Did you get a “pandemic puppy” or “pandemic kitty” recently? Yes, it is a thing! Whether you had already planned to add a furry companion to the family or you find yourself with a new adorable ball of fur thanks to the pandemic, congratulations! Here are some tips that may help you make your new dog or cat’s experience with you wonderful.
Set up a “safe space” for your pup or kitty. This could be a crate/carrier, a pet bed in a quiet area of the home, or a mat or towel near where you spend time. As you show them the space, communicate that this is their space, their safe area. As with any communication, only say it if you know it to be true, and if it’s an area you know is prone a lot of traffic or chaos, change your wording so you can be accurate and truthful: This is your space, and if you need a quiet area sometimes let’s find you that place.
Practice routine and necessary outings like veterinary visits or trips to grandma/grandpa, the groomer, or a boarding kennel. Start well before these visits are real by making test runs with lots of treats and praise. Make it a pleasant experience with no shots or overnights, then graduate to the real deal over time. Again, communicate what you know to be true: these doctors are very gentle and want to help keep you healthy; this groomer is going to think you are so cute and will give you treats as soon as your nail trim is done; etc.
Be patient and if your new pet seems cautious or nervous, move slowly with introducing them to just a room or two of their new home at a time. Establish a routine that they can depend on: meal times, walks for dogs or snuggle time with kitty. Don’t overwhelm with loud noises, lots of new people, or enthusiastic children or other family pets until they are ready.
Spend lots of time with them, but unless that amount of time with them is an expectation you can maintain for the long-term, start giving them time alone as soon as you feel comfortable. Make sure they are safe (crate time or access to just a couple of kitty-proofed rooms, and remember to kitty-proof vertically also for climbing). Start with brief periods of time, working up to what will be normal. Set expectations for them: I’ll be gone for 20 minutes and this is a great time for you rest in your special place; I will be outside doing some yard work and it may be noisy but you are safe, and I’ll be back in to check on you soon.
Most littles come from the rescue or breeder with a small bit of food, and if not then remember to ask what they’ve been eating and get the same for their first couple of weeks at home. It will be stressful learning to fit into your family so let’s not overwhelm them with changing food on their very first day if you can help it! Good nutrition is extremely important, and transitioning from what their digestive system is familiar with to what you plan to feed them will take a little time. Talk with your vet or holistic care providers about their recommendations.
Socializing early is key to a well socialized pet in the future. This is true for mature pets coming into the family as well as youngsters. At this time when most of us are not seeing many friends or family, this may be tricky. But when possible, and as your vet agrees for those who haven’t had their full series of vaccinations yet, get them learning about their world with you – noises, smells, and meeting new humans and pets they may have regular association with as soon as possible.
And of course, as frequently as you can, and as sincerely as you can, communicate with them and let them know what to expect. If you have a foster-to-adopt arrangement, don’t rush to tell them this is their forever home if there is a chance it may not be. It’s okay if there are things to work out like understanding how they get along with your existing pets or young children, or if the foster organization isn’t finished with their side of the paperwork. Start your relationship with them, even if possibly temporary, with honesty which leads to trust. If you are telling them one thing (this is your forever home) but energetically assuming another (I wonder if this will work out), they feel that disconnect and they may have trouble settling.
Enjoy your new addition and have fun together!