Help give me the tools to be a great cat and dog owner
October 27, 2019 8:44 PM   Subscribe

S o my life situation is going to be more amenable to pet ownership soon. I'd like to start getting informed, as that will help me plan when and how I want to get pets :) more details inside!

As I mentioned in the blurb, I'm going to be settling down a bit more soon. My current plan is to first start with two cats, then see how that goes for a bit (6 months, let's say), then get two dogs assuming all goes ok. My SO is accepting but will probably not be taking on much responsibility, which I'm fine with. I will have friends and family in the area who are pet lovers and willing to help out if I travel etc (my parents especially are long time dog people and extremely willing to help). I've spent a long time around pets, but haven't raised my own as an adult (though I have help friends out for months at a time before). As such, I want to sort of fill in the gaps of my knowledge so I can plan accordingly (and of course abort the plan if I decide it's not the right time).

For both cats and dogs, I'd say the general questions could be summarized as: how do you choose what information to trust? How do you train them so they are used to necessary things which many pets find traumatic and freak out about? My current plan would be to get the respective dogs and cats when they are pretty young. For cats I do not have a particular breed preference, for dogs I want to get two miniature dachshunds. My desire to get two is so they have each other for company.

For cats, I am curious about a couple things:
- Is there a way to make cats not flip out when putting them into a crate to go to the vet etc?
- Any way to make it so that flying is minimally traumatic?
- How do you choose wet food, dry food, both, etc? On that note, how to choose when to feed them, esp for a working adult?
- Any ways to encourage them to be comfortable with people, affectionate etc? (I assume personality is a dominant factor but stuff)
- Are there any worthwhile gadgets? Some friends have the "cat poop robot" which seems pretty great. There is also the cat water bowl which circulates stuff. Anything else? Perhaps an automatic feeder?
- I'd be generally interested in scientific or at least well regarded books or whatnot on good cat ownership

For dogs I'm curious about a bit more...a lot of people have recommended the books by the monks of new skete, which I will definitely check out. I think in addition to the general above stuff, I'm somewhat mystified by proper training, but I'd like to try hard to train my dogs well. I don't care about anything fancy, just the solid core stuff to make our lives together better. The bulk of dog owners I know just seem to have one sided conversations with their dogs... But some specifics (which may be answered by the books above, but still)
- How can I get the dog to be comfortable with baths? Trips to the vet?
- How do you make decisions about whether to crate or not? I'd really love to not have to crate them (at night, for example) unless absolutely necessary and let them hang out in my apartment...but that means they need to be able to hold their business until the morning with 99.9% reliability, and not tear everything to pieces
- Any way to make it so that flying is minimally traumatic?
- I might have the pleasure of working in a dog friendly environment, but if I were to bring my dogs I'd want them to be able to exist well in that environment. Any training tips to ensure they can just sort ok in that environment? Chill when I need them to chill? Not flip out?
- In the vein of the above, every once in a while (once a year?) they may need to live at my parent's place for a couple of weeks. To be honest my parents have a great place for some dogs, but I'm just curious about how to ensure they don't flip out from me not being there etc
- How do you make nutrition decisions? Or how about, when to walk them and how much?
- Any tips to make sure they behave relatively well with other people, and other dogs?
- How to make sure they handle themselves well on a leash
- Anything dachshund specific? I know they're sort of a stubborn, dumb breed but life is short and I want dachshunds
- And again I'm open generally to essential dog raising resources

As with many of my ask mefi questions, I know there's a lot of info out there already, it's just that it can be hard to know what to trust, how to cut through the noise. Y'all have generation been good at sort of giving me principled suggestions to tackle this sort of stuff. I welcome any general thoughts and recommendations related to cat and/or dog ownership
posted by wooh to Pets & Animals (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Start by understanding the world from their point of view.

For cats, start by downloading the iPhone App called "Cat Mastery" from the Ohio State University.

