Helping an Adopted Dog or Cat Adjust to a New Home
By: Kay Carter | Jun 17, 2019
In the United States, the number of dogs and cats are adopted from shelters each year is more than 3 million. If you’re currently in the process of welcoming a new pet into your home, you’re probably working hard to get everything ready for their arrival. It’s important to know what steps to take before and after you’ve adopted your companion in order to ensure that the transition is as smooth as possible. Here are a few ways to make a pet from a shelter well-adjusted in their new environment.
Introduce Your New Pet to People, Places and Things Slowly
If you live with other people or pets, it’s important that introductions are done slowly and carefully. Allow your new dog or cat to approach everyone in your home by letting them spend a few minutes sniffing and exploring. In order to keep your pet from being overwhelmed, try not to expose them to a large gathering of people or pets right away. Keep the introductions to just a few minutes and gradually make interactions longer as your pet begins to feel more comfortable. Supervise interactions with other animals in the home at all times and keep them separated while you’re gone. Once they get used to each other, you can make the adjustments as needed. For puppies and kittens, there is a period in their life called the socialization period which starts around 12 weeks and continues just beyond 16 weeks for dogs and for cats it’s around 2 to 7 weeks but this sometimes can extend up to 14 weeks. This is a time where they can be trained and exposed to people, places and good behavior in order to minimize the risk of them becoming fearful of certain stimuli later on in their life. It’s important that you speak to your veterinarian about vaccinating your puppy and kitten before introducing them to these entities in a limited way.
Have the Basics Ready
When your pet arrives home from the shelter, there are a few things they’re going to need right away. Be sure to get things like bedding, pet food, and toys ready before their arrival so they can start to feel comfortable the second they come home. Although it’ll be tough not to buy every pet product you see, remember that you only need to start with the basics. As always, you can purchase more things down the line as you start to get to know your dog or cat more.
Start a Routine
It can be tempting to feel like your pet should have the freedom to do whatever they please, but in reality, structure is necessary for both the health of you and your pet. Instead of feeling restricted by routines, pets actually feel safe within the boundaries you create. Give your pet a set schedule for meal times, walks, and sleep and allow them to get accustomed to new rules. Remember to reward good behavior with lots of positive reinforcement that may include healthy treats.
Create a Safe Space for your Pet
Since many pets from shelters are coming from a high-stress environment, it’s common for them to come to their new home with some jitters and apprehension. According to House Method, your rescue may be anxious and scared of your place. Try to make them as comfortable as possible by designating a room (or small section of a room) just for them. Getting a crate for your pet is also a great way to give them their own space. While many may view a crate as a cage, research has shown that from a pet’s point of view, it can actually be a safe and cozy den to relax.
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but when you get a new pet it can be easy to feel so excited that you forget how anxious and scared they probably feel. As your dog or cat gets used to being a part of your family, remember to be patient while they adjust to their new surroundings and routine.
Disclaimer: healthcareforpets.com and its team of veterinarians and clinicians do not endorse any products, services, or recommended advice. All advice presented by our veterinarians, clinicians, tools, resources, etc is not meant to replace a regular physical exam and consultation with your primary veterinarian or other clinicians. We always encourage you to seek medical advice from your regular veterinarian.