This is one of the best times of the year to adopt a pet – no snow or cold temperatures, great weather and plenty of sun means an easier time for adapting to a lifestyle with an animal in your life and around your home. It's also the time when shelters and rescues are overrun with spring litters.
If you're about to become a first-time pet parent, there are quite a things you'll need to learn about pet ownership before you take the leap. Before recording this solo podcast episode, I spoke with Aimee Gilbreath, Executive Director of the Michelson Found Animals Foundation. I asked her a ton of questions to share with our readers and listeners, and she was generous to provide great advice on adopting pets, things to consider and prepare for, and how to make the transition easy for everybody.
Listen to the episode in the video above and find the full podcast transcript below. For more, visit this episode’s post on the official Theory of Pets website.
- TOP episode link: 053 – Tips for Bringing Home A Newly Adopted Pet
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Tips for Bringing Home A Newly Adopted Pet
Hello and welcome to Theory of Pets. My name is Samantha. If you guys are new to the show, this is a podcast about everything pet related. Sometimes I receive emails or social media messages from listeners who want to hear about a specific topic and sometimes like this week I reach out to experts in the pet industry and I chat with them about their area of expertise. This week I was able to chat with Aimee Gilbreath. If you are a frequent listener, you know that I chatted with Aimee a couple of months back about microchipping. She works for the Michelson Found Animals Foundation and she's actually their executive director. Aimee is a wealth of knowledge about all things having to do with shelter animals, rescuing animals, adopting animals. So she chatted with us about microchipping and how great that can be for your pets.
You can check out all of my previous podcasts on our website, which is theoryofpets.com. If you get on the website and check things out, it will be great if you would take just a quick second to leave me a review on iTunes, the link's right there on our site. And that really helps me when I'm reaching out to people like Aimee to chat about things that they are experts on.
This month I decided to focus on a shelter pets and what we can do as pet owners, pet lovers to help this cause. So I reached out to Aimee, as I said, she's a wealth of knowledge and she talked to me, actually it was perfect timing because The Michelson Found Animal Foundation just conducted a Survey Monkey survey of about a thousand people and it was about love at first sight with pets versus human partners. And what they found is actually quite interesting. The question basically was — do you believe in love at first sight? And an overwhelming number of people do when it comes to adoptable pets. However, less than half believe that it could happen with a human partner. So that's really interesting and it just shows I think our bond with animals is so phenomenal. And I think so many people are realizing that it's just different, the bond that you can make with an animal versus the bond that you can make with even your life partner as a human.
So it's pretty amazing what they found. One of the questions showed that 72% of people believe in love at first sight when it comes to adoptable shelter pets, versus 42% of people who believe in love at first sight when it comes to a romantic partner. They also asked about people who have fallen in love at first sight and 70% of people say they have fallen in love at first sight with an adoptable shelter pet, versus 44% of people who say they've fallen in love at first sight with a romantic partner.
So it was kind of neat the survey itself and the answers that they found. I can't say that I am surprised. I don't necessarily agree with the love at first sight with a human partner. I think it takes time to build that and get to know each other and things like that. But there are something about animals that you don't have to spend a lot of time with them, you get to know them very quickly and it's almost an instantaneous bond. I certainly have fallen in love with a pet at first sight and or you can't say the same is true for human. not even my husband. I've been happily married for years. We have three beautiful children and I love my husband very much, but I certainly wouldn't say it was love at first sight, it took some time to get to know each other and grow that relationship. But I've fallen in love with more than one animal at first sight. So I found that really interesting. I thought a lot of other pet owners and pet lovers, even if you can't own a pet, maybe you love them and you live somewhere where you can't have them or you have an allergy or something like that, but I feel like we can all kind of relate to that.
So that was quite interesting. Aimee shared that information with me and she also shared with me some tips for bringing home a new adopted pet. This is springtime. A lot of people are trying to shake those winter blues, maybe lost a pet over the winter and you've been waiting for a better time. Spring seems to be… People are able to get out and maybe you can fix up your yard, put up a fence, whatever you need to do to bring in your new animals. So spring is a very popular time for people to adopt new pets. It's an extremely busy time for shelters with the litters coming in, cats, dogs, all kinds of animals coming in after hard winters. So with it being such a popular time to adopt, I thought hearing Aimee's tips for bringing home a new adoptive pet would be a great thing for all of us to hear this week.
She says that bringing a new pet into your home is an exciting time, but it's also very stressful and I think anybody that's brought a new pet into their home can agree with that, especially if you're a first time pet owner. Jitters are normal, being nervous about it is very normal, but the excitement definitely outweighs the jitters. So there are a few things that you need to think about and know before you adopt. Aimee says that adopting a pet is a big commitment as we all know and a huge responsibility. So you need to make sure you're ready before you take that plunge.
She has a list of some questions that she recommends asking yourself before you decide to adopt. The first one is — is your lifestyle it conducive style to pet ownership? Are you a frequent traveler? Do you work long hours or maybe are you home often? Think about the type of lifestyle that you have. Maybe you work long hours. So say a young puppy might not be the right pet for you. It doesn't mean you can't own a pet. It just means maybe an adult cat would be a better option for you. Maybe you could go to a shelter and look for a pair of cats that are bonded, that need to go home together so they're not alone all the time and cats aren't really as much of a people centered animal as dogs are. So it doesn't necessarily mean that you can't adopt or that you're not ready to adopt, but it just gives you something to think about and some questions to answer. Is your life going to be conducive to owning the type of path that you want? And maybe you can change the type of pet if that's something that you want or maybe you think about it and you just think to yourself, wow, you know, I take business trips for work two or three times a month, I'd have to find a dog sitter or a border, I can't afford that two or three times a month. It just gives you something to think about and a real good starting point.
She also says you should ask yourself if you've thought about pet care while you're at work or traveling, and that's something that I just mentioned. So you need to think about how many hours in the day are you going to be home to care for your pet? Are you going to need a dog walker or a pet sitter to come into your home during the day? Do you travel frequently? Are you going to need boarding? Are you going to need to get somebody to stay at your house, whatever the case may be. Doggy daycare, some parents factor that in, especially if you adopt a dog with say separation anxiety, they have a hard time being alone. Are you going to need daycare? So these are added expenses that a lot of pet owners don't think about. And that's something when you're thinking about your lifestyle that you really need to take into consideration.
Another question that Aimee recommends is about your living space. Is it pet friendly? How big is your home? Do you have an outdoor area that would be suitable for a bigger dog or would a smaller dog make more sense if you're living in, say an apartment. Certainly a smaller dog would be a better option than a giant Saint Bernard. Is your living space conducive for cats? Is there are a lot of stuff that they could get into, wires that could be chewed. Cats can be quite rambunctious at times. So is there going to be enough space for them to be able to burn some energy?
Some people that live in a more rural area might be thinking about outdoor cats or having their dog outside in the yard. So if you're thinking about that, is your yard conducive for a pet? Are you going to have to fence it in? Are you going to have to maybe put in some kind of an electronic fence? If you have a cat is it going to be safe for your cat to be just out roaming around or should you maybe put in a little cat pen out back of your house where your cat can play outside without running into the woods or into the street or something like that. These are all things that need to be thought of before you go in and even look for a shelter pet.
And finally and probably the biggest question I think would be, are you financially prepared for a pet? Things that every pet owner thinks about food, any kind of supplies you might need for dog that might be a collar and a leash for cats, that might be food bowls, a little cat bed, toys, things like that. Most people can think about that stuff. But trips to the vet can be a huge financial burden if you haven't planned for them, if you don't have money set aside and no matter what type of pet you adopt, you're going to be making trips to the vet. It's most likely if you're adopting a pet from a shelter that they're already spayed or neutered and they're already up to date on shots, but they're still going to have to go in whether your dog gets into a porcupine or your cat comes down with a urinary tract infection or some kind of a respiratory infection. There's things that pop up all the time and not to mention those shots need to be redone at the very least. So it's something to think about.
You also need to think, like I mentioned, about care for your pet when you're not available. That's something that you need to budget. A lot of people don't think about the things that you need aside from just that initial purchase of all the supplies that you'll have to pick up on your way home from the shelter.
