First of all, congratulations on your decision to adopt a rescue pet. Adopting a rescued animal is a wonderful choice for both you and the millions of pets in shelters waiting for fur-ever homes. This list of tips is for those who are adopting a shelter or rescue animal for the first time.
Tip #1: Prep your home for your new furry family member. Much like childproofing, pet-proofing your home is an important step to undertake before you bring them home. Get down on the floor and look for anything your new dog or cat could find interesting that is not something you want them to get into. For example, shoes on the floor, strings from window blinds and under-counter access to cleaning supplies are a few things you’ll want to deal with before your new pet comes home.
Tip #2: Pick up the essentials before bringing your new pet home. Essentials include water and food dishes, harness and leash, crates, beds, litter boxes with litter and scoops (cats), food, toys and scratchers (cats). Getting these items a few days beforehand also gives a chance for beds and toys to naturally pick up the smells of your home instead of the smells of the store.
Tip #3: Check the chemistry before you leave the shelter. If you already have a pet, bring them with you to the shelter to meet the new animals you are potentially interested in adding to your home. This way you can ensure that not only your human family has good chemistry with the new pet but that your furry family does from the get-go as well.
Tip #4: Time your new pet’s homecoming for a period when you can be home with them for the first several days. Your rescue dog or cat might have a complicated history and need support while adjusting to the new environment of your home. Ensuring you can be home with them for the first several days gives them time to become comfortable in their new environment before they are left home alone during your workday.
Tip #5: Limit visitors for the first few weeks. While everyone you know will be excited to meet your new pet, it is best to limit visitors for the first few weeks to give your new pet time to adjust to the new environment of your home and time to bond with you, your human family and your other furry family members (if any). Rescue pets can be shy and need some time to adjust to their new life before visitors start coming around.
Tip #6: Invest in training classes. This tip especially pertains to dogs but there are training services for cats and other types of rescue animals as well. An obedience or training class helps you and your new pet develop a shared language, bond through shared experiences and set boundaries and behavior expectations.
Tip #7: Contact the shelter if you’re struggling with your new pet. Chances are that the shelter your new pet stayed at had a chance to learn much about their preferences and behaviors. Before you get discouraged if the adjustment is taking longer for your pet than you’d expected, contact the shelter for advice.
Tip #8: Rescue pets can often be shy for the first several days or weeks. This is especially true if you adopt a bonded pair. For a bonded pair (especially cats), their comfort zone is each other. It’s not unusual for them to hide under beds or other furniture and slowly come out little by little. They can often take some time to bond with their new human family. Let them explore as they are inclined and never force them to interact. Provide incentives such as treats and be slow and gentle in petting and physical touch. Let them set the pace so they feel safe and secure in their new home with you.
Adopting a rescue pet is a wonderful thing. These tips for a first-time rescue adopter can go a long way in helping your new family member adjust to their new home and family. Don’t hesitate to contact the shelter for advice–they’re invested in seeing every animal have a happy ending.