Adopting a pet and introducing it to existing pets and family is a lot easier than one might think. Rescue pets do pose some difficulties, however. The lack of history means that the new family has no idea what their new pet might have survived and what emotional scars it may have.
Integrating a new pet has three common characteristics: introduce pets and family slowly, exercise some patience, and show them lots of love. Of course, young kittens and puppies rarely have issues that are not easily forgotten. Chances are the shelter or rescue they were adopted from has taken good care of them and they still view life as a series of fun occurrences.
Introducing Pets and Family
It’s important to isolate the new pet for a couple of days so they can acclimate to the way their new house works. All of the sounds and smells are new and unfamiliar, and it’s important to give them some time to figure out that the new sounds and smells don’t mean danger. It also gives the new owner an opportunity to bond with the new pet without outside interference from other pets.
It’s a good idea not to overwhelm a new pet with too many hands at once. The best method to introduce the whole family to the new pet is to take turns as individuals at first, and then as small groups. After the first three-four days, a supervised visit between existing pets should occur.
Be prepared for the pets to exhibit territorial behavior, like raised fur, hissing or growling. This is common and is not cause for alarm. If the new pets charge at each other, however, it indicates issues that will only work out over time, if at all.
Supervised visits should continue until the new pet exhibits an interest in what is outside their isolation room. When they do exhibit an interest, it’s advisable to supervise their first trip out into the house. The presence of a familiar person provides comfort and safety to the new pet. Over time, probably just a few days, the new pet will discover the whole house and work out their place in the house with both their new family and new furry friends.
The key component to a successful adoption, whether from a rescue organization or a shelter, is patience. The adopted pet frequently has no idea that they are in a safe environment, and that people mean them no harm. Experience has taught them that both good people and safe environments are few and far between.
If the adopted pet exhibits a lot of fear such as not coming out from under the bed or runs or cowers when someone stands or make sudden movements, try a food or toy as positive reinforcement. The goal is to teach the pet that they are safe, and sometimes it takes a really long time. Again, having no idea what life experience has taught the new pet, it takes time to determine what will make them feel safe and loved.
Lots of Love
Feeling safe and loved is the key to earning the new pet’s trust. Just like human beings, pets blossom when they can be themselves without fear of extreme repercussion or punishment. That’s not to say punishments for bad behavior are not a good idea.
Finding an appropriate punishment that allows the pet to feel safe while allowing their new owners to set boundaries for good behavior may sound daunting. When adopting a rescue dog, it is relatively easy to determine what their tolerance for punishment is. And dogs forgive easily. When adopting a rescue cat, common complaints are inappropriate scratching, door dashing or getting on the countertops.
For both rescue cats and dogs, a water sprayer, such as those found at Lowe’s, Ace Hardware or Home Depot, is an effective method of punishment that separates the punisher from the punishment. This is particularly important when earning trust.
Making sure an adopted pet feels safe and secure is the key to adoption success. Eating, drinking and using the restroom within the first 24 hours is an immediate sign of settling in, but long term success is dependent upon patience and trust. Earning that trust may seem difficult at first and integration can be inconvenient, but the results are a happy pet that has moved past whatever their life was before entering rescue or the shelter.