You’ve filled out the paperwork, completed the background check and passed the interview. It’s finally time to bring home your new fur baby! But completing the adoption process was only the beginning—the real challenge still lies ahead. Transitioning your pet to a new environment is no simple task and is often stressful for everyone involved.
The transition might be rocky at first, but there are many things pet parents can do to shorten the adjustment period and prevent unnecessary headaches. Review the following tips before you bring home a newly adopted pet.
- Prepare your home first: A change in environment is always stressful for cats and dogs. If the owner is rushing to set up food bowls and litter boxes, that can make the pet feel even more stressed out! Make sure everything your pet will need is already in place before they arrive. Bedding, crates, toys and food bowls should be kept separate from ones that belong to resident pets. If you’re bringing home a cat, reserve a room for their quarantine period and supply it with all the essentials.
- Provide different types of toys: By the time a pet joins their forever home, the owner and pet are still getting to know each other. It takes time to figure out which kinds of toys your new furry friend likes to play with. Pick out a few different toys at the pet store and let your cat or dog choose their favorites. Giving them options reduces stress and makes for one happy pet! Be sure to avoid toys with choking hazards and ones that are easily torn into pieces.
- Play with your new pup: Whether they’re a resident or new to the family, every dog needs exercise and mental enrichment. Play time is especially important for newly adopted pups because it burns off nervous energy and floods the body with powerful, stress-relieving endorphins. Daily play sessions satisfy your dog’s need for attention and mitigate destructive behavior. When you’re busy, leave out puzzle toys to keep them occupied. This means no bite-sized chunks missing from the furniture!
- Give your new cat some space: Cats are a little different. Attempting to play with a cat right when they arrive home can leave them feeling overwhelmed. It’s normal for newly adopted cats to seek out high perches and hiding places until they feel comfortable enough to approach their new owners. Respect the cat’s boundaries, and they will come to you in time. Remember, the adjustment period is temporary—your kitty should eventually join you on the couch for snuggles, but only on their terms!
- Gradually introduce new and resident pets: If you’re like many animal lovers, this isn’t your first adoption. You have to make sure all four-legged family members get along to avoid aggressive behavior. Owners should introduce pets over the course of several weeks because no one can say with certainty how they’ll react to each other. Keep the new pet in their own room and bring everyone into a neutral area for brief, supervised play time. Assign one person to each pet so they can either hold a dog on their leash or create a distraction to break up cat fights.
- Gradually introduce new food, too: Your cat or dog grew accustomed to eating the same kibble every day at the animal shelter. Feeding them entirely new food creates an extra layer of stress—not to mention a tummy ache—that your pet doesn’t need! During their first week home, feed the adopted pet what they ate at the shelter. Staff members will be able to tell you which brand to purchase. Then, ask your local vet for food recommendations and guidance on slowly transitioning to a new formula.
- Maintain a consistent routine: The stress of a new home is pretty much unavoidable. However, you can mitigate some of that stress by establishing a consistent daily routine right off the bat. Newly adopted pets latch onto any sense of familiarity they can find in order to feel safe. Transitions go a lot smoother when pet parents feed, walk and play with their furry friends at the same times every day. Routines create a predictable pattern that make new pets feel at ease.
Above all else, remember to be patient. Once adopted pets overcome the stressful transition, their true colors will shine through! Pet parents should also be aware that every animal adjusts at a different pace. Some new and resident pets might immediately click, while a different pair could take months just to tolerate each other’s presence. Keep your vet updated with your new pet’s progress and don’t be afraid to ask for guidance if the adjustment period takes longer than expected.