I’ve spent the better end of 29 years figuring out which items to get for my pets and how to get the best deals on products, living on a low income, and with only Dr. Google to advise me.
Once I got into Veterinary Medicine, I realized that most of what was on my “new puppy” or “new pet” list was garbage. So to simplify, it’s “best” in my opinion to have these items RIGHT off the bat; you will somehow eventually need them anyway- that I can guarantee you. Dogs and Cats have different needs, so the list is curated depending on the pet, but it’s generally the same. Yes, treats and toys are important, but they come near the end of my list. There are definitely items that need to come before the fun stuff.
These items may seem like NO BRAINERS, and they are! They are also the items you are most likely to forget.
ITEM 1: CRATE AND/OR CARRIER
If you are getting a cat or a small dog, it’s essential to have a secure way to travel with them. Cat’s should never be unattended in a car or anywhere. Even your vet will tell you off if you have an unleashed/unsecured animal wandering with you. It puts other pets, yourself, and ultimately anything surrounding your pet in danger- especially if you’re unsure if your pet is vaccinated.
A carrier is different than a crate. Dogs need crates for safety reasons while a human cannot attend to them, and sometimes little dogs can fit in carriers (depending on their size). Cats only need a carrier and do not need crates. We don’t like typically crate cats. They wouldn’t like that much.AmazonBasics Two-Door Top-Load Hard-Sided Pet Travel CarrierAmazon.com: AmazonBasics Two-Door Top-Load Hard-Sided Pet Travel Carrier, 23-Inch: Pet Supplieswww.amazon.com
I have supplied links to the essential items. However, with a little bit of thrifty shopping, I’m sure you could pull a lot of these items from your vet hospital (call and see if they have extra crates), garage sales, thrift stores. I have yet to go into a thrift store and not seen an abundance of pet supplies. Even the shelter is full of cat crates. Vet hospitals typically hold on to carriers after a pet has passed, incase, for instance, you and your new furry friend need one.AmazonBasics Single-Door Folding Metal Dog or Pet Crate Kennel with TrayAmazon.com: AmazonBasics Single-Door Folding Metal Dog Crate Kennel with Tray, 36 x 23 x 25 Inches: Pet Supplieswww.amazon.com
The crate is the first item on your puppy/dog list. I CANNOT EMPHASIZE THIS ENOUGH. No matter what any breeder or rescue tells you, no dog should be unattended until you know for certain they will not get into anything dangerous in your home. IT SEEMS LIKE PUNISHMENT, BUT IT’S THE OPPOSITE. After spending enough time in the crate, your dog will grow to see it as a “haven” or a place of solitude to go to when he/she wants a nap, but moms still up!
It might be annoying to come home to a house where the furniture is chewed, and your dresser is scratched at. It’s also really unhealthy for your dog to be chewing these things. It will cause acute pancreatitis none the less. As well, dogs prefer expensive things to chew on- in my opinion (expensive art utensils, makeup, etc.), which contain lots of chemicals. When the Vet tells you to get a crate, it’s not to rack up your pet bill. It’s to save you from surgery down the line.
In the circumstances, and yes, with chewer breeds, this is likely to happen; your dog may need to be created every time you leave for the first 4 years! When that was the case with my labrador, I slowly upgraded the crate to a “secure” play home.New World Pet Products Foldable Metal Exercise Pen & Pet PlaypenAmazon.com: New World Pet Products B552-30 Foldable Exercise Pet Playpen, Black, Medium/24″ x 30″: Pet Supplieswww.amazon.com
This was only done after I could trust my dog not to use the extra space in the play home as a place to go potty. If your dog is not potty trained, do not get that foldable fence until then. These foldable fences are really great for an entirely different reason among pets. Some choose to keep their little pets in there, so they have more room to run, and like me, I kept my dog in there with her blankets and a tough toy (once I knew she wouldn’t choke on), and I felt less bad about having to crate her. Remember, crating is the NICEST thing you can do for a chewing dog unattended. Keeping your dog crated when you are home, and attentive IS neglect. Never use the cage, carrier, or playpen as punishment- that’s super old school, and it’s not what it’s about.
