Iowans who gave their kids kittens or puppies as Christmas gifts last week need to realize it’s vital to know all about the animal’s diet, veterinary care and with dogs, to sign up for an obedience course right away.

Lisa Karr, a companion animal specialist, says house-training can be difficult but it’s not an impossible task.

“A general rule of thumb is to take them out an hour for every month in age, so if they’re two months old, they should go out every two hours,” Karr says. “Taking them out frequently is the best way to potty-train them quicker and avoid those accidents in the house.”

Karr says it’s likely to take a few months for the pet to adapt to the new surroundings. She offers a few tips on making the adjustment easier, for your family and for the pooch.

“It’s a really good idea to keep it confined in a space where you can control its surroundings and it’s not going to have access to things you don’t want it to chew up,” Karr says. “Whether you’re keeping it confined in the kitchen or someplace it doesn’t matter if it has accidents, and getting into a training class right away to help teach it and build that relationship will be good.”

Just like people get hungry around the same times daily, Karr says having a routine feeding schedule for your pet is also important.

“Kittens are probably okay letting them graze all day. Cats are pretty good at monitoring how much they eat,” Karr says. “Even with puppies, we’re better off meal feeding them so they have the option to eat a little and come back. They tend to forget about the food or they’ll overeat. Obesity, especially in large-breed puppies, can be a big concern later in life.”

Reports say the number of dogs with diabetes has more than tripled in the past 30 years.