Helping animals adjust to a new home
Rosie Romero special for the Arizona Daily Star
For those of us who have pets, they are considered part of the family. Some people call their pets their fur babies or their four-legged children.
Pets are very common in the United States. According to the 2021-22 APPA National Pet Ownership Survey, 70% of US households own a pet, which equates to 90.5 million households, with dogs leading at 69.0%, cats at 45.3%, followed by fish, reptiles, horses and other small animals. Most House staff Rosies fall into this statistic.
Like us, our pets want to feel loved, safe, secure and comfortable.
Whether you’re bringing a new pet home or moving your pet to a new home, follow these guidelines for a smooth transition.
welcome to the house
In most cases, animals from a shelter have spent days, weeks, months, or even years in a cage or kennel before finding their forever home.
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Don’t give them control of the house as soon as you get home. Instead, before they arrive, prepare a safe. This is a separate room where your new pet can explore their new home. An extra bedroom or bathroom works well. Avoid the laundry room. The sounds of the water heater, washer and dryer can be too loud and startle your pet.
Provide bedding, food, water and a litter box (for cats), urine pads (for dogs) in the security room. Include items from his old space, such as a blanket, scratching post, or toys that will add to his sense of security.
The Humane Society of the United States offers these tips for introducing your dog to his new environmentmany of which apply to cats.
Consider an appropriately sized crate or enclosed pet playpen large enough for your dog to stand up and turn around to be used as a safe and quiet “den”.
If you know what type of food your new pet has been eating, buy a small bag to keep his diet constant. To change food, gradually mix the current food with the new food to avoid stomach upset.
When and by whom will the dog be walked?
How often will you feed your pet?
Will they be allowed on furniture or will they have to fit in a crate first?
Where do they go to rest at night?
Have your new pet arrive when you can be home for a few days in a row. Get to know each other and spend quality time together. For the first few weeks, establish a routine. A routine will help them understand what to expect and trust you. If possible, feed and walk your pet, and come and go from work at around the same time each day.
Tips for dogs
Give your new dog a week or more to settle in and feel comfortable with their new surroundings.
If she is your only pet, you can give her the chance to explore. Before you start, seal off prohibited areas like the garage or baby’s room.
Keep her on a leash, so you can understand where and where not to go. Walk through each room and let her sniff. Caress or play in these accessible areas to associate these places with positive things. Depending on the nature of your dog, you may need to do several “guided tours” on a leash before your pet understands how to behave around the house and which areas are accessible. Puppies should be kept in a limited area of your home where you can supervise them until they are house trained.
Some dogs feel more secure in a relatively small area and only want to explore other parts of the house if you go with them. Get to know what your pet prefers and try to support those preferences.
When you leave the house, consider leaving your dog with an enrichment item, such as a stuffed toy or a puzzle-shaped food bowl. This provides mental and physical distraction and can prevent issues such as separation anxiety.
tips for cats
Cats may hide under a bed or in a closet for the first few days. If you know that’s where he is, don’t force him out. A small, quiet corner with a litter box, a dish of food and a box or bed will help him feel secure.
It may take a week or more for your cat to feel comfortable. Once he’s there, open the door to your pet’s room and sit on the other side. Encourage your cat to come to you, then reward it with attention or a treat. While remaining seated, let your cat roam freely. If the cat seems comfortable after 15 minutes, get up and go about your business around the house, but stay close enough to make sure there’s nothing wrong. Limit free time to less than an hour at first, but gradually lengthen it until your cat or kitten is in the house each time you are home.
Some animals respond very well to an expanded living space. Others take fright and withdraw. If your new pet seems nervous with the extra access, slow down the process. As with dogs, some animals feel safer in a relatively small area and can only explore other parts of the house if you go with them. Get to know what your pet prefers and try to support those preferences.
Animals and children
Even the most docile animal can cause harm if it feels threatened. As a pet parent, it is your responsibility to teach your pet appropriate behavior, as well as to teach your children/grandchildren how to behave around pets. Society for the Protection of Animals suggests:
Always supervise children with any pet.
Teach children to treat animals with respect. Show them how to approach and touch dogs properly.
Help children understand body language so they can recognize when a dog or cat is friendly, fearful or aggressive.
When a child greets a dog, move slowly and offer the back of your hand to sniff before petting.
Children should not entice a dog to chase them.
Avoid tug of war games. They can over-stimulate a dog and encourage him to grab hands and clothes.
Never let a child disturb a dog while eating, chewing a bone or toy, or sleeping. Dogs are naturally territorial and may growl, snap or bite to protect their property.
Tell children not to look a dog directly in the eye. In canine language, a stare is a threat and can cause the dog to act dominant or aggressive.
As he adjusts to his new home, limit child interaction to gentle petting and only when the animal approaches.
Do not allow young children to pick up, carry or bring their face close to the animal. Sudden movements and loud noises can easily startle your pet. Children should talk and sit quietly around the animal.
Delighted to meet you
There are certain steps to follow when introducing a new pet to a household with other animals. Carrie Pawpins offers the following suggestions:
Take it easy: If you try to introduce pets too quickly when they don’t give you signs that they’re comfortable, you can go back to square one or even worse.
Do not force the introduction: Holding the cat or putting it in a carrier or cage in front of the dog is not a good idea. This action can create a very fearful or defensive cat and hurt you and/or the animals in the process. Instead, rotate blankets and beds so they get used to each other’s scent without fear or potential danger.
Give plenty of vertical space: Provide high towers or shelving suitable for the cat and out of its reach. This will help cats be comfortable and confident in the space.
Do not punish: Using force or punishment can cause the cat to associate something negative with the other animal. You are also not teaching your pet what you would like him to do. Never use prong, choke or shock collars on any of your pets.
Make it a positive experience: Use high-value food, toys, or pets when your pets are in the same area. Reward them for looking at each other and being in the same space as each other.
Train your pets: Cats and dogs can be trained using positive reinforcement. By using basic cues such as sit, sit, place, and watch, you can teach your pet to behave properly and stay calm around the other pet. Training together can also help bond with them. You can train your dog on the floor and your cat on a table or counter.
Moreover, the Arizona Humane Society warns: “Because they are much smaller, kittens are at greater risk of being injured, killed by an energetic young dog or by a predatory dog. A kitten will need to be separated from a particularly energetic dog until it is an adult, and even then it should never be left alone with the dog. Usually, a well-socialized cat will be able to keep a puppy in its place, but some cats aren’t confident enough to do so. If you have a shy cat, you may need to separate it from your puppy until it grows up.
Following these guidelines will ease the transition from shelter to home, creating an everlasting bond between you and your pet.
An expert in the Arizona home construction and renovation industry since 1988, Rosie Romero is the host of the syndicated Saturday morning show Rosie on the House, which airs locally from 10-11 a.m. on KNST (790- AM) in Tucson and 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. on KGVY (1080-AM) and (100.7-FM) in Green Valley.