Keep young pets with their mothers for longer

The excitement of getting a new puppy or kitten does not seem to waiver, even as one gets older.

Few are immune to the cute factor, and the younger the pet, the more overwhelming the emotion felt.

Even so, the Pet Food Industry Association of Southern Africa (PFI) encourages new pet owners not to be swayed into removing a baby from its mother before at least eight or nine weeks (12 weeks is optimal), as the resultant issues can be devastating for the animal and your relationship.

Unless, of course, an emergency presents itself.

The learning that occurs within these first few weeks, from both litter mates and mother, is immense, and shapes the animal’s temperament and personality for the rest of its life.

When valuable life lessons are missed, there is an increased chance for your new pet to experience psychological, behavioural and emotional issues.

Weaning is an extremely important part of learning that animals must go through.

It teaches the animal about the pressure of its bite, to hopefully result in a pet that is controlled, with a ‘soft mouth’ (which can often reduce damage if a pet is ever forced to bite) and teaches the pet about frustration control.

Aside from the emotional and behavioural benefits of nursing, physiological and nutritive needs are also being met.

Leaving the emotional support of the litter too early can result in timid and fearful pets that are unable to deal with everyday challenges and frustrations.

The resultant challenges that one may experience when bringing a pet home too early are vast and varied.

They can be as serious as a dog that bites out of fear or cannot be left alone owing to separation anxiety, to being nutritionally disadvantaged, resulting in potential lifelong medical issues.

Most concerns will require professional intervention, which new owners seldom have budgeted for and the pet-owner relationship may also be severely damaged.

Don’t set yourself up for failure – before entering into an agreement to purchase or adopt a new pet ask about the age at which the breeder or shelter will release the animal.

If it is anything less than the recommended age of at least eight to nine weeks, walk away.

ALSO READ: Consider a pet sitter for your pets these holidays

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  AUTHOR
Conelia Harry
Journalist

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