Visit our website at FriendsofBCAS.org/gg-before-you-adopt for more useful information on bringing home a new pet.
Welcoming a pet into your home after it has adapted to the shelter is a gradual process; from the papers to the shots, to spreading the news and pet proofing your home, it can become hectic trying to accumulate a steady check list of what has and hasn’t been done. Do the neighbors know? Is the bed completely ready? Is the food brand the same as the shelter’s, and is there a collar and leash ready? Who’s in charge of feeding it and walking it? Although at times it may seem overwhelming, helping a pet into a new environment is easier than most people think.
The first thing to think about is pet-proofing: be sure to remove household chemicals and breakables out of the pet’s reach, tape loose electric cords, have a bed made, remove plants and rugs, install gates or buy cat scratch posts and litter boxes.
If you’re adopting a dog, a good idea is to develop a vocabulary list—a set list of phrases for the dog [down vs. sit, etc.] for your family to have. You should also organize the feeding schedule [who feeds it when], and the walking schedule.
Also, be sure to draft a pet shopping list! Food and water bowls, bedding, grooming supplies and soaps, identification tag, odor neutralizer, collar and leash, toys, and pet food are staples. Be sure to stick to the same diet it had at the shelter for a few weeks, including the times it was fed. If you’re planning on switching foods, gradually mix it in to the pet’s bowl and slowly increase the amount.
Be sure to warn the neighbors about your new family member. Talk to them about allergies they might have [or maybe their children have.]
Before the pet comes into your home, go over the first day with your entire family. Since the animal is being brought into an unfamiliar surrounding, it isn’t odd for it to be scared or overwhelmed—you should give it time to adapt into the new smells and sounds of its fresh surroundings. Some animals [especially puppies] need to have some alone time, too. A pet needs at least a week to get settled in. All pets, regardless of their species, need time to become adapted to their new homes. Animals that were once at a shelter aren’t used to being surrounded by children and constantly being touched, so it’s key to let it ease into the new lifestyle. If they start to whimper or whine, don’t give in or else it will always cry for attention. Instead, give the pet affection for good behavior, like chewing on a toy or resting quietly.
Lay down rules for your family before the pet comes in. Some basic rules are:
- Don’t disturb the pet when it’s eating or sleeping.
- Treat it with kindness; animals feel too!
- Speak softly, and never scream.
- Never abuse the pet [pulling its tail, ears, or fur.]
It’s also a good idea to set up an appointment with your local veterinarian for a week after your new pet has adapted into your home for a wellness exam.
Finally, be reasonable in your expectations. Life will be different with your new friend, and its life will be different as well—you and your pet will grow with one another. Be patient, and you will be amply rewarded.