When you adopt a rescue animal, you’re honestly changing their life by providing a loving forever home. For animals that might spend most of their lives at a shelter or rescue organization, having a new home and family can make such a difference! But there are some things to know and expect before you welcome your new friend to your home.

There are plenty of logistics to consider and follow through with when adopting. You’ll need food*, water/food dishes, a bed, toys, leashes, maybe even a collar. If you have a cat, a litter box or two will also help and if you’re thinking of crate training a dog, having a crate set up beforehand will also help. You’ll need a new ID tag for your pet (especially if you just adopted a dog) and if you work full time or travel a lot, you’ll need to figure out pet care in some capacity. For cats, you’ll also need a cat carrier (for emergencies and/or going to the vet), and scratching posts.

*It’ll be good to ask the shelter/rescue organization what kind of food your new pet is eating so you can know what to get! Having the same kind of food for the first little bit of their time with you can help their transition. Moving entirely to a new diet overnight can cause some digestive upset!

If you have a pet already, introducing the two beforehand can make all the difference, as it can allow for you to see if the two would be a good match. Sometimes, your pet and new rescue might get along famously from the start. Other times, it might take some time for them to really build a relationship. One of my first cats, for example, did not like our first family dog and wouldn’t go near him for the first few months. But after a few years, they were best friends and would often nap together!

Introducing your pets is an essential step to bringing home a new rescue. Here are some resources in helping that go smoothly:

Finding a vet that you and your new pet like and trust is also essential and introducing them during a typical day can help set an excellent precedent for your pet’s relationship with the vet. Plus, doing so can help your vet understand what your pet’s health is like if there’s no emergency and can make sure that your new pet is all caught up on vaccinations.  Plus, during this first visit or two, it would be good to get a microchip with your information in it just in case something happens. It can be overwhelming to figure all this stuff out but doing as much as you can before the animal gets to your house can decrease the amount of stress that you and the animal might face in the first few days!

When you adopt, it might take some time for the animal to settle in and for their personality to really shine. Queso from The Golden Ratio 4, for example, took months to really start settling in with her new family while Rooster was almost immediately a part of our family when we first adopted him. While both Rooster and Queso are now thriving in their respective families, their journies show that no two animals are going to be the same in this process. And this goes for pets of all kinds. It can be really disheartening to have to wait to be best friends with your new pet but giving them some space and time can really make a difference!

Having a regular schedule and some routine can also help a rescue dog settle into the house. Feeding them around the same time each day, for example, can help a lot! Many dogs appreciate having some sense of what’s going on each day and working on training can also help strengthen your relationship with them. If you adopt a puppy or a dog that hasn’t been housetrained, spending the first week or so housetraining them will be essential. And if you adopt a cat, litter training them can save your house from smelling like cat urine!

If you’re having issues with behavioral issues, sometimes working with a professional animal behaviorist/trainer can help. Some dogs or other pets might benefit from working on training and obedience and positive reinforcement can help a whole lot. But working on training is a long-term commitment, as you probably won’t see results overnight and it’s something you’ll have to personally work on every single day. Even small improvements are still improvements!

When you do bring home a new pet, giving them time to adjust to their new home will be really important. For dogs, this might mean having them on leash while on walks for the first few weeks/months. If they get scared or overwhelmed, it’s less likely that they’ll run off if on leash in a new place. Plus, there are a lot of new smells around your home that might be tempting for dogs to follow and they might not want to listen. And for cats, keeping them inside will help them realize that your home is their home.

Adopting an animal is a big decision so knowing what you’re getting into beforehand can make such a difference. And after you bring them home, it can take some time for everyone to get adjusted to the new living situation. Training, a regular schedule, patience, and a lot of love can really help with all that though!

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