5 Ways to Make Your Newly Adopted Pet Feel at Home

Monday, February 3, 2014
Ease everyone’s transition with these helpful hints

Congratulations on adopting your new furry friend! It’s an exciting time for all of you — including your new pet.

You’re all learning to live with each other and adapt to life as a family. Help your pet feel safe and happy with these welcome-home tips from the pet’s point of view.

1. Give your pet some space — literally

Your pet is happy to be home, but he might want to take a rest from all the attention. And you might sense that he needs a break, even before he does.

Designate a safe place where he can be away from the action — by his choice or by yours. He should be able to access the place himself. You can also put him in there and close the door. It might be a crate, or even a whole room.

This place helps you establish boundaries by showing what areas are pet-safe and what spaces are off-limits. Starting small, with a crate or a room, enables you to do this in a manageable way.

2. Provide structure for your pet

In a new group, any pet will look for where they fit in and what the rules are. Dogs, especially, crave routine, boundaries and rules. Cats like to know what to expect, too. When pets don’t understand, they feel uncertain — and some pets might hide out under a bed or behind a chair until they feel a little more comfortable. (A bit of advice: Don’t drag them out; wait it out.)

Sensible rules help pets feel secure in their environment. Being consistent with training, helping pets understand what behavior you want and providing a solid routine is good from a pet’s point of view. They become more confident when they know their role and what you want them to do.

Think of it this way: it’s hard to be the new kid, right? Well, your new pet is the new kid in your house. If you help him figure out where he fits in, what you want him to do and what happens when, he’ll get comfortable and confident faster. The earlier you give him that guidance, the smoother the transition will be.

3. Choose the right stuff

Every pet needs his own bowls, toys and places to rest. Pick up the basic items first. Save splurging on the extras for later.

For a dog, you’ll want food and water bowls that don’t slide around and are used only for him. Cats also need non-slip bowls which are also wide enough to accommodate her whiskers without squishing them (so uncomfortable!).

When choosing toys, think about what your pet will do with them. Dogs like a toy that rolls, one to chew and one to chase. A rolling toy will get a dog’s interest. Select a chew toy made of rope or hard rubber — your dog will be less likely to tear it apart and swallow its pieces.

Cats are interested in toys that move. Wand toys encourage interaction with you and provide exercise and mental stimulation. Balls are also interesting to cats — cats can chase them, and some balls make noise or roll unpredictably. Some cats also like to carry toys around with them.

Cats also like scratching posts that won’t wobble and are tall enough to stretch on. Rope is an excellent material for these, because it’s a good surface for scratching and it’s easily replaced. Usually they’re the only places in the house with that surface, so your cat won’t transfer her enjoyment to similar-feeling fabrics.

Resting spots give your pet a place to chill out. Put them in places that make sense to your pet, so they can see everything, but still be alone if they want. Help them feel safe by setting them up out of the way of main foot-traffic areas.

Dogs like beds and crates, and you can train your dog to be comfortable going there whenever he needs a break. You might place a couple of toys in his area, along with an old t-shirt that smells like you. He should be able to stretch out comfortably in his bed, and it shouldn’t make any noise, as waterproof liners or covers sometimes do.

Cats like cozy surfaces, too, and the parent-smelling shirt trick works great with all pets.  Cats also like to be up high. A cat’s perch should be sturdy and not wiggle around when she jumps on it, but it should also be tall enough to be interesting. She’ll be able to keep watch, or she can zone out on her own.

4. Introduce him to his housemates

Your pet has walked right into an established household. Everyone knows everyone else, and he doesn’t know anyone. This new place may be much bigger than the last place he lived, too. It’s a lot to take in all at once.

When making introductions, slow is better. Think like a pet — if you were a cat or a dog, you’d use your nose to figure out who’s who — and introduce smells first.

For people smells, the best way is using dirty laundry. Put a piece of each person’s dirty laundry, like a t-shirt or pillow case, in a place where your pet will spend time. Let him get used to having the smells mingle around him.

To introduce your new pet to your other pets, try scent swapping. Use a small towel, to rub down each pet so their scent transfers to the fabric. (Use one towel for your new pet and another for all of your resident pets combined.) Put each towel in the other pet’s space so they get used to each other’s important smells before they actually meet.

Next, let them play “footsie” under a door (this works especially well for cats), then through a baby gate or a screen door, keeping the mood mellow and easy. This might all happen in a day or two, or it might take more than a week. Just remember to go slowly.

5. Keep your expectations realistic

You love your new pet, and you might be so excited that you want everything to be perfect… immediately! Well, perfect isn’t realistic, and neither is immediately. So your first couple of months with your newly adopted pet will be a lot easier if you reel in your expectations.

That’s especially true if you’re new to the world of pet parenting. Don’t stress yourself about doing everything right. You won’t understand everything right away, just as your pet won’t. Be patient with yourself, too. You’re learning each other together.

Don’t expect everyone to get thrown together and get along immediately. Understand that your pet is probably overwhelmed with his new environment.

It’s OK for your pet to hide out for a few days. Even a housetrained pet may have accidents in the house, while you learn all your signals and routines together. It may take a few weeks for them to get used to anything.

Pets are not little people — they won’t understand English, so just because you’ve explained to your cat that she should scratch the post instead of the sofa doesn’t mean she gets it. If you’ve never had a cat before, she isn’t a dog; likewise, your new dog won’t be like your previous cat.

