When Dan and Julia welcomed the newest member of their family—a lab-terrier mix they’ve since named Margo—into their household last fall, they were very familiar with the life changes pet adoption requires. In fact, their teenage children have never known a life without a menagerie of beloved dogs and cats draped over the furniture and underfoot on the kitchen floor.
Still, says Julia, each time they are surprised by the amount of preparation and adjustment that adoption entails. “Part of the learning curve is getting everyone on board early when it comes to consistent behavior and training,” Dan adds. “Especially with a puppy,the first few months really change up your routine. Then it’s a matter of learning what keeps them happy.”
If you’ve recently welcomed a newly adopted pet into the household, the first order of business is congratulations!
Your adoptee is surely grateful for the warm environment and showers of love—or will be once things settle down. Plus, there’s solid evidence you too will enjoy the mental and physical health benefits of having your pet around.
Still, with any big change, adjusting to new schedules and responsibilities takes some thoughtful planning and a little bit of time. Below are some common-sense ways to make it a smooth and healthy transition after you have adopted a pet.
Help them adjust
Let the fun begin! Now’s the time to make sure you have the necessary food and water bowls, bedding / housing, grooming supplies and anything else your pet requires. Depending on your animal, you’ll want to make sure you have them correctly ID’d with pet tags. You’re also going to want to prepare your home by making sure poisonous plants, cleaning supplies and people food are out of reach.
Prepare your humans too, with children’s books about pet adoption and resources on your particular animal for adults. Most pets will need some time to adjust before they want to play and take risks, so make the introduction slow and deliberate. A bird, for example, needs to first simply adjust to a new cage. Reptiles require very specific environmental conditions. Cats could use a few days in a small space before wandering the entire house. Be patient: you have plenty of time to get to know one another.
Keep ’em busy
Just like us, your pet needs stimulation, interaction and playtime. Depending on the animal, long walks, delicious treats and lots of pats and scratches are the best way to keep your pet from feeling lonely and bored. Knowing that you won’t be able to interact with your pet 24/7, however, it’s best to explore additional ways to keep your pet happy before they take on destructive and frustrating behaviors.
Of course, toys—whether boutique brands or homemade substitutes—are a key to keeping animals busy. Seek out toys that will keep your pet mentally stimulated and physically active. Some toys have a place to hide treats inside that are challenging to get out. Others make lights and sounds when swatted, giving your pet a sense of interaction.
For cats and dogs, a picture window can be like watching TV, and a protected, screen-in porch offers an entirely new environment. Speaking of environments, consider switching the radio on when you leave the house. Turns out, dogs, birds and even fish can appreciate the right background music.
Rewarding pets with treats is one place where bribing is a recommended practice. But let your pet get bored with the same treat month after month and you might find your training tactic slacking. Instead, switch up your treats to keep them engaged. You might even consider signing up for a subscription service that will periodically send you a new packet of toys and treats. Chances are, you’ll enjoy opening up a new package of fun treats as much as your pet will enjoy eating them.
Keep ’em healthy
Establish a solid relationship with your pet’s veterinarian. Keeping up-to-date with annual medical visits and immunizations is your best bet for avoiding unexpected veterinary costs down the line. Hygiene, grooming and good nutrition will also help you manage your pet’s chronic health issues—from allergies to joint problems—and give them the best quality of life.
If you foresee struggling to pay for expensive procedures in your pet’s future, or even just want the security of knowing you can pay for those annual exams, consider getting pet insurance. According to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA), more than 2 million pets in the U.S. and Canada are now insured.
Finally, if your pet will be out int he world, say in dog parks or day care, you’ll also need to visit your city’s website (or even consult your veterinarian) to be sure you have obtained all the right vaccines as well as permits and licenses.
In just 3 months since Margo joined the household of 4 humans, 2 cats, and a dog, her new family has adjusted to the new normal of having a puppy around. “It’s totally worth the effort,” Julia says now.
A pet can make a house a home and a family stronger for its love. Reciprocate that gift by caring for their health and keeping them occupied. Soon their presence will feel so natural you someday may have to break the news to them that they were adopted!
It’s also a good idea to think through a disaster preparedness plan for your pets should you need to quickly evacuate your home due to a fire, hurricane or other emergency. Create a buddy system with neighbors in case you aren’t home when the incident occurs. Have the following items handy to ensure your pet’s safety:
· Identification and important documents (I.e.registration & vaccination)
· Food & water for at least three days
· Medications and medical records
· Collar, leash or harness
· Pet carrier or crate
· Picture of you and your pet together
· Familiar items like toys and bedding