12 WAYS TO HELP YOUR NEWLY ADOPTED ANIMAL ADJUST
Rescuing disparaged animals is one of the noblest traits of humankind. Those of us who understand the purity of spirit of companion animals feel compelled to help as many of them as we can. For some of us, this means bringing them into our homes. From an animal’s perspective, a good home is lesser about feeling “happy” and more so about feeling “safe” and comfortable.
If you have recently adopted, or plan to adopt, an animal into your home, you may be wondering how you can best help them to adjust. Here are 12 important ways to help our newly adopted animals to feel happy, safe and comfortable in our homes.
- ESTABLISHINGPOSITIVE HEALTHY BATHROOM EXPERIENCES– learning desired household bathroom behaviors can make or break an animal’s comfort level in your home. Whether litter training or housebreaking a new animal, it is imperative to use positive training methods such as reward-based training. It is even more important to avoid yelling at an animal for having an accident while training as this negative intonation could destroy any progress an animal has made in feeling safe with you in your home. It is also imperative that all members of your household abide by the same potty training rules so that your new dog or cat is not confused. Providing consistent training rules from all household members is the best way for an animal to feel secure in your home.
- KEEP NOISE LEVEL DOWN– animals are extremely noise sensitive! Noises ranging from screaming children to the shifting creeks of a home on a windy day can disrupt their peace. Though there is little we can do about the creaks and cracks of a house, there is much we can do to control the volume of noise that is coming from family members. Teaching children the value to respecting an animal’s noise boundary goes a very long way. In many cases, these children grow up to respect the boundaries of all living beings. Teaching children the value of respect is immeasurably important. For those living without younger children, keeping volumes of TV and music down can help a newly adopted animal to feel safe in your home. Understanding that having groups of people in your home while your new animal is adjusting to your home can affect an animal’s ability to feel safe and secure is important. Helping an animal to relax in your new home can be as easy as playing classical or meditation music while you are away so that the animal hears as little creaking and cracking of the house as possible.
- SOCIALIZATION– In many cases, newly adopted animals are poorly socialized. Perhaps they have come from an unhealthy environment where they have not been socialized or perhaps they have had negative experiences with other animals and do not react well to socialization. Either way, if you have adopted a poorly socialized animal (dog or cat), it is your responsibility to socialize the animal. Poorly socialized animals react poorly to other animals and often other people than those who are familiar. By neglecting to socialize your newly adopted animal, you are creating further fear within the animal. This can only hinder their healing progress. By helping to re-socialize the animal, you are helping them to understand the value in being unafraid of those who cross her/his path. This will help your animal to grow and flourish in your home.
- GIVE THEM SPACE– When first bringing an animal into your home, providing them with a quiet space to be alone will allow them to feel safe and secure in your home. If the animal’s initial experience in your home is full of commotion and excitement, the animal is likely to take a lot longer to trust you and your family members than if their initial experience is one of quiet respect. Sectioning off a quiet, warm room or area with comfortable bedding will allow your new companion to feel comfortable and trusting of you.
- BE CAUTIOUS WITH FOOT TRAFFIC– Because most companion animals’ lines of vision are just above the floor, having household members walk rapidly by your cat or dog is likely to create a skittish response. Especially to cats, whose pupils dilate much differently than do humans, all cats will see as your long legs walk by are giant blurry things (that resemble predators) that could attack at any moment. This is why cats will often bite feet/socks. Many cats, particularly ones who are unfamiliar with the human body, do not realize that the human legs are attached to a human body and that the legs have no interest in preying on them. When bringing a cat or small dog into your home, remind family members to walk by slowly until the animal acclimates to your home. This will avoid skittish behaviour and kitty- human foot attacks. (It sounds funny, yes, but to the newly adopted cat it is no joke.
- ACCLIMATE ANIMAL TO CARRIER/CRATE– Unless the animal has pre-existing anxiety associated with carriers/crates (which must be healed through a professional training regimen), acclimating your animal to her/his carrier/crate will only serve them well in the long run. Too often, animals associate carriers with negative experiences such as going to the vet. If an animal only goes into a carrier to see the vet, naturally, when the carrier is brought out, the animal will assume they are going to the vet. However, if the carrier is also used for fun adventures such as to a park or somewhere else that is enjoyable to the species, the animal will become comfortable with getting into and out of the carrier. This will create a far lesser stressful experience the next time you wish to take your animal to the vet or anywhere else they may not enjoy. By associating their carrier with enjoyable items such as treats and toys, you will also allow the animal to feel more comfortable with the idea of the carrier or crate.
- INTRODUCE FAMILY MEMBERS ONE AT A TIME– If your home has several human and/or animal family members, it is in your newly adopted animal’s best interest to introduce them one at a time. Though every family member will be excited to see their new addition, having them all come to greet their new friend at once can be overwhelming. By introducing them one at a time, you are allowing the new animal to learn about each one at their own pace. Slow and methodical introductions are necessary in order for your new animal to feel safe and secure.
