for taking the dog outside in the morning, feeding times, and whether or not the pet will be allowed on furniture. Living solo? These are still important questions to ask yourself. If there are any rooms off-limits, or you want to organize outdoor time based around your own running routine, take it all into account when making preparations.

Order pet tags

For both dogs and cats, be sure to order an identification tag. This typically includes the pet’s name as well as your phone number just in case the animal gets lost, and can be attached to a collar.

Clear your schedule

The Humane Society of America recommends staying at home for a few days when you first pick up your pet, which allows you to spend quality time with them and ensure they acclimate to the environment. You might also want to consider training classes through your local community or pet store, which will also require time to be blocked off.

House Training 101

Even if you’re adopting an older dog that’s been house trained before, it’s best to assume there could be an accident or two while settling in. If you’re bringing home a puppy, housetraining will be a non-negotiable aspect of your pet’s care. And in all honesty, you don’t want to find yourself Googling “how to potty train a puppy” when you’re in the middle of cleaning up a mess. Do some legwork ahead of time so you can make a plan and keep your sanity, too.

The American Kennel Club suggests six months is the average timeline for new puppies to be fully housetrained. Getting to this point requires consistency (going outside at the same times each day, including after meals), patience (accidents do happen), and some experimenting (using puppy pads or dog litter boxes). Crate training a puppy is also an option. This approach requires some extra preparation, and you’ll need to work with your dog to help make the crate a fun and positive experience. AKC also suggests six months of training is the norm here.

For cats, have a litter pan and kitty litter set up before you bring her home. You’re free to set it up anywhere you like, just be sure the cat can easily access it. A low-traffic area that’s free from noise is your best bet. You’ll also be happy to know that cats appreciate a clean space as much as you do, so clean the box regularly. Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you can smell your cat’s waste, it probably can too. Twice per week, scoop out and dispose of solids, then change the litter.

Make a vet appointment

Get a vet appointment on the books even before you bring your new dog or cat home. Whether you’re rescuing a pet from a shelter or choosing a purebred, you’ll want to be sure they’re up to date on vaccinations. For shelters, gather as much information as you can about the animal, including previous medical records. Breeders typically do some of the vaccinations early on, depending on how old the dog is before you bring them home. Bring all this information to your first appointment so you can make a health plan with your veterinarian. They’ll also be able to help you schedule a time for your pet to be spayed or neutered, if they aren’t already.

Best Dry Dog Food

We’ve rounded up the best dry dog food to ensure your pet gets all the nourishment he needs to go from the puppy stage to adulthood.


I and Love and You Naked Essentials Puppy Recipe, Chicken & Lentils

Keep things simple with this straightforward (yet delicious) dog food made with chicken and lentils. Each portion delivers both prebiotics and probiotics for gut health, and is free from grains, fillers, and soy.

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Grain-Free Chicken Recipe Dry Dog Food

If you’re welcoming home an adult dog, Blue Buffalo’s chicken formula has the nutrients they need. The grain-free recipe has the right blend of carbs and calories to support an active lifestyle and includes real meat, fruits, and vegetables.

Best Canned Kitten Food

When it comes to new kitten supplies, food is at the top of the list. The best kitten food will likely be a matter of preference to your discerning feline, but here are some picks for the best kitten food brands to get you started.

I and Love and You Cat Food, Savory Salmon Paté

Rich in protein and antioxidants, I and Love and You’s salmon paté is made with fresh fish, cranberries, spinach, and carrots for a complete meal.

Castor & Pollux Organix Grain Free Cat Food, Chicken Paté

Real ingredients like organic chicken, flaxseed, and cranberries make this Castor & Pollux recipe a winner for picky felines. Omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids help encourage healthy coats too.

Best Dog Treats

For training (or just showing your pup how much you care) be sure to keep a supply of delicious dog treats on hand.

Shameless Pets Dental Sticks, The Tooth Berry

Pet parents love these chewy sticks from Shameless Pets because it does double duty: a treat for your four-legged friend, plus an added boost of dental hygiene. Chia, flax, and blueberries deliver nutrients, and Thrive Market member Kyla noticed they helped improve her dog’s breath.

I and Love and You Dog Chews, Cow Ears

Give your new pup something to chew on (besides your rugs, shoes, and furniture). Made from free-range and grass-fed Brazilian cattle, I and Love and You’s cow ears are a safer alternative to rawhide that’s high in protein, low in fat, and pretty addictive.

Shameless Pets Jerky Bites, Grass-Fed Beef Moo Lobsta

The flavors of surf and turf combine in Shameless Pets’ grain-free jerky bites made with grass-fed beef and upcycled lobster. Sweet potato offers digestive support, while glucosamine may encourage healthier joints.

Pet Grooming Supplies

You know they’ll get dirty, so stock up on the best pet grooming supplies to keep your cat or dog’s coat as healthy as possible.

True Blue Pure and Sure Puppy Shampoo

This soothing cleanser is ideal for new puppies, and is designed to clean without stripping their coat of natural oils. The milky formula is extra gentle, and oatmeal adds moisture.

Pure and Natural Pet 2-in-1 Organic Shampoo & Conditioner, Lavender & Mint

Breeze through bathtime using this USDA Certified Organic 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner. It’s formulated with sensitive skin in mind (no sulfates here), and the soothing fragrance of mint and lavender helps create a calm environment.

Pure and Natural Organic Plaque & Tartar Fighting Gel for Dogs

Give your dog’s gums a healthy start. This treatment is made with USDA Certified Organic ingredients that help remove tartar, freshen breath, and fight plaque.

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Nicole Gulotta

Nicole Gulotta is a writer, author, and tea enthusiast.

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