Considering a new pet? A rescue pet may make a wonderful addition to the family. That’s why we actively foster kittens at Fox Valley Animal Hospital and work with countless rescue organisations and individuals to give them the best start in life.
Making a new home for any pet is important. For rescue pets, it’s extra important because they may have had disruption and situations that make them feel vulnerable.
But never fear, Fox Valley Animal Hospital is here. Here’s your guide to making a new rescue pet feel welcome
Take what comes with your rescue pet
We might love the idea of shopping for a new fancy collar, bed, blankets, clothes and toys for our new rescue pet. But it’s important to recognise that familiar items help calm and soothe your pet. Many rehoming organisations offer a few belongings with the rescue pet you adopt. If this is the case, it’s a good idea to take them with you and integrate them slowly into life.
You may not be impressed with their choice of puppy blanket, but to a rescue dog, that might be something that has familiar smells and a good association. That cat toy might look a little worse for wear, but it could have been a vital part of your rescue cat’s enrichment and leisure and could help with stress reduction.
Try not to overwhelm your rescue pet by changing too much and removing the familiar all together. Strike a balance as it will help them understand that the new home is theirs, too.
Keep the introduction calm and close
It may be exciting to show off the new rescue pet to the extended family and start them off with as much socialising as possible. But your rescue pet may not share this sentiment. All pets need time to adjust to new surroundings, people, sounds and smells. Try not to create a situation of sensory overload as it may stress your pet.
The best advice is to spend time getting your new rescue pet getting used to home and to the people they will see daily, namely who it will live with.
Be mindful of being too excited and ensure that your rescue pet is supervised with any child based interaction. And don’t whoop, holler or leave your rescue pet unattended for great stretches of time while they get used to their new family.
Routine is also important. Walks relieve stress in rescue dogs and will help associate you and your interactions with your new pet as positive ones. So too do enrichment toys, games and puzzles for dogs and cats alike.
And set the standard of behaviour you expect. Don’t compensate for their newness by allowing your rescue cat to sleep on the kitchen bench if you don’t want that to continue. Similarly, don’t invite cuddles on the couch or bed from your rescue dog unless that is going to be your daily routine.
Introduce your rescue pet to the rest of the pet family slowly
With other pets in the household, there will be a need to work out who the new addition is and see how everyone fits into the family again. This takes time and patience.
A few tips that help a rescue pet assimilate are:
- Avoid feeding new and existing pets in the same space for a while to avoid any issues with food related aggression
- Do not allow unsupervised play for the first two weeks. Even if your rescue pet seems to be great mates with the existing fur family, there will still be kinks to work out over time
- Help your rescue pet get used to toileting routines by guiding them to the right places to go just like you would with puppies and kittens
- If your rescue dog is timid, try walking them on leash around the backyard with a treat bag and with lots of praise to explore the environment in a positive way
- Avoid extra stressful situations for the first few weeks. So, no big parties (pet or otherwise) and minimise exposure to further foreign animals such as the dog park and opt for the walk instead
- Try to create personal space for your rescue pet through demonstrating where their bed is (and protecting it from someone else using it), allowing toy play and making toileting positive
Make life fun but in a gentle, respectful way. Add treats, games and positive interactions to the “getting to know you” stage to help both the bond between rescue pet and existing pet and the humans in the house.
Exercise patience and kindness
Even the most house-trained rescue pet can have toileting accidents in a new house. They may also get lost, be skittish and act in ways you wouldn’t expect. Don’t forget, they are taking in a whole new environment, family and routine. They may be missing any foster brothers and sisters they bonded with or be pining for a carer. They may still be stressed from time in a pound or be generally feeling out of sorts.
Accidents will happen, and time will be needed to build the right bond.
Try to include your rescue pet in to the family as much as possible. Introduce long stretches of time without company slowly where you can. Forgive the mistakes and praise the good behaviour to get where you want your rescue pet to be.
Look for signs of distress and over excitement as well. If your pet is acting nervous and strange, feel free to call our vet nurses for some advice.
Like anyone, your rescue pet needs time to adjust to their new life. You’ll be discovering their personality and they in turn will be exploring you. To build trust and make your new rescue pet feel like a part of the family is a work in process and may take weeks and even months to truly develop.
Enjoy the new adventure with your rescue pet
Rescue pets have an amazing capacity to love and connect, even if they’ve faced some tough life circumstances. Their boundless enthusiasm for life and their willingness to give humans a chance is an inspiring thing to see in action.
Remember to enjoy that journey as it unfolds. Look for those quirky habits that make you smile. Cherish the moments where a friendly paw is offered, or a lap snuggle is sought. Have the giggle as you watch them learn how to play with toys and/or explore the world with you.
Love them for who they are, and your rescue pet is bound to do the same.
Need advice on picking the right rescue pet for you or want to set them up with the best possible start with your family?