2. APPROPRIATE FOOD/WATER BOWLS.
Surprisingly cats do not like drinking out of toilets. Your dog may man the toilet just fine, but your cat may be so particular it will ONLY drink out of glass or ceramic bowls. That meaning, they should be fed out of glass or ceramic bowls (a portioned amount) and avoid Anything where it can’t see its own shadow, but let their whiskers rub against the sides. In nature, cats don’t drink out of ponds and puddles; they drink out of streams. They use their whiskers to sense the circumference and “feel out” what they are drinking. Cats do not have particularly good “Day Vision” and really heavily on their static whiskers to guide their everyday needs. It’s incredibly easy for a cat to get dehydrated, especially if your cat is only eating dry food. If you have both a cat and a dog, this next recommendation works for both. Believe it or not, dogs mouths ARE NOT clean and especially aren’t cleaner than humans’ mouths. I wouldn’t own a pet before getting one of these, from again, wherever you choose. The filters are changeable, and you can be assured your pet is getting good quality water- not the remains of what’s left in your toilet.PetSafe Drinkwell Cat and Dog Water Fountain – Platinum, 1/2 or 1 Gallon Pet Drinking Fountain – 64…PetSafe Drinkwell Cat and Dog Water Fountain – Platinum, 1/2 or 1 Gallon Pet Drinking Fountain – 64 oz, 128 oz or 168…www.amazon.com
Again, with these items- it’s more of a shop around (if you have the time) thing. They should all be items you have BEFORE you get your new pet. It will make your life SIGNIFICANTLY easier to follow the rules and stories of those who have raised their cats or dogs without these items. If you have a MALE CAT, THEY ARE PRONE TO GETTING BLOCKED (URINARY CATHETER + EXPENSIVE HOSPITAL VISIT). THEY CAN GET BLOCKED IN ONE DAY FROM STRESS. ADEQUATE WATER FOR MALE CATS IS ESSENTIAL. WHICH BRINGS ME TO MY NEXT POINT IN CASE.
Wet animal food contains about 70% water. That’s good, especially if your new furry friend doesn’t drink enough, or, in my dog’s case, drinks TOO much too fast and risks bloat (poss. fatal illness where stomach flips on itself for drinking too much) Even though, yes, the teeth will go downhill a bit faster, I think every pet must have a healthy mixture of wet food and dry food. If cleaning the teeth is something you haven’t been keeping up with. You can start by getting these:Oravet Dental Hygiene Chews for Small Dogs 10-24 lbsAmazon.com: Merial Oravet Dental Hygiene Chew For Dogs (10-24 Lbs), Dental Treats For Dogs, 30 Count: Pet Supplieswww.amazon.com
3. DENTAL CARE OraVet is made by Merial and is backed by Veterinary wise. The best choice for cats would be The price is well worth the amount of plaque it takes off your dog’s teeth. Start with these and then slowly move to a finger brush or wipes to maintain healthy teeth for both your dog and cat. Like anything, the sooner in life your pet becomes accustomed to you doing these things (brushing teeth, cleaning ears, bathing, and trimming nails), the easier you’ll have it down the line. If you have an older pet who simply won’t let you brush their teeth, you have a couple of options. 1. Call your Veterinarian; it’s expensive, but the chances are your pet may have periodontal disease grades 1–4. When I say this, and it scares you, it’s meant to. If disease from lack of dental care gets above the gum line or the gum line recedes, then the bloodstream is compromised with bacteria and other crap your pet just doesn’t need. These are a clear pointer that your pet could be going into kidney and liver failure if untreated. If there is only MINOR bad breath and plaque, you can try and get it yourself with the vet chews, enzevete chews, and my favourite — wipes! Your pet should have his or her teeth routinely checked at office visits. Anything above a Grade 3 probably needs extractions and work done right away. That’s why prevention is your best friend.Petkin 40-Count Plaque Toothwipes (1 Pack)Amazon.com: Petkin 40-Count Plaque Toothwipes (1 Pack): Pet Supplieswww.amazon.com
this product can be purchased online and at most retail stores. It’s the best luck I have had personally in refreshing my cat & my dog’s teeth. In my ten plus years working in the Veterinary Industry, I truly only came across ONE dental product that I wish they would put more of on the shelf. That is Virbac’s Enzymatic Dental treats. They can be found online for cats and dogs at www.1800petmeds.com or sometimes amazon.com.
The C.E.T Enzymatic Cat treats are a tough find. When we sold them at one practice I worked at, they were usually off the shelf before unfinished boxing. They look like this, and they work the best, in my opinion.
