Adopting a new pet can be exciting, but also requires some planning to ensure a smooth transition.
Photo courtesy Regional Animal Protection Society
A new pet? What’s next?
Published 4:38 PDT, Thu September 3, 2020
Adopting a companion animal is an exciting time in a family’s life—but it is also a huge responsibility. It is important to realize the awesome obligation that accompanies being a responsible human to a pet. For the rest of this animal’s life, not only are you responsible for its care, it even depends on you to determine when it is allowed to eat, permitted to exercise, able to do its bodily functions. When you think of it that way, you grasp the universality of how this animal relies on you.
Once you have had serious family discussions and collectively made the commitment and adopted a pet, what next? You might be surprised at the range of demands a new kitten, puppy, older animal, rabbit, bird or other pet requires.
First, make sure your home is safe to bring them in. Identify wires, hazardous plants or things that can be chewed on or cause a choking hazard. Depending on the pet, ensure proper fencing is in place or a “catio” (cat patio) is constructed if you intend to safely let your cat outdoors. Identify where in the house is your new pet’s special place and where else they are permitted. Will they have free run of the house or do you want them out of the kitchen, say? Setting boundaries from the start is key to success.
Discuss individual responsibilities with each member of the household. Impart the literally life-and-death significance of keeping the pet safely under control if outside and free from hazards indoors. Introduce the new family member to everyone in the household individually to avoid overwhelming them. If there are other animals in the home, this requires very specific and careful introductions. For more information on this, discuss with shelter professionals.
Gather the necessary supplies for your pet. These may include food and water bowls, a bed and blankets, collar, leash and/or harness, pet gate(s), safe toys, treats, grooming supplies, crate (for dogs) and carrier (for cats and small animals), litter box (for cats), hidey places (for cats and small animals), and an enclosure.
If you adopt from RAPS, your new pet has undergone a veterinary exam and any issues will have been addressed and discussed with you. Cats adopted from RAPS will have had a complete veterinary exam and been tested for feline leukemia and immunodeficiency virus. Not all shelters do this. We are one of the only shelters that delivers this level of pre-adoption examination and care to animals. We want people to understand what they are getting into—some people might be fine adopting a cat with leukemia or FIV or another health issue, but it should not be a surprise. Some shelters will accept the return of an adopted cat when it is discovered to have leukemia, but will then euthanize them. Depending on a cat’s age, health and known medical history, we will also do bloodwork, X-rays and whatever is required to make the cat healthy before adoption. If you do not adopt from RAPS, make a veterinary appointment as soon as possible. Research and consider pet insurance. Even if it does not save you money in the long run, it is almost guaranteed to prevent those unexpected vet bills that shock your bank account. (RAPS Animal Hospital offers no-interest wellness plans for the same reason.) Talk to the vet about the type and amount of food to feed your new family member. If you need to switch it, do so very gradually.
Spend time with your pet. The early days are an important bonding time. But also watch for cues that they need a bit of solitude.
Research local groomers that meet the needs of our particular pet. It is a very good idea to enroll in a training program—this is as much for you as for them because animals, especially (most) dogs, are pretty much hardwired to do what you want them to do. Mixed signals or wishy-washy guidance can be confusing and upsetting for them—and can lead to “bad dog” moments that have less to do with the dog’s behaviour than yours!
Sharing your life with a pet is one of life’s great joys. It is also a very significant responsibility. Be sure you are prepared and committed … and it will be start of a beautiful friendship!
Shena Novotny is Manager of the RAPS City of Richmond Animal Shelter.
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