For dogs, get the book "Don't Shoot the Dog" by Karen Pryor.
posted by dum spiro spero at 8:55 PM on October 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

An automatic feeder is a very good thing because if they associate you with the moment of feeding, they're going to wake you at hours you might not have chosen to be awake. You might want to do something like have the automatic feeder give them some dry food in the morning and then give them wet food, yourself, at night. I'm not sure how much it matters to get them wet food--someone else can answer that--but I do think you want to make sure you're giving them food without grain or without much grain. I had a cat who was diabetic and was told to switch over to brands like Wellness that don't use grains and kind of given to understand that the grain-based ones may have been the problem.

I'm not sure about the car stuff as mine do actively hate the car. I would say do your best to minimize traveling with them because cats generally just don't like it and if you get one that doesn't, it's not kind to put them through it a lot.

People like the Jackson Galaxy books a lot I think as far as general ownership stuff.

Some degree of whether they like people is beyond your control, but exposure is important. If you have people over some when they're young, they're more likely to be fine with it. And, you know, again with the caveat that some of this you may not be able to influence, it seems to me they respond a lot to being treated affectionately.
posted by less of course at 9:50 PM on October 27, 2019

For cats, get them acclimated to stuff - carry them places (in carrier and, in the house/yard, in your arms), handle their front and back claws, brush them as much as you can when they're kittens and young adults. It's not a guarantee, but it should at least avoid the Tasmanian Devil type of carrier refusal.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 10:53 PM on October 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

I can speak a bit on the cat side. Most of what I know I learned from books or my trusted vet—then I compared that to my experiences and observations.
I adopted two cats several years ago. They were crate mates but not litter mates, and they have very different personalities. If you prioritize personable-ness and tolerance of other animals, you might try to avoid cats that were bottle-fed/weaned too early. (My vet also said that tortoiseshell cats tend to be needy/ fractious. One of my cats is a tortie found on the street very young, and she is...a handful). My street-kitty is very attached to me and hates most other people (she tolerates my husband and her sister-cat). My mom-raised cat is pretty well-adjusted; she’s become more cuddly over the years. We’ve put off getting a dog because the sensitive cat doesn’t do well with other people or animals besides her nuclear family.

The laid-back cat also loves her carrier, and hangs out in it if we put it out on the floor. The other one hates it.

We did start trimming their nails when they were young—I second getting them used to having their nails/paws touched. We fed them dry food for years, and have a food dispenser, but as they’ve gotten older they’ve gained weight and now they eat wet food. Definitely don’t get used to feeding them when you first get up or they will start demanding food earlier and earlier. My vet prefers me to feed them 3-4 small meals a day. I usually do one before I go to work, one when I get home, and one before bed.
Pam Johnson has written some good books on cat behavior that might be worth reading.
posted by LakeLimner at 5:45 AM on October 28, 2019

I strongly encourage rescuing/ adopting a pet instead of buying from a breeder. Here is the Dachshund Rescue of North America, for example (there may be other places nearer to you). I do not recommend a puppy as your first dog.

It's great that you want a pair of animals. They will keep each other entertained and be less bored and destructive as a result. One way to get a pair of cats is to look for bonded animals through a local animal rescue (such as a shelter). If you get animals that are at least six months old, the rescue org should have a sense of their personalities and you won't have to deal with baby animal shenanigans (climbing curtains, chewing couches) as much. Sometimes animals are fostered with other animals, which helps cats decide if they like dogs and vice versa.

Another idea is fostering with the possibility of adoption.

Best of luck!
posted by wicked_sassy at 5:47 AM on October 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

Regarding dogs: do NOT get two puppies at once. It’s a terrible idea.

You should also not adopt two older dogs at once.

Reputable breeders and rescues will often side-eye you (or outright turn you down) for wanting to take two dogs at once in many cases. You want to give one plenty of time to settle in, and then carefully introduce the second (preferably of the opposite sex to minimize the possibility of conflict).

In all honesty - if you’ve never had a dog as an adult, you should start with one and then re-evaluate how it’s going down the line.