For those just starting with the product, I highly suggest getting the Virbac C.E.T Hextra chews. Familiarize your pet with the delicious taste. (side note; these pets take these threats very seriously, may be wise to separate cats and dogs while feeding). IN an outstanding pet owner’s closet, they have the treats, the wipes, and toothpaste. But we aren’t all made of money. It’s come to my knowledge that spending a little more on a good product is WAY cheaper than reaping the effects of fixing problems that the cheap products have caused.
REMEMBER TO READ LABELS TREATS ARE BY SIZE AND ALL PETS SHOULD BE MONITORED WHILE CHEWING IN THE EVENT OF A CHOKING HAZARD!
4. TOYS & BEDS
a) CATS: I’m going to break up the next items by animal species. Though cats and dogs co-exist, they are completely different animals. I’ve spent a fine dime PURCHASING the following for cat owners. Those who simply refuse to believe their cat needs this item, and those owners who are completely wrong. If you have a cat and do not have one of these- you are not allowing your cat to have its own higher tower in its OWN home. If you see those skittish cats that are always hiding under things- likely, they don’t have a higher place to go. Cat’s don’t need to be trained on how to use their toys or litter boxes. Unlike puppies- they self teach for the most part.
[A friend of mine insisted that his cat would never use a cat tree, as it’s older and had never used one before. I saw my friend’s dog constantly finding the cat and “playing” (harassing) the cat. I finally broke down and bought the poor cat, a cat tree, which he immediately started using. Like the dog crate, the cat tree had become this cat’s home, a place where he was unreachable and could do his favourite cat things (look down on people)] If you cannot get a cat tree, I strongly urge you to hold off on getting a cat. Not only is having the correct cat gear essential for your cat, oftentimes it can’t wait. Cat’s do NOT have the same rebound rate as dogs. As in, don’t piss on your cat, or you might have a pissed-off cat for the next 12 years. Aside from that, cats want to be respected, so place the tree by a window- where they can see birds. Make sure it’s high enough that the cat can look down on things and that no other dog/creature can reach it. Give your cat the feeling that it has some power in your home, and you’ll watch your skittish cat go from insecure to confident in days. This is extremely important in the early days of getting your cat as you are JUST STARTING to feel each other out. Give your cat space, and respect and you will get the same in return.
Multi-levelled are the best, and make sure it’s appropriate for the size of your cat. This, a proper carrier, appropriate dry/wet food, a cat’s favourite toy, a grooming brush, and a water fountain are MUSTS for every cat owner. Whether you wait 8 years for problems to arise or if you prevent them right away, IT WILL affect both the quality of your life and your cats. Nobody can stand living with a furious cat.
Which leads to the next topic with cats. With a few select items, you can make your cat pretty happy. Water fountain, Cat Tree, Mixture of GOOD dry wet and cat food (we’ll get to later), and of course toys. As flimsy as cat toys seem, they are actually essential and built very precisely to satisfy the cat’s natural need to hunt.
[A client at our hospital had noticed that her once the all-loving cat was getting needier since the pandemic had started. Her cat not only went from basically trying to own the house but trying to own her. I asked the owner what toys she was using to get the excess energy out of her cat. The prey and hunting instinct was her cat’s natural reaction to being overstimulated, and it wasn’t something her cat could control. Instead of using negative methods like spray bottles, I encouraged her to get a cat toy, AT least one. Cats need something to do to get rid of that extra energy, and cat toys are made so intricately you can tell whoever designed them knew exactly how to get your cat to behave. Cat toys are a MUST.] You wouldn’t get your dog toys with the question, why would you not get your cat any toys??? Luckily, they come cheaper than dog toys too. They can be a little more fun and constructive as well. Such toys such a “Kitty City” are tunnels that you can purchase repeatedly and separately (www.walmart.com) and eventually build a “KittyCity.” When she finally purchased the cat toys and started her kitty city, she noticed her cat was less eager to bite her but more compassionate and tired.
(Most things I have listed are just because finding them on Amazon was easiest. It’s by far NOT the cheapest, and as I said- if you’re good at digging around, making a list of the essentials and heading to Savers isn’t a bad idea)
B) Dogs: If you are creating your new pup, and we are sure that your dog isn’t a destroyer of beds. It’s a good idea to put a bed inside the crate- make it more “Cozy” for them. Some dogs might need a few years before they understand not to chew their beds; some understand the difference right away. I personally don’t like using towels because I’ve slept on towels. They aren’t comfortable, and if I’m bored in a cage with no toys all day, that towel is gonna look mighty fine to chew. Although putting toys in a dog’s crate while unattended is frowned upon, I find it virtually ridiculous to give your dog nothing to do while you’re at work or out. Dogs need mental stimulation; that’s why they get destructive. Now, from MY mouth to your ears, if you’re going to leave a dog unattended in a cage with a toy- only the following toys should be given. BASED ON THE DOGS BREED & WEIGHT! Puppies are teething. They lose their baby teeth between 4–6 months of age. Finding toys that can soothe/scratch their gums is very comforting to them.
