Knowing what to expect is the first step towards a successful pet adoption.
Selecting a Dog
Narrow down between puppies and adults. Puppies require more time for training, and more frequent care, while adult dogs may be better trained. Determine the traits and characteristics that fit your lifestyle, whether that’s a high-energy running buddy or a laid-back companion for Netflix binging. Then, consider size and grooming needs, and whether your new dog will live with other pets or children.
Selecting a Cat
Start with the basics. Do you want an adult cat or a kitten? Will your cat live with other pets or children? Is there a particular breed you’re interested in? From there, look for a personality fit. Some cats are greeters and will be outgoing with newcomers. Others are independent or more reserved but can open up once they’ve settled into a home.
Timeline After Bringing a New Pet Home
Coming home for the first time can be exciting and stressful. We recommend following the rule of 3s during this transition.
Adapted from an article by Katelyn Schutz, CPDT.
For a pet, the first few days in a new home can be overwhelming and they may not act themselves. Adrenaline is boosted, and their behavior can be more reactive and less predictable. They’ve not learned the rules of your home and may test your patience and discipline. But, put yourself in their paws.
Cats may find a hiding place and stay there for a few days. We recommend confining your new cat to a small, quiet area of the house — a single room with their food, water, litter box, and toys. Familiar items will help them adjust, such as the blanket or crate they came home with. Give them time to adjust and avoid forcing interactions.
When you’re ready for them to explore, open the room’s door and sit outside. Reward them with a treat when they come out. We recommend keeping your cat indoors, and not letting them have a full run of the house until you’re both comfortable. If they approach a no-go area, rattle a can of pennies or pebbles, so the negative noise is associated with their actions.
After a few weeks, pets begin to feel safe in their environment. Trust is growing. They’re recognizing your patterns and daily routines. Feel-good hormones like serotonin and dopamine increase, combatting adrenaline and epinephrine surges. Around this time, a new pet starts to feel comfortable and can let their guard down.
Behavioral changes begin — some positive, others will need to be corrected. For those with other pets in the home, this is a common time for conflict as the hierarchy develops. Three weeks can be the “make or break” moment for many owners. Hang in there.
Around this time, a new pet will fully settle into the household routine. Trust and love have been built, along with an overall sense of security. Predictability is comforting, and it may take several months of repetition for your new pet to feel this way. You’re building a bond.
Introducing Pets to the Family
When pets first meet, don’t rush the process. You’ll need plenty of time and patience. Ensure all cats have a safe area to retreat to and that dogs don’t corner a cat, even if they’re not being aggressive. To prevent scratches, don’t hold a cat in your arms during introductions. For dogs, hold the meeting on neutral ground, such as in a park, and have both dogs leashed. Reward positive behavior.
If an introduction isn’t going well, contact a professional trainer or animal behaviorist.
Babies & Young Children
Ensure your pet is spayed or neutered to decrease the possibility of aggressive behavior, and that your pet is healthy and up to date on all vaccinations. Set up cribs, play areas, or other equipment early to help your pet to get used to their presence. For babies, consider using a doll to get your pet used to the size and shape of young children.
Do not force interactions between your baby and pet, and don’t share items between them, this will prevent toy-related aggression. Allow your pet to smell and sniff to get acquainted, and above all, supervise every engagement.
Socializing for Dogs
Socializing ensures your pet can handle meeting unfamiliar dogs and people. Socialization should begin early, from three to twelve weeks of age, by exposing your dog to new humans, sounds, and places. Be cautious but confident when introducing your dog to other dogs and know when to end the interaction. Reward good behavior with treats.
Give yourself some additional time to search. Most apartment communities have their own policies regarding pets and they can be very different, including certain breed or weight restrictions. Do your homework, ask the property manager for more information on their property’s pet policies, and get a copy of any rules before signing a lease.