Adjusting to a new home
Think of getting a new roommate from another country and neither of you speak the same language. It would be confusing, difficult and would take some time to get used to one another. Now think of that same roommate with four legs – that is what happens when you bring a new pet into your home. There will be an adjustment period for everyone in the home, both people and pets. Each individual will take their own length of time for that adjustment period. Some pets adjust rather quickly like they have always lived there and others could take many months. But don’t be discouraged. There are some things you can do to help a new pet adjust.
Account for the stress. Stress plays a big part of an animal adjusting to their new environment. Identifying and minimizing or eliminating stress factors before bringing a new pet home, can really help the cause. Stress triggers can come in many different sounds, shapes, smells and activities. Even the season you bring home a new pet can add stress to an animal. A big seasonal trigger is Christmas time. Family and friends as guests, changes in work or school schedules, excited children and stressed adults can be stressful for an established pet in a home. A new pet may compare it to be dropped off in the middle of a tornado!
Establish a routine. They may not always act like it but dogs and cats love being on a schedule. Creating a routine and sticking with it helps minimize some stress. Getting a new job or having a baby isn’t going to be the best time to bring a new pet into the mix. Some life changes are unavoidable. But if you just brought home a new baby, now isn’t the best time to go to the pet store. A new pet requires a lot of attention. Whether you brought home a kitten, puppy, cat or dog, try to get an idea from the place you are getting them from what their routine was. Asking what time(s) they were fed, how much they were fed, what type of food, bathroom habits, exercise times and keeping them on the same schedule in your home will help lessen the stress and adjustment time. If their routine doesn’t work into your schedule, slowly adjust their routine to fit into your schedule. For example, changing food brands can be a stressful time. Dogs and cats are not like people who need a variety of different tastes/foods. If you want to change their food, it should take a minimum of 4 days for the switch. A few weeks for switching foods is even better. See our switching diets article for information on how to properly switch foods. Also, by providing your new pet with scheduled feeding times, it allows for more bonding between you and the new pet. Measuring the amount of food offered allows close monitoring of how much food your pet is eating. At times the stress of a new environment can lead to GI upset in the form of vomiting and/or diarrhea. Changing a diet can cause the same signs. Allowing your pet a few weeks to adjust to the new environment before changing the diet will decrease their stress.
The third step is to work on the bond with your new pet. This may be in the form of time spent on the floor, petting and grooming the pet. Playing with new toys and learning commands or taking walks at a certain time of day. Not only does this help you and your pet to get to know each other but boundaries and trust are also formed.
New pets in your home:
Pet Proof your home before your new pet arrives! Even if you already have a dog or cat in the home, a new pet can get into items your current pet does not. Here’s a quick check list for you:
- Electrical wires
- People food (especially candy and chocolate)
- Clear the counter or table until you know if your new pet is a “counter-surfer”
- Personal care items and medications
- Trash cans are covered or elevated for the time being
- Hot tubs and swimming pools
- Laundry machines
- Curtains – long hanging flowing curtains seem like a lovely place to stretch those kitty muscles and the strings could pose as a
- choking/hanging hazard to dogs and cats.
- Remove breakable objects from shelves, windows and tabletops.
- Secure all cupboard doors – just because you put food in a cupboard, doesn’t mean it is safely out of the way of your new pet. I’ve seen a lot
- of animal videos that shows just how smart they can be at opening doors!
- Make sure to check both indoor and outdoor plants are nontoxic to your pet.
**Rule of thumb: if any or all of something will fit in a mouth, it’s dangerous. Watch out for cigarette butts, rubber bands, balloons, sewing needles, thread/ribbon, articles of clothing. Because what goes in must come out, often via surgery.
Decide on what space belongs to the new pet:
Crate training your new puppy/dog. With proper crate training, you will aid in housebreaking the pup and provide a safe haven for them to retreat to when/if they need it.
Furniture- will this be off limits? Will there be a certain couch for snuggle time?
Cats/kittens should be provided a smaller room and gradually allow them to adjust to their new surroundings. This confinement also aids in litter box training and avoids the risk of ‘accidents’ elsewhere in the house. Make sure the area has fresh food and water, bed, toys, scratching tree and a cardboard box on its side so that the new feline has a place to hide if it is feeling a little shy or unsure. Don’t coax the cat/kitten out of a hiding place; spend time in the room reading a book or watching TV. If you want to appeal to your new kitty, spend time on the floor at their level. As your new kitty is adjusting to the home, allow family members to visit individually rather than crowding into the room all at once. Make sure to provide different types of scratching materials to find out the new kitty’s preference of scratching materials.
Be sure that the whole family is on board with the rules for the new pet. Have clear expectations of what the family wants from the pet so that everyone can train in the same manner to achieve the same goal.
MVVS recommends puppy class for new owners. This usually takes on a form of socialization for your puppy and a class for the humans. It is well worth the investment. Call our office for a list of recommended classes in the area.
Be sure to read our article: How to Introduce a Pet for more information on different situations such new pet to existing pet, cat to dog and dog to cat as well as pet to children. Bringing a new pet into your home is often an exciting, joyous time. By preparing for them, you can help to ensure a less stressful time for all. If you have any questions or concerns, please call our clinic at 717-477-8938 and we will be happy to discuss your concerns/questions.