(side tip: while you have a puppy, try to soothe the gums with your fingers as much as possible. This makes teeth cleaning a non-issue as the puppy ages)
Suitable Dog Toys: Puppies and Chewers
Rubber Kong Toys– These are virtually indestructible, which eliminates the choking hazard. They can be reused for generations with little damage by even the strongest dogs (pit bulls, labradors, you name it). They are also designed to be filled with treats that your pet must figure out how to retrieve from inside the toy. There are many different recipes online where you can create a mush of food, freeze it in the kong toy, and give it to your pet on your way out the door. For the lazier, they literally have KONG STUFFER. It’s more expensive than peanut butter, but it does the same thing. Just doggy made.
I don’t suggest putting soft toys in your dog’s cage, even if they are more likely to play with a soft toy. The risk of the stuffed/soft toy getting destroyed and digested is far too high a risk for most people to take since “Foreign Body” surgeries can range from $1200-$1600. You can ask the few clients who left 29 pairs of socks out, and when their dog got bored and ate all of the socks and didn’t defecate them out. They had really wished they knew better before leaving their pet unattended by the laundry hamper.
I’m no expert on pet toys, but some people are. If you want to save money in the long run, you need to figure out the breed of cat or dog you are getting and what type of chewer they are. This website has the best toys in 2020 for dogs weighted by all breeds. Here are the best dog toys to buy online:
- Best Overall: Nylabone Flavored Dog Chew Toy
- Best-Selling: Kong Classic Dog Toy
- Best for Strong Chewers: Petstages Dogwood Stick Dog Toy
- Best Multi-Pack: ZippyPaws Squeaky Plush Dog Toys
- Best for Exercise: Chuckit! Dog Ball Thrower
- Best for Puppies: KONG X-Small Teddy Bear Dog Toy
- Most Affordable: Hartz Dura Play Ball
- Most Durable: Mammoth Cotton Dog Rope Toy
- Best Non-Toxic: West Paw Design Hurley Dog Toy
No matter your dog’s size, play style, or strength level, there’s a fun option for every type of canine here. Keep reading to learn why customers recommend each of these toys so you can pick one that both you and your dog will love.
Number 6: EYES & EARS
At some point (unless your cat or dog is fortunate), you may run into, or you most likely will run into an ear infection or eye infection. Not only are these extremely contagious to other pets, but they rarely EVER go away permanently once onset. That’s why PREVENTATIVE maintenance with your pet will save you tons at the Veterinary Hospital. You should be cleaning your cat and your dog’s ears weekly/bi-weekly. DO NOT USE COTTON SWABS!!!!
THE ONLY BRAND I completely back, and a lot of Veterinarians have come to agree on ZYMOX. It works magic for both maintenance, infection, and post-infection care. Remember, when checking the health of your dog, do as the Veterinarians do. Nose to tail examination. You check the eye for any signs of issues, ears for debris and infection, nose/respiratory, and teeth for periodontal disease. The Veterinarian will then check all four limbs to make sure they are in the correct motion/place and evaluate your pet’s weight, habits, and check the anal glands. If you are an owner who takes excellent steps in caring for your pet (thus reading this article, I assume you are), your Veterinarian will be impressed by your care and hopefully not push you on to new services. If your dog is diagnosed with Yeast or ear problems- Opt for the Veterinarians’ ear solution and get Zymox. The instructions for cleaning are simple
- douse a cotton ball in Zyvox
- put in ear and smoosh around
- take out a cotton swab with debris and throw it out
- dry ear most of the way with a fresh cotton swab
- Repeat with another ear.
Ensure that if your dog is diagnosed with an ear infection, you will not use the Zymox medication and then immediately clean the ear. You will just clean out the medication. The cleaning for maintenance should be done once a week, and the medication is usually prescribed but otherwise once a day or every other day. No competition, 15 years running, and Zymox is all I will use.
