Gray kitten on a couch
Do you have a life? By which I mean, do you go to work every day, maintain a healthy social life or run an active household? If you answered yes to any of these, you’re likely to feel a little overwhelmed should you take in a new pet. Even if you believe your work-life balance is ideal, you should watch out for the near-inevitable onset of new-pet blues.

Don’t get me wrong: Bringing home any new pet is a tremendously enjoyable, hugely rewarding and highly memorable time in any pet lover’s life. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit it was stressful, too — even for veterinarians. Because no amount of medical training or animal handling experience can prepare you for the havoc that any newborn kitten, breeder baby, juvenile foundling or adult rescue can wreak on even the most organized household.

New-Pet Dilemmas

Not sure what I’m talking about? Consider the following new-pet predicaments I’ve encountered in my pet-addled lifetime:

Scheduling Nightmares. Thought your schedule was already too hectic? Add in another highly demanding soul whose feeding, crating, pooping, peeing, socializing and walking schedule must be adhered to religiously — that is, if you want to raise your baby to be a civilized member of society. It’s enough to occasion sleepless nights (those midnight pees) and midday drives home from work for lunchtime potty breaks.

Kitten Craziness. Kittens not only cry and demand feedings, they often need daily baths, not to mention all kinds of constant interaction. (That’s why they come to work with me during the day.) But who can resist kittens? Last year I fostered 18! One year I even kept a mama and her newborns in my son’s bathtub for a month. (He was none too pleased.)

Feline Territoriality. I hold fast to the belief that there’s an ideal number of cats that should inhabit any indoor space. That number is two. One is too lonely, methinks, but two is just perfect (especially if they’re raised together as kittens).

Adding any more is a gamble, especially since territoriality is a major stress among cats. Any time you bring home a new one, cats will inevitably quarrel. This disagreement will manifest as adverse interactions that will doubtless affect the quality of your life.

Consider my Tybalt and Mambru, for example. Though I added two more litterboxes, both wanted to use the same one. Both also wanted to eat from the same bowl. It took a month for them (us) to sort things out. That meant carefully relocating the boxes, diligently cleaning up urine (using a black light to be sure I didn’t miss spots), feeding them in separate rooms and ultimately building an outdoor “catio” so they would have their own spaces. They eventually got along just fine but the first month (or three) was a tough slog!

Advice for Mitigating the Stress

Of course, anyone who has taken in a new pet will attest to the fact that it’s all worth it. With that in mind, here’s my checklist to help you handle the onslaught of new pet craziness:

  • Consider taking in a pet when your household is as stable as possible (never take on a new pet at the beginning of the school year, for example). Vacation time is an excellent time to take in a newbie.
  • Make your first vet appointment very soon after you bring baby home and bring a list of important topics to cover. This way you get as much advice as possible early on.
  • Ask the breeder, rescue or shelter for advice on what to have on hand ahead of time so you’re not scrambling at the pet supply store with a new pet dangling from your arm.
  • Read up on the appropriate schedules you should maintain and divvy up the work in your household (if possible) so there’s not one person responsible for everything. (But remember, children’s work must always be overseen to be sure pets don’t suffer from juvenile negligence.)
  • Make a checklist of daily to-dos and post them prominently so you don’t miss a thing.
Finally, have patience! Knowing you’ll need it is half the battle. 

More on Vetstreet: