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Congratulations, you’ve just adopted a new pet! But now what? Whether you’re a seasoned pet parent or adopting for the first time, there’s certainly a lot to think about. In addition to making sure you’ve stocked up on necessary gear, it’s important to think about ways to help your pet adjust to their new surroundings.

Just like people, pets of all ages go through an adjustment period after being placed in a new environment. This can especially be true if you’ve adopted a pet rescued from a puppy mill, hoarding situation, or any other situation where an animal has never experienced life in a home. Every pet is different and adjustment times will vary, but there are things you can do to make the transition into their new home easier, benefiting both your new pet and your family.

1. Be Prepared

The last thing you want to have to worry about is rushing out to the store to get supplies, so make sure you have all of the essentials ahead of time. You’ll need a food dish, water bowl, bed, crate, toys, a leash, and a harness—and don’t forget the litter and litter box if you’re adopting a feline friend. Some pet supply stores sell “starter” kits that have everything you need for your new pet. And if you really want to spoil them, bake a batch of homemade treats to help welcome your furry friend into their new home.

2. Make Them Comfortable

If you are getting your new pet from a friend, family member, or foster home, ask if you can have their favorite toy, blanket, or bed so they have something that’s familiar to them. If you don’t have access to a pet’s belongings, a new comfy bed or blanket works just fine.

It’s also important to make sure your pet has their own space, somewhere they can retreat to when they’re feeling overwhelmed. Placing their crate or bed in a quiet area of your home gives them a safe place to hang out when they want a bit of peace and quiet.

3. Keeping Them Safe

It’s scary when a pet goes missing, especially if they’re not familiar with the area. Take extra precautions when opening doors, and keep an eye on pets while they’re in the yard. Dogs might try to jump fences or accidentally get out of the yard, and cats can quickly run through an open door. When you go on walks, use a sturdy harness and keep a good grip on the leash.

Picking up an engraved ID tag that includes your address or phone number is also important. And if they haven’t been microchipped, make an appointment at your vet clinic, then register the microchip as soon as you get home. Proper ID is crucial when it comes to reuniting lost pets with their humans.

4. Be Patient As They Adjust

Being brought into a new home can be scary, confusing, and stressful for any animal. Everything is new, and they’ll need time to adjust to the different smells, sounds, and people. Establishing your routine right away and sticking to it — especially feeding times and bathroom breaks — will make the adjustment that much easier. Housebreaking accidents can still happen, so be patient. And remember, puppies and seniors typically need to be let out more often due to having weaker bladders.

When a pet is stressed, they might also refuse to eat. Because dogs and cats have sensitive digestive systems, veterinarians recommend starting off with the same food they were eating before to avoid digestive upset. You can always slowly transition them to a new food later. If they continue to refuse eating or are not drinking water, it’s a good idea to consult a veterinarian to make sure there isn’t an underlying issue.

5. Keeping Everyone Happy

Give your new companion time to adjust to other people and pets in the home. It’s okay if a pet doesn’t warm up to family members right away or if they keep their distance from other household pets. Always introduce pets to each other slowly and give them space when needed. If your pets have ongoing issues with each other, even after an adjustment period, contact a positive reinforcement-based trainer for help.

6. Enjoy Time with Your New Friend

Having a new pet is fun and exciting, and you should celebrate! Go on walks to help them get acquainted with their new neighborhood, or have fun exploring your yard or a nearby park. Engage in fun games that help prevent your pet from becoming bored and sign up for a class that teaches basic obedience skills or fun tricks— all of these are fun ways to establish a bond with your new pet while helping them socialize.

Remember, every animal is different. Some might need more time to adjust than others, and that’s okay. You’re already off to the right start by saving a life and giving a homeless animal a forever home where they’ll be loved.

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