Perhaps you just adopted a fur-baby, or you're doing some research as you consider bringing an adopted pet in to your home. During the time of COVID and beyond, rescues have never seen so many pets adopted in such a short time! Adopting pets from shelters, rescue organisations and animal charities is a rewarding way of expanding your fur-family, and supports the work that these organisations do for many animals in need. But it can also have its challenges. The pet you are about to bring home may have a limited history available. You might not know how this animal has been trained, or what their regular diet is. Perhaps you have other pets at home, and aren't sure how to introduce the new addition? This article will provide answers to these questions and help you navigate the process from adoption to the introduction to the home.
At the Shelter
Make sure you ask lots of questions about your potential pet beforehand. The organisation may not have all the answers, but asking key questions can give you a head start and help your pet feel at home in a strange environment. Here are a few to consider:
- What food has he/she been eating?
- Has he or she had any veterinary visits since being in care?
- Is he/she up to date with parasite control? What sort of parasite control has been used?
- Are there any games or toys that this animal really loves?
- Is there any information available about the history of this animal?
- Has he or she been introduced to other animals? If so, how did it go, and what strategies were used?
- Where does he or she like to sleep?
- Does he or she have a favourite scratching spot?
Preparing the Home
Create a safe space that the cat can retreat to, where they can be completely alone and not disturbed by anyone. Cats feel a lot more safe and secure when they are at height, so putting a cat tower up on a bench, or creating space for them on a shelf or desktop would be ideal. Let the cat come out and explore their new environment in their own time. Try to purchase the same food and litter that the cat had available when in care. If you want to make any changes, introduce these gradually once your cat has settled in to their new home.
Cats like to have everything separate. Make sure there's a bit of distance between their eating area and litter tray, and sleeping spot.
If you're adopting a particularly anxious cat, or want to provide more support to your new pet's transition, consider investing in synthetic feline pheromones. These are available at most veterinary clinics and leading pet stores, and can help to calm your cat in unfamiliar surroundings.
Most rescue organisations suggest keeping your cat indoors for at least four weeks. This gives them the chance to mark their scent and settle into their new home. Keeping your cat confined to their safe space/room for the first few days will ensure your cat isn't overwhelmed by the change. From here, introductions to other places in the home, other members of the family and other pets can begin slowly.
You might want to consider taking some time away from work, or work from home, when your adopted dog moves in!
Much like cats, dogs will appreciate a slow introduction to their new surroundings. Resist the urge to shower them with love and affection - instead let them come to you and move at their pace. Make sure that there are minimal changes to the dog's diet, and introduce new foods one at a time.
Check out your new dog's "walk-ability" at home first, with on-lead walks around the garden or house to gauge his or her reaction to the lead, and responsiveness. Consider getting a halti or other leading aide if you have adopted a dog who needs more help on the lead. It's best to keep things as calm and predictable as you can for the first few days; no dinner parties, regular meal times for your dog, minimal new introductions.
If you're unsure of your adopted dog's socialisation a good place to start might be to enrol in a class like Manners & Obedience to explore your dog's potential and prior learning in a safe, supportive environment with expert help.
When introducing your adopted pet to the pet already in the home, take your time. Make sure that both animals are aware of each other - perhaps they see each other between screen doors, or have exchanged blankets to become aware of the scent of the other pet.
Test out the obedience of your pet. See if he or she can sit (dog) and relax in the presence of the adopted pet. Take the charge out of the situation by giving the existing pets plenty of treats and praise when the adopted pet is close by - for example, have your dog sit and have treats while the adopted cat is carried past him or her. Doing things like this repetitively and calmly will reduce the anxiety in both pets and take the novelty out of their meeting.
Like most things - let the pets sort this out in their own time. They may not be best friends right away, but if you respect their boundaries and actively work towards helping them feel comfortable and supported in their new living situations you will create an opportunity for them to consider liking each other.
If you need more help with integrating your adopted pet in to your family, we are here to help. Our friendly nursing team can assist you with any questions you have around the care for your pet. Our classes are designed to support the human + pet bond, and our veterinary team can support your pet's health and well-being during the transition.
Thank you for considering adopting a pet.