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How To Welcome A Shelter Pet To Your Home


Getting a new pet is similar to welcoming a human baby to this world. You cannot not plan ahead for that. However, if you’re rescuing and adopting a stray pet right off the street, things can be different. But you need a roadmap ready before you welcome a shelter pet to your home. This is especially crucial if you’re a first-time pet parent.

Both cats and dogs are different and so are their needs. That being said, your way of welcoming shelter pets will depend on whether it’s a cat or a dog. We will discuss both of them in different sections of this article.

Essential Tips on How to Welcome a Shelter Dog

A shelter dog when comes to your house doesn’t know that he was seeing his shelter home for the last time. The transition from a shelter to a ‘furever’ home requires a pre-plan because of the new place with different people and rules. Read on to know what you should do and what to keep in mind.

Gather Essentials

You will need the right accessories for your dog’s happiness, health and well-being, safety, and security. Also, keep in mind that the accessories you choose should be appropriate to your dog’s size, breed, shape, and life stage.

If you’re not sure what to buy just ask your dog’s carer for help to get a leash, a harness, a bed, some food, and a couple of regular bowls initially. You can get other stuff later when your dog is more comfortable and adjusts to his new home.

Schedule An Appointment with Vet

A health checkup is required to ensure that he is healthy, has been vacc

inated properly, and doesn’t require any immediate medical attention. A vet visit is critical if your dog is senior or is currently under any treatment.

Schedule an appointment with a veterinarian a day or two after your dog’s big arrival day. Don’t forget to ask your dog’s carer at the shelter for your dog’s medical records and vaccination history.

What to Do First on The Arrival Day

Don’t run errands with the dog in your car on the arrival day. Preferably, you should carry your dog in a crate. However, if you don’t want to, get someone to handle him in the car so that you don’t get distracted by your dog while driving. Bring towels as well for saving your car seat in case your dog gets carsick.

When you reach home, put a leash on him and wait at the front door of your house until your dog seems calm or sits down. Enter through the front door and let your dog follow you through it. By not letting your dog lead establishes some ground rules from the beginning.

If your dog enters the first and is unleashed, it means you’re providing a sense of ownership of the entire house and he is allowed to do anything he wants to, including destroying things, pee and poop where he thinks is a right spot, or dig into your couch. However, he may not do it on the first day but you don’t want to give that message at all.

Simply, visit each room one by one not spending more than 5-7 minutes there. Remember, your dog is still on a leash.

Now when you arrive at the space you’ve dedicated for your dog to lay down, sleep, and play, remove his leash and let him explore a bit.

When you unleash him, you’re telling him that this is his space, and can lay down if he wants to. The sleeping area should have a crate, a bed, a few toys, and a calm environment. Choose an appropriate dog bed because a wrong choice can adversely affect your pooch’s health. For example, if your dog is a Labrador, you may want to look for dog beds for Labs. In a nutshell, keep your dog’s needs and comfort in your mind when buying one.

Time to Go For A Walk

If your dog decides to doze off, let him sleep. To your surprise, he may even sleep for 4-6 hours straight. This is because the environment at the shelter is louder with the sounds of visitors, vehicles, and other dogs. But his new space is comparatively calmer and secure so your dog may want to just sleep at first. In this case, you can go on a walk later.

But if it’s the other way around, attach a leash and harness and t

ake your dog for a brief walk around your locality. Let him get used to new scents, humans, animals, sounds, and objects. A small excursion will be quite helpful to your dog to adjust to his new forever home.

Don’t Arrange Any Welcome Party or Invite Guests

We all get excited upon the arrival of a new furry member. But meeting too many new members can be overwhelming to a dog and that can lead to stress and other behavior-related issues. Imagine yourself in a similar situation when you’re suddenly taken to a new place from your home and too many people come to see you, pet you, and talk to you in a sweet voice. Too strange and too overwhelming, right?

No picking up your dog, no touches, no hugs, no petting, and no direct eye contact should be maintained on the first day. When you keep the dog confined, your family members can come one by one and just see them for a while. The dog should be given the least attention required on the first day.

What to Do in the Next Few Days

Reward your pet when you notice your dog is doing exactly what you’re expecting of him. This will reinforce the desired behavior. Don’t worry about your dog’s sleeping schedule just yet. Try to maintain feeding, playtime, and potty walks at the same time each day.

Complete your first visit to the vet and strictly follow their in

structions. Also, if you have any questions regarding your pooch’s behavior or any abnormal signs, you should seek their help. Moreover, puppy blues are common in dog owners, if you are experiencing unexplained stress, it should go away soon.

Welcoming A Shelter Cat

Since you’ve decided to get a pet cat, you must know that cats are highly territorial. And your whole planning should be based on that fact. Unlike dogs, you should not let your new cat explore the house. Let’s know what you should do when you bring a shelter cat home.