Above all, be fair. Be kind.  Any transition is going to take quite a while.  Don’t expect everything to happen right away. Their world was unsettled before you arrived, and they haven’t yet figured out that you’re going to provide food, shelter and love forever. 





Hi Bob, I'm happy to hear you want to adopt a dog. You can search for adoptable pets right here on our website. Just note that adoption fees vary among different animal welfare organizations. 


I am not looking to adopt a dog .I am looking to adopt my puppy .she is 8 months ole .she is spaded and has shots .I am on disability and cannot afford to keep her .I do not want to call the humane society I do not want them to put her down .she is a very happy dog and needs a loving home . please help me or at least point me in the right direction thank you bvery much .jerry ballero (305) 942-5744


Did you find a new home for your pet?? What kind of dog do you have? Where do you live?


Great post! My dog has been so lazy lately and I was getting really worried about him. There is some really great advice on this blog. Thanks for sharing!


I have been looking online for a dog and have researched the right breed for me. I have come up with Westie, Terrier mix dogs. I would like a small to medium size. I prefer a young adult and not a puppy, but would consider a puppy if I find the 'right one'.

Thank you.


Hi Estella, I'm happy to hear you want to adopt a dog. You may want to check out our adoptable pet locator.


We found the cutest puppy yesterday, her name is clover and you can see her picture http://www .friendsofnacc .com/adopt_dogs.php you'll have to do some scrolling, but shes the basset hound/beagle (Bagel) the pic doesn't really do her justice, she's a swetie, and not as scary, we have a good chance of adopting her, there was another family that wants her but never came in to get her, they have until two o clock this afternoon to get her, hehe, i hope they don't!


I am thinking of adopting (2) dogs .....both males , 2yrs old, they are brothers and never been separated. I have always had female dogs , lost my "baby girl" a year ago . I always said next time I will get 2 dogs so they have company while I'm at work . What should I be aware of in adopting 2 at same time AND they are males . They are "supposedly" crate trained and housebroken, but I'm sure there will be accidents and adjustments. I'm nervous but having another pet is all I think about ....any advice would be great


Hi Maureen, I'm happy to hear you want to adopt these 2 brothers. Because each pet is different, it's best to contact your veterinarian or animal welfare organization where you plan on adopting these dogs. You may also want to consider foster-to-adopt so you can make sure they're the right fit for you and your family. 


i really want to adopt a dog and i found one... but my dog i have now is a shih poo (a shih tzu and a minature poodle mixed) but she is very picky with her doggie friends she is a very calm and laid back dog and im not sure if she will be happy with the dog i want to adopt...


Hi Madi, it's very responsible to consider your current pet before deciding to adopt another. You should reach out to the animal welfare agency who has the dog you want to adopt. They should have behavior specialists on staff who can help determine if the new dog will fit in with your family. Good luck!


My husband and I euthanized our beloved Jack Russell, Diana, yesterday. She was with us for 16 years and gave us countless moments of happiness. Six months ago she really just wanted to spend time alone in front of her bed and fireplace; no doubt preparing us for yesterday. We decided to let her go before she was sick and suffering. She ate a great bowl of her favorite food, raw salmon as her last meal. She was peaceful the entire time and transitioned in our arms. We will always love her. I know it may seem crazy to want to adopt a puppy right away but we are truly at peace with it. Grief is a complicated process and a unique one, so I think it will help to bring in a puppy and start the cycle again. This time around, we want a male puppy. The problem is we have no idea where to begin. I don't want to purchase a dog from a pet store, I would rather adopt. We want a puppy and yes, all that it involves. We have no experienced with reputable breeders but we want to stick with Jack Russell Terriers. It is a breed we know well and we know what it takes-He won't be our dog, we will be his family. Any assistance in the matter would be appreciated. Thank you.


Hi Alex, I'm so sorry for your loss. You can search for adoptable Jack Russells in your area through our Find a Pet search tool. 

Fran and Fifi

I just adopted a dog within a day after reading about her in a classifed ad. We just lost our special buddy Jack and was mourning deeply. I don't know if it was too soon as we are still very sad. This dog fifi was going to a shelter if he did not find a home and his family was desperate. She is only 1 year old and boxer/bulldog mix.
How do we get her comfortable and happy to be here.?


Hi Fran, I'm so sorry for your loss, but I'm happy to hear you've opened your heart and home to a new dog. This can be a complex situation, and we don't want to send you in the wrong direction. If you'd like, you can send an email to info[at]petsmartcharities[dot]org and we'll connect you with somene from our team who might be able to offer some advice. 


What happens when the rescue you get had their dog food switched very abruptly and is still puking after each meal 2 weeks later? Not a thing physically wrong, per the vet and tests, and can eat treats and a bland diet (pumpkin/chicken/rice) without puking. How do you transition back to a kibble??


Hi I am a new puppy parent we have had her for 6 days I'm so worried when we got her she had a fat belly no loose skin note she has it and belly is getting smaller is this normal and is she depressed guess can I make her comfortable how long will it take

Joy Constantino

I have a new kitten, about one year old. My 2 cats are having a hard time adjusting. They hiss at her and one hid behind the washer for a day.
Any suggestions for making the transition easier. I was a nervous wreck for a while but am doing better this morning. Joy


Please see this wonderful article by our partners at the American Hiumane Society for tips on how to make the transition go smoother.


Please see this wonderful article by our partners at the Humane Society for tips on how to make the transition go smoother.


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