NUMBER 7: FLEA AND TICK AND HEARTWORM PREVENTATIVE
WHENEVER doing routine grooming of your cat or dog, PLEASE make sure that the product you are using is appropriate for the species you are using it on. FOR EXAMPLE, Flea and Tick Preventative for dogs are 100% toxic to cats. They will start a seizure immediately. It’s important to have both breeds in your house to ask your Veterinarian about an edible flea and tick treatment.
Sadly, since heartworm disease is so fatal, you CANNOT legally obtain heartworm medication over the counter. This being, if you give a heartworm-positive pet a heartworm preventative — it will kill all the worms in the heart immediately, thus most likely killing your pet. Cat’s do not contract heartworm as easy (through mosquitos), but they DO still get it. Dogs and Cats both get fleas and ticks, and it’s not a scare tactic. FOR THESE PREVENTATIVE MEDS (Which should be given monthly for the rest of your pet’s life) It’s IMPERATIVE that you go to a veterinarian and you must get your dog or cats bloodwork checked and stool samples checked annually.
If you are at a crossroads with Veterinarians or in between (always take your time to research), Keep your pet on a flea and tick over the counter and preferably one with mosquito REPELLENT. There is no legal one to kill mosquitos, but the repellent will work until you can get into your regular vet. Which leads me to my next recommendation: Flea and Tick OVER THE COUNTER for dogs and cats. BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN READING THE INSTRUCTIONS/SIZE/SPECIES
My personal recommendations are K9 Advantage/Advantix. It is most likely not as good as Nexgard (a chewable you get from the veterinarian but does work and effective at repelling mosquitoes). REMEMBER: this is not a substitute for your dog’s heartworm test.
Now food is a tricky topic. Unless you are certified in Pet Nutrition, there is really no one and done answer for every pet. I watch people spend hundreds and hundreds on expensive dog foods (blue buffalo, extremely rich in flavour) and have it actually cause the opposite effects on their pet. Your pet’s food needs to be enriched by your pet’s needs. Your pet’s needs? That’s for YOU to find out. What breed of cat/dog do you have? If they are mixed, what are they mixed with? Labradors are infamous for eating too fast, so a brand like Royal Canin Labrador Retriever, where they have designed the pellets to be easily digestible and harder to eat all at once, maybe the best option. If you have a dog with a TON of allergies (bulldogs, shar-pei, Boston terriers), you will want a decent brand with fewer ingredients. My Chinese Sharpei personally does well with Simple 6. GRAIN FREE is NOT THE WAY TO GO. Studies show that dogs that eat all grain-free food have a higher risk of cardiomyopathy and early death. If your goal is to eliminate the garbage from the food, then eliminate the garbage grains (I.e. corn, processed crap). The first ingredient in your pet’s food should ALWAYS be a protein source. If it’s a filler, that food is garbage. I will show you a picture of a good pet food label and a bad one. This works for both cats and dogs- though they have different nutritional needs, there are still good brands and bad brands. If you want just a quick list of the best brands for your pet- without money in mind always refer to www.dogfoodadvisor.com
Here is exactly what you WANT to see and what you DON’T want to see on your dog’s food label.
Cats; being delicate as they require different nutritional percentages. Cats almost eat more similarly to humans than they do to dogs. It’s unwise to let your dog or cat each other others food/vice versa. Since cats can get very ill very quickly, you want to make sure ANY food you buy for them is AFFCO approved. This is the highest veterinary standard they have out for cat food since pet nutrition is just coming to light. Cats and dogs also put on weight quickly and lose weight quickly; when you are reading the back of the label, and your dog is 65lbs but should be at 55lbs, DO NOT feed them the amount for 65lbs but feed the amount for 55lbs. If you feed the weight for 65lbs, your dog will never drop the ten pounds, and ten pounds on a dog can do about ten years of damage to the vital organs and limbs. DON’T JUST PURCHASE! Make use of that cellphone. DOWNLOAD THE APP PETMD- Veterinarians and Veterinary Staff as myself are always looking for ways to spread good preventative care information!.
Below is a list of helpful websites for pet owners:Drs. Foster & Smith Pet Products | PetcoBrowse Petco’s wide selection of Drs. Foster & Smith products. Explore, read reviews, & shop Drs. Foster & Smith…www.petco.comFeeding Your CatTo live a long, healthy life, your cat needs proper nutrition. Here are some things to consider when selecting an…www.vet.cornell.edu
Written By: Emily Ridyard Veterinary Professional; Oct. 2020