Thinking of adopting a new pet in the Northern Virginia area? Here are few tips to help you prepare your home for a new feline or canine companion, followed by a list of local shelters where you can start your search. Read through, make a list of supplies, and when you’re ready — tweet us a photo of your new furry family member!

Make Your Home Pet-Safe

The first step to welcoming home a new cat or dog is to make sure your home is safe for your new feline or canine friend. Secure your trash bins, store toxic cleaning materials out of paw’s reach, make sure your window screens latch securely (this is particularly important for cats), and remove any plants that are toxic to animals. Avoid pooling drapery, vertical blinds, ornate tassels and long cords that can potentially cause danger to your pet. If you have kids and want to get them involved in your home’s pet-proofing, you can have them get down on the floor to scan the room from a puppy/kitty eye level to remove potentially dangerous objects like rubber bands, bottle cats or paper clips. For more tips on pet safety, read our 7 Ways to Make a New Home Pet-Friendly.

Think of Your New Pet’s Comfort

As we mentioned in our blog post on hardwood v. carpeted flooring, rugs and carpets can provide extra support and comfort to pets, particularly if they’re elderly. So if you have hardwood floors, consider adding a few area rugs to boost your pet’s stability and security. If you would prefer to keep your pets off your furniture, put a pet bed in each room. Pets are less likely to lounge on the couch if they have a cozy alternative.

Stock Up On Essentials

Make sure you’re well-stocked on pet essentials before you bring your new cat or dog home from the shelter. For cats, basic supplies include cat food and bowls for food and water, scratching posts to give kitty some claw relief and help protect your furniture, a litter box, litter and scoop. If you already have other cats at home and plan to introduce a new kitty into the mix, you’ll want to keep them in separate rooms for a while and introduce them gradually. You may also consider installing a cat pheromone diffuser like Feliway to reduce stress for each feline. For dogs, supplies include dog food and bowls for food and water, a collar, ID tag and leash, a crate to sleep in at night or when you’re out of the house, and absorbent house-training pads. You may also want to invest in a baby gate or two if you want to restrict where your new canine pal is able to roam in your home. Both cats and dogs should have an assortment of toys that they’re free to play with, toss around and chew. For a more comprehensive list of pet essentials, visit Petfinder.

Plan a Schedule for Pet Chores and Feeding

Think ahead about how many times a day — and at what times during the day — you will feed your new pet. Then, designate who in your family will take care of feedings, leash walks, and other pet-related chores like litterbox cleaning, teeth or fur brushing. If you have kids, this is another great opportunity to get them involved with caring for your family’s new pet. Encourage them to take an active role not just in playing with the new kitty or pup, but brushing, feeding and cleaning up after him or her, too. You can even create a “Pet Chore Chart” to help your kids keep track of what needs to be done each day.

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Ready to welcome a new cat or dog into your family and home? Here are a few animal adoption programs in the Northern Virginia area to help you start your search: Humane Rescue Alliance SPCA of Northern Virginia North Shore Animal League Friends of Homeless Animals Homeward Trails Animal Rescue Fairfax County Animal Shelter