Arrange a Dedicated Room For Your Kitty

A shelter cat has a cage as his territory and now he has a whole house. Your cat won’t be comfortable in his new and strange surroundings initially. Moreover, he wouldn’t know what other animals may be hiding inside the house.

If you have resident cats, neighborhood cats, or community cats, they can make your cat feel territorially insecure. To avoid that, arrange a room where your cat will be staying for a few

days or weeks before he is introduced to the entire house and other animals. If not a whole room, a small bathroom can also work.

You don’t have to make big adjustments. A water station, food station, a litter box, a bed, a cat cave, and a scratch post will be enough initially. Also, make sure you don’t place water and food bowls near the litter box.

Ensure The Room is Free of Large Objects

A cat in a strange surrounding may want to hide and feel secure. Sometimes it also takes a couple of weeks for them to come out of a haven. If there are big objects in the room, your kitty will likely take a spot inside it. This will make it quite difficult for you to interact with your feline.

You can talk with your cat in a soft voice, read, or also sing to them. In a nutshell, any kind of interaction with your cat is crucial. Cat caves are quite a good option for a cat to hide in a safe haven and get some sleep as well.

Set up The Litter Box Right Way

Set up a litter box for your new shelter cat based on his life stage. If he is just a newborn kitten learning skills from his mother, he will need some litter training first. However, he will identify where his litter box is placed, eventually.

If you’re not sure what litter to purchase, just get a non-clumping one from a pet-store and fill the box about the depth of two inches. Ensure that the box is placed in a calm and secure place, and away from the food and water station. You don’t have to put multiple boxes initially but will need to place one more litter box later.

Enrich Your Cat’s Surroundings Before He Arrives

Setting up a room the way your new kitty can express his species-specific behavior is crucial. This is possible by the process of enrichment. In other words, your cat should be facilitated with enrichment in any way possible.

Cats should strictly be indoors and that means, you’re supposed to replicate their wild surrounding as much as possible. Meaning, by means of enrichment, you should give them enough opportunities to express themselves indoors.

If you’ve already owned a cat, you know what a cat needs. In a perfect world, you’ll want to buy cat trees, cat condos, cat caves, cat furniture, window perches, fancy litter boxes, etc. Purchasing everything your cat would enjoy can be expensive for you especially, when you have multiple pets. But don’t worry, you can try some DIY enrichment ideas which are almost free of charge.

Also, keeping cats strictly indoors doesn’t mean you should never let them see and enjoy the outside world. The whole point of keeping them indoors is to keep them secure from potential dangers and stopping them from hunting. All in all, your cat shouldn’t be confined to a house forever.

However, you won’t have to take your cat out until your cat adjusts to your house. For now, just know that you can allow your cat outdoors under your observation.

It can be in the form of a leash-harness walking, trekking, hiking, etc. If you’re not an adventurous person and your cat doesn’t like to be walked on a harness, you can simply choose one of the all-weather cat strollers for an evening walk.

What to Expect on The First Day

Your family members and friends are going to be excited to meet your new furry family member. However, that can be overwhelming for your cat. So, limit your kitty’s interaction to family members only for a few days.

Take your pet directly to the room you’ve arranged for him. Keep him crated as you make your way to his new space.

While your family members are too excited to meet them, please tell them to stick to the rules you have formed. Once you are in the room, open the door of the crate and let your kitty come out on his own.

Depending on his temperament, he may be too afraid to come out just yet and interact with you. He might just stay in the crate or find a safe spot where he feels comfortable and secure. If he doesn’t come to you on his own, you should try again later.

Give them some time and adjust, if you don’t see him exploring a lot, he is most likely getting out of his abode at night when everyone’s asleep. Also asking your cat’s previous carer for a piece of his mother’s blanket can help him feel secure.

Your feline friend may not eat in the beginning for a day or two. That happens because he is stressed by strange surroundings. To avoid this, you should feed him the same food he used to eat at the shelter. Also, ensure that he is drinking enough water and fresh water is always available. If your cat doesn’t eat or drink for two days, you should seek help from a veterinarian.

What’s Next?

In a week or two, your cat will show signs that he wants to explore the house more. He will want to escape and explore his territory. At this time, make sure he is getting enough playtime that gets him enough physical exercise and mental stimulation as well. You can also use some homemade toys.

In your big plan, you definitely have thought of making the first appointment with a vet. So it’s time to go out and get your kitty for the first vet visit. Carry all the medical and health records of the cat you received from the shelter.

If you have other resident animals, follow this guide for introducing your cat to them. Your cat is now ready to be introduced to your house as well.

The EndNote

As a new pet parent, we don’t usually know how to welcome shelter pets at home. By not doing what’s appropriate, you can easily make them feel stressed, unhappy, and insecure. This is bad for both you and your new pet. Also, cats and dogs need to be welcome differently. The tips discussed in this article will surely help you welcome your new shelter pet. If you have any questions, you can let us know about that in the comment section below.

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