- SPECIES APPROPRIATE DIET– Animals, akin to humans, thrive on whole foods. Each species of cat and dog has different dietary requirements. Unfortunately, in today’s society, many animal food companies are capitalizing on consumer ignorance. By reading and understanding each food label and sticking to the healthier choices, we will be allowing our animals to feel healthy in our homes. By feeding nutrient poor food such as kibble (dry food) or low quality department store brands, we are doing our animals a grave disservice. Animals cannot feed themselves. It is up to US to feed them properly. Buying “whatever’s on sale” likely has highly inflammatory ingredients. These ingredients have been linked to innumerable cases of illness such as IBS, arthritis, bladder crystals, early stage kidney failure, inflammatory bowel disease, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, painful gas, obesity, diabetes, cancer and many other terribly painful diseases. It is up to us to stop these unnecessary illnesses by researching labels. Ask your holistic veterinarian what a species appropriate diet for your animal consists of. Many western veterinarians have not done the type of research that has educated them on alternative medicines or diets. They often base their dietary opinions on science as opposed to a holistic, whole food It is imperative that for the health and longevity of your dog or cat, that you seek as much information as possible. Ask a medical veterinarian. Ask a holistic veterinarian. Call food companies, call an animal communicator. Get all of the information you can so that you can make an informed decision.
- CONSISTENT MEAL TIMES– All animals thrive on routine. Creating a consistent feeding, walking and sleep routine will allow your animal to be comfortable with life in your home. The digestive systems of most dogs and cats are very sensitive. This means that not only are they sensitive to ingredients, they are also sensitive to a feeding routine. Animals’ bodies adapt well to specified feeding routines. By feeding our cats and dogs at approximately the same times every day, we will be promoting a healthier body and mind for our beloved friends.
- ADEQUATE EXERCISE– All companion animals experience stress. Whether they have come into your home with pre-existing sources of stress or they are reacting to the levels of stress in your home, all animals are affected by various forms of stress. By engaging your animal in regular exercise, you are allowing them to burn off stressful energy. Sadly companion animal obesity is quite prevalent in our society. Obesity is one of the top reasons why animals become ill and pass away. Obesity causes many horrible physical ailments that often lead to early fatality. By being active with your dog or cat, you are allowing them to burn off calories that would otherwise metabolize into unhealthy additional body weight. As stated above, by feeding our animals species appropriate diets, we will be permitting the animal to live a healthful life. Better yet, the combination of a healthy diet and exercise will help our animals to have a healthy and happy life. Adequate exercise also promotes a healthy cardiovascular system, muscular endurance, self confidence and more.
- OFFER GAMES & TOYS– To encourage a new animal to feel safe and secure in your home, bringing toys and games into their routine is sure to be successful. In addition to physical exercise, all companion animals need mental exercise. This means that they will do well with toys and games that they find mentally stimulating. Remembering that cats and dogs are very closely linked to their wild ancestors who were hunters. This genetic desire to hunt is still highly prevalent in domesticated dogs and cats. By finding games and toys that resemble chasing, hunting and in some cases retrieving, we will be permitting our animals to be their true animalistic selves. If these aspects of their genealogical behaviour go unnoticed by their people, they will act out and/or become very depressed. This is because genealogically, the animal feels as if it is her/his role to track and hunt. Of course domesticated animals have evolved to other, more emotional roles in our home. However, that basic need to track and hunt is still there. By acknowledging to our animals that we are aware of what keeps their minds active, we will be showing them the respect and love that they need. In addition, bringing items into the home that resemble activities in which dogs and cats partake will also encourage new adoptees to come out of their shells in a healthier way than otherwise. For example, by bringing boxes into your cat’s room for her to play in resemble her need to hide from predators in nature. If she feels as though she has her own safe space in which to hide, she will understand that you are a trustworthy caretaker. This will give her the confidence she needs in order to better adapt to your home.
- HOUSEHOLD TEMPERATURE– Be mindful of the hair/fur coats that companion animals have in choosing our home temperature. Animals are generally warmer than we are. However, in many cases, particularly in colder climates, because their feet are exposed, they are often far colder than we think they are. If we live in colder climates and have animals who appear to be uncomfortable; always burrowing and hiding in blankets, perhaps it’s time to readjust the thermostat. If we live in warmer climates and find that our dogs are always panting and excessively drinking (with no known other ailment or medication involved), we will also want to consider cooling our homes with extra fans. Animals are always attempting to communicate that which makes them feel uncomfortable in their homes. The temperature of their homes is no different. By paying close attention to our animal’s cues, we will easily be able to ascertain whether or not they are comfortable with the house temperature.
Each of the above ways to acclimate your new animal to your home is equally as important as the next. By following the above 12 steps, your animal will feel safe and trusting in no time!