Here’s some dachshund-specific information. I wouldn’t call them dumb - more stubborn and not super interested in people-pleasing.
posted by faineg at 6:04 AM on October 28, 2019 [5 favorites]

- How can I get the dog to be comfortable with baths? Trips to the vet?
Treats, and making sure you stay as calm and happy as you can during the experience. My vet encourages us to visit the office to just say hello and get a treat, so the vets office isn't always bad.

- How do you make decisions about whether to crate or not?

Age matters. A young pup will generally need more crate time. An older dog, maybe less. My Goldendoodle hated the crate from day one. When we finally trusted her without the crate it was better for her and us.

- I might have the pleasure of working in a dog friendly environment, but if I were to bring my dogs I'd want them to be able to exist well in that environment. Any training tips to ensure they can just sort ok in that environment? Chill when I need them to chill? Not flip out?

Set them up for success. Every dog is different, but I'd say at 2 years I may be able to bring my dog to work. Certainly not when she was a rambunctious pup. Start by taking them in for an hour after giving them an hour of solid exercise. Then work your way up. Bringing a 6 month old pup to the office and expecting them to last for an 8 hour stretch is going to make EVERYONE miserable.

- How do you make nutrition decisions? Or how about, when to walk them and how much

Talk to your vet. Talk to your trainer. My trainer suggests at least an hour of physical activity a day.

- Any tips to make sure they behave relatively well with other people, and other dogs?

When they're a pup, reward good behaviour. Constantly. Free them lots of delicious treats. Is pupper lying down and chilling out? Grab a treat and reward! Is pupper sniffing the other dog nicely? Reward. It's easier to make a fat dog thin than it is to make a bad dog good. Also, puppies burn a lot of energy, and of you're exercising your dog, it's fine. Give them lots rewards for good behaviour.

We were taught to say "yes" every time we have our dog a treat, then we could start to wean away the treats, but still have a great way to reward the dog. My voice is (almost) always available.

In general it sounds like you could really use a good trainer. Ask around and find one in your area. Having a trainer get to know you and your dog, and who you want your dog to be, is a big thing. Every person and every dog is different.

I'm not sure though they you realize much WORK you're signing yourself up for. I'd say for the first year and a half, at least, be prepared for some pretty big lifestyle changes.

And that's for one puppy. Never mind another and two cats!
posted by jonnay at 7:58 AM on October 28, 2019 [3 favorites]

Consider fostering for a while first to get a feel for what having pets is like, if you've never had them. Four animals can be a lot, especially if your partner is not hugely engaged in taking care of them.

Dogs can be a lot of responsibility - you have to realign your life to ensuring they get out when they need to go. If you're used to just spontaneously taking off for a weekend or staying out late after the theatre or whatever, that becomes a lot more difficult.
posted by Candleman at 8:33 AM on October 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

I wouldn’t get cats as a starter pet. Most of them would also be miserable in such a rambunctious house.

If you want a dog, then get a dog. Eventually get another dog once things have settled down with the one (and if you still want to).

The best way to be a good pet owner is to not shortchange the animal’s needs because you’re overwhelmed or overloaded. See what your specific pet’s needs are, then make sure you’re filling them, THEN see if you have the capacity and desire for another pet in your life.

Once you have a dog or two, and you know they’re both good with cats, and you still feel a lack of cats in your life that you can’t fill by (for example) volunteering at an animal shelter, then start thinking about adopting a cat or two.

There’s really no rush.
posted by rue72 at 8:49 AM on October 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

Seconding the Jackson Galaxy recommendation for cat advice. I haven't read his book, but he has a youtube channel with helpful videos. I recommend looking through the following playlist and watching anything that catches your eye (as well as bookmarking it for future reference):
Stuff You Need to Know About Your Cat

He also has some articles up on his website.

I agree with what other posters are saying about not rushing into all of this. Going from no pets to four in less than a year sounds like a recipe for trouble, both for you and your pets.
posted by davedave at 6:23 PM on October 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

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