Bringing home a new furry friend can be overwhelming, but experts agree that there are some basic rules that when followed, will create a happy and healthy environment for both you and your new family member.
The No. 1 tip for anyone bringing home a new furry friend is to be patient, according to Sean Patrick Malloy, operations manager at North Shore Animal League America.
“All animals need sufficient time to adjust to an unfamiliar setting,” he says. “Some will be more fearful and nervous than others, so it’s crucial to allow them time to get to know their new surroundings and new family.”
Remember that animals come from different backgrounds and have different pasts, so acclimation can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months.
If a dog you brought home is chewing on your shoes or demonstrating other behavioral issues, don’t panic. Dogs don’t automatically know the difference between right and wrong. Malloy says one of the best ways to redirect a dog’s attention is to keep it busy.
“Engaging a dog with a toy and meeting its energy needs is the best way to curb destructive behavior,” he says. “This creates habits and routines so they know when it’s time to play vs. when it’s time to rest.”
For new cat owners, remember that less is more in terms of space.
“Do not give a cat immediate free reign of the house,” he says. “Going from a small kennel to a large home overwhelms them and they will likely choose to hide from you. Start them off in a bedroom or bathroom then slowly give them space … Try letting them explore a hallway with doors closed and if they start to paw at the door, let them into the room.”
If you’ve brought a new pet home to meet an existing pet, remember that animals don’t become friends right away. When animals first meet, they often communicate with each other in ways you may not understand.
“Cats may hiss and dogs may growl,” Molloy says. “It’s important to monitor the situation, watch and listen to see how they interact with each other. They will likely make small progress every time they interact with each other.”
Many experts suggest following the rule of three: It takes three days for your new pet to figure out its new home, three weeks to figure out the new routine, and three months to become a part of your family.
So don’t be too quick to throw in the towel. You’ll be glad you didn’t!