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    Be Ready For Your New Pet | Winter 2008 Out Here Magazine

    The time to shop is before you bring your animal home

    By Carol Davis

    With the holidays nearing, you just might have your eye on a new puppy, kitten, rabbit, or other pet for your youngsters.

    A new pet is a wonderful and memorable Christmas gift, provided that it isn't done on impulse, and everyone in the family agrees on the new addition. As with any new baby, there's a lot to be done before Santa delivers the squirming bundle!

    First and foremost, have the pet's basic needs — food, bedding, litter box, etc. — on hand when it arrives home. Other supplies can come later after the animal settles in a bit.

    Choose a spot, inside or out, to feed and be consistent. Dogs, in particular, can be creatures of habit and may not adapt well to moving the food bowl.

    Always keep a buckle collar and identification tag with your phone number on your animal in case it gets lost.

    And for any animal, get grooming supplies and use them regularly. Not only does this keep your animal's fur neat, but it helps you to notice any physical problems. Besides, it helps the two of you bond.

    Dog Supplies

    • A wire or plastic dog crate. Crates create a place of safety and comfort for dogs, not to mention a place to sleep instead of on the couch or your bed.
    • Washable, durable bedding. Imitation skeepskin works well and is comfortable, especially for young puppies.
    • Grooming supplies. Soaps, brushes, combs, and clippers are among the essentials.
    • A "baby gate" for blocking doorways to keep dogs where you want them.
    • Safe, durable chew toys. Puppies chew, so make sure they chew on these, rather than your furniture or shoes, or other valuables.

    Cat Supplies

    • Litter box, if it will live inside. Be sure to keep it cleaned or your kitty will start going outside the box, and you don't want that.
    • Cat carrier. Vet visits will be a whole lot easier with a cat carrier, especially once your kitten is grown. Carriers range from sturdy, hard-sided plastic to soft-sided, but durable, nylon.
    • Scratching post. Cats aren't trying to destroy your furniture; they stretch and pull because it feels good and keeps them limber. Scratching also "sharpens" their claws by removing the sheaths that cover them.

    Rabbit Supplies

    • Rabbit cage. Get it large enough for the rabbits to stretch out comfortably.
    • Blanket or rug to protect their feet from the cage's wire floor.
    • Bedding, or litter. Choices include hay, straw, hardwood shavings, or commercially-made litter. Avoid pine and cedar shavings because research indicates that they contain chemicals that can cause liver disease.
    • Cardboard box. Rabbits love to run and hide, so cut a few holes in a cardboard box to give them an entertaining place to play.

    Consider getting at least two rabbits; they're very sociable animals and will be happier with a companion.

    Out Here editor Carol Davis has dogs and cats but no rabbits ... yet.