Just adopted a cat or dog, or thinking about adopting one? We’ll talk about how to introduce new and existing pets, basic needs, training and socialization, and more.
Newly Adopted Pets
- Adopting A Shelter Dog: 5 Tips For SuccessRead Article >
- Adopting a Shelter Cat? Here’s How to PrepareRead Article >
- Introducing Cats and Dogs: How to Help Ensure Harmony in the HomeRead Article >
- Introducing Your Dog to a New DogWatch Video >
- Meeting the Basic Needs of Your CatWatch Video >
- Training and Socialization 101Watch Video >
Adopting A Shelter Dog: 5 Tips For Success
- When considering a shelter dog for adoption, keep the dog’s situation in mind. Realize the dog is likely anxious and suffering from abandonment. The behavior you see at the shelter—cowering, anxious barking, aloofness—may not be typical for that dog in a home environment.
- Don’t expect too much immediately from the dog once you take him or her home. The dog you adopt may have been left by someone he loved or lost and unable to find his way home. These facts, combined with time spent in the shelter, have likely left him with some emotional trauma. It will take him a while to feel safe and secure.
- Create a routine. A great way to help your dog get comfortable in her new home is to give her a routine. Feed her in the same place and at the same time every day. Take her for a walk at the same time each day, and take the same route. Knowing what to expect each day will help lessen her anxiety.
- Have patience. It will take your dog time to learn to trust you and to understand the rules of the house. Just when it seems as if your dog is starting to catch on to what you want, you may see a temporary backslide. While some dogs adapt fairly quickly to a new home, others may take many months before they start to feel like a member of the family. Patience is key and will pay off in the long run.
- Enroll in training class. Once your dog has had some time to settle in, sign up for a training class which uses humane training techniques. Taking your dog to class once a week will put him on the fast track to learning how to respond to requests from you. Attend a class that utilizes play and treats to teach the dog. Training should be fun for you and your dog. It will also speed up the bonding process, help you communicate with him, and increase his overall confidence. Find a Fear Free Certified Trainer here.
Adopting a Shelter Cat? Here’s How to Prepare
June is both the ASPCA’s Adopt a Shelter Cat Month and the American Humane Association’s Adopt a Cat Month. Either way, it’s a very special month for cats.
Cats definitely need adopting. According to the ASPCA, about 3.2 million cats enter shelters annually. However, only about half are adopted. While some are euthanized for medical or behavioral issues, most are euthanized simply because there aren’t enough homes.
Adopting an adult cat (especially those hard-to-rehome senior cats) may save a life. If you already have a cat or two, adding another—using gradual introduction techniques—is certainly possible without causing a household cat war.
If you’ve never had a cat before, you may learn that your preconceived ideas about cats are probably wrong. For example, cats aren’t aloof; they love their people. It’s just that cats being cats aren’t generally quite as demonstrative as most dogs. Even better, while 10 years may be elderly for a large-breed dog, a cat with a decade of life under the belt is merely middle-aged and can give you years more of companionship.
With those factors in mind, here are 10 things to know about adopting shelter cats:
1: Cats, like dogs, have individual personalities. Discuss with family members in advance the kind of cat you think might be the best match: do you want an active cat who is a sort of feline superhero or do you want a couch potato kitty? Also, if you happen to be a senior citizen yourself, maybe a senior cat is best.
2: During a shelter visit, you’re getting only a quick glimpse into a cat’s personality. For example, that cat you’re calling “lazy” might have just played with two consecutive visitors, and is now pooped and taking a well-deserved catnap. Ask an adoption counselor who sees all the cats daily to assess what they’re really like.
3. Shelter cats are already spayed or neutered and treated for parasites, and often they have received additional medical care or have been microchipped. What a bargain!
4: Shelter cats are a relative bargain, but over the life of your cat there will be costs involved for food and medical care. Any pet is a financial commitment and responsibility.
5: Stock up. Your new arrival will need a litter box (or two), cat litter, food and water bowls, food, scratching posts, safe and stimulating puzzle feeders or interactive toys, a cushy bed, a brush for grooming, a toothbrush and pet toothpaste, and nail clippers.
6. Catproof your home. That means, among other things, no lilies or other dangerous plants and no dangling yarn for a cat to swallow. Even an adult cat can get into trouble.
7. Take your new cat to a veterinarian for a post-adoption exam that includes a baseline for heart rate and blood work so there will be a basis for comparison in the future.
8. Fear Free. Seek out a Fear Free practice or Fear Free veterinarian to help make veterinary visits palatable before the cat has an adverse reaction. Learn more at www.fearfreehappyhomes.com.
9: Think two. Cats require exercise, mental stimulation, and social interaction. Two cats may be better than one, providing twice the benefits for one another and for you. For example, purring has been shown to be beneficial for our health; when cats purr, we smile. What’s wrong with smiling twice as often? Make sure that the two cats you’re adopting get along well; littermates are always the best idea. If you currently have a single cat, adopting two can keep them focused on one another rather than your existing cat. (Of course, it’s possible – albeit unlikely – that the two will gang up on your existing cat).
10. Make nice. Get advice on introducing new cats into a home with an existing cat, multiple cats, or a dog. In general, the newcomer(s) should be secluded in a sanctuary room such as a second bedroom, den, or guest bathroom. Use comforting tools such as the calming pheromone Feliway, combined with play, a great stress-buster. If the newcomer is scared and hides, never force yourself or try to drag him out. Instead, be quiet and patient, using enticing treats to help develop trust. The cat will come to you when he or she is ready. Finally, the more time you take to let cats get to know each other and become familiar in their new surroundings, the better.
This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.