Bringing a new pet home: the importance of those first days and weeks
Bringing home a new pet is an exciting experience and in those first days and weeks, you will enjoy getting to know them. For the pet, arriving at a new home is hopefully the start of a happy life, but at the beginning, it may also be stressful for them. Getting those early days and weeks right for the pet will smooth the experience for them, setting them and you up for many years of love.
While there is some general guidance that will stand you in good stead with any pet, it’s important to remember that this can vary according to the type of animal and breed. You should also remember that your pet is an individual, who may have their own specific requirements. This is particularly true if the pet you are adopting has come from a previous home, as past experiences may have affected their temperament.
If adopting an older pet, the best advice is to adopt from a reputable shelter who will be keen to see the animal go to the right home. The Humane Society of New York is a good example of a shelter who make sure they are matching pets to the right owners. Their rescue animals are assessed and scored, so that an animal with a score of one is a pet that has a good chance at thriving in any loving home, while a level four pet is one whose behavior requires a highly experienced adopter.
A few quiet days
While you are probably longing to show off your new pet to friends and family, your new pet is likely feeling overwhelmed and the new sights, sounds, and smells can exhaust them. It is therefore best to keep the mood in your home calm and quiet for those first days.
For example, it can take up to two weeks for a dog to settle, and in that time, they may not be displaying their true personality. As they get used to their new home you will get a clearer picture of how they react to certain stimuli and what training they require. A cat can be best acclimatized in a single, escape-proof room, preferably one that is quiet, so they can get used to the people in their new home at their own pace.
Set a routine
Before your pet even comes home, you should make sure you have everything you need in terms of feeding and bedding, and have pet-proofed your home against dangers. Different animals have their own requirements – so check carefully what is needed.
From the beginning, try to set a routine with your pet as this will then set up how you want life to continue. If a cat, for example, receives food in those first days after giving a specific meow or making a specific noise, it will learn to always make that noise. If, on the other hand, the noise is ignored, the cat will soon get used to waiting until you are ready to give them their food.
With a dog, you will need to introduce them to an outside space to start the process of house training. In a new environment, even a previously house-trained dog can have accidents. But by staying consistent from the beginning by taking them outside regularly, they will soon get used to where they can relieve themselves.
By being clear from the beginning on house rules, such as not jumping on the furniture, your new pet will not acquire any bad habits that will increase your work later as you train them.
As much as you may want spend time with your new pet, any animal should have some alone time. For a cat, they like to be in control of their human contact and so giving them the space to be alone in those first days will let them build up the confidence to freely approach you and other members of the family. A dog, by contrast, needs to get accustomed to periods alone. By starting with short periods during the days and weeks after your pet first arrives, you can build up to a place where your dog is comfortable being left alone when necessary.
Family and other pets
If you have children and/or other pets, they too will need consistency from day one on how to act with the new pet. No matter how excited children are at the new arrival, they may need to curb their enthusiasm to maintain the calm atmosphere the animal needs. Discussing rules in advance will help and you can always relax them over time as they get used to each other as appropriate.
Introducing other animals needs to be carefully managed too, and each animal needs their own space that they can escape to if necessary.
While there is considerable work involved in settling in a new pet, this work is well worth it and will make life with your new pet easier and more enjoyable in the long run.