So if you're unsure about whether you are ready to adopt or not, Aimee recommends considering fostering a pet before you actually commit to adoption. She says it's a great trial run to make sure that the pet is a match for you and your lifestyle. And maybe the pet that you foster has some special needs or is a little too rambunctious, it would give you the opportunity to spend some time with that animal, figure out what works and what doesn't. Maybe just a pet in general isn't going to work for you. Maybe you can't have a special needs pet because you don't have the time that they require. Or maybe you can't have a pet that's more rambunctious, you're fostering a puppy or kitten and they're really rowdy and so you think that it would be great to have a pet, but maybe an older one that's not quite so rowdy. So fostering is a great way to get to know the animal, what it's going to need for care, what you're going to have to be responsible for from day to day and just give you that little bit of an insight into what you're getting yourself into.
Aimee says that there are also some things you need to think about before you bring your pet home. And one of them is pet proofing. Now I mentioned like cats chewing on wires and getting into things. There's so much to think about when it comes to pet proofing your home, you might not think about it, but anything that could harm a toddler could also harm a pet. So think about having a two and a half year old child running around your house without a whole lot of supervision, because let's be honest, your eyes aren't on your cat or your dog every minute of every day. They would be, of course with the toddler, but when it comes to pets, not so much. So think about a two and a half, three year old kid walking around your house with limited supervision. Or say they're wandering around your home by themselves, because sometime your animal is going to be there when you're not. So you have to think about that. Whatever could be dangerous to that toddler could also be dangerous to your pet.
There are also some plants and common human foods like chocolate, grapes, raisins — they can be poisonous to your pet. So you need to do a little bit of research, maybe talk to a veterinarian, discuss it with the experts at the shelter that you're working with, to be sure that you're aware of these things and how you're going to have to go about pet proofing your home. Aimee gave me a little checklist and I'll share it with you now if you jump onto our website theoryofpets.com, there's a link there that will take you to our sister site topdogtips.com. They have a full transcript of this podcast and you can see the checklist there, all written out if you need to see that.
But some of the things that she recommends is getting fragile items off of a coffee table or any low sitting table or shelf. Are your candles out of the pet's reach? Are your electrical cords or anything that your new pet could chew, trip on, get tangled in, any of that stuff, is it secured? One of the things that a lot of people don't think about is the string for blinds and drapes. If you have a string that hangs down on your blinds that could become a choking hazard for a puppy or kitten that either is chewing on it and swallows part of it or gets it wrapped around their neck. So that's something to think about. Remember that cats can jump so you have to be sure that countertops and other services are clear of anything that could be harmful. Are your other pets kept in a safe and secure area? So if you have other pets or you're thinking about adopting multiple pets, how are you going to keep them safe and secure without them being able to get together and maybe cause some mischief together while you're away.
Is your yard completely fenced in? That's something that I just touched on earlier. You do have to think about that when it comes to cats and dogs. If you're going to be letting them outside, they need to be secure. Are there any loose panels or gaps in your fence that your pet could escape through before you bring a pet home? If you had the fence for another dog, perhaps that dog was older, perhaps they didn't really like to try to escape. Not all dogs are like that. Some of them are escape artists, so you need to be sure. Just do a double check of your fencing to make sure that that's secure.
Are any of your plants or chemicals in your house or out in your yard poisonous to dogs or cats? Lilies are something that are poisonous to cats, which I actually didn't know until we had our first cat. My husband at that time, we were just dating, he had some flowers sent, they had beautiful lilies in the bouquet and I set them up on my counter. Of course, cats can jump. So in the night when I didn't realize that one of our cats jumped up onto the counter, he ate some of the Lilly leaves and the next day was extremely ill. I was able to figure out that he ate the lily leaves because there were some petals on the countertop that he had pulled down while he was chewing on the lily leaves. So I figured out what he had eaten, take a quick trip to the vet, which was very expensive and thankfully he was fine. But it is something that you need to do some research. You need to figure out if you have plants out in your yard, if you frequently put fresh plants or flowers in your home, if you have any kind of house plants, you need to just double check and make sure those are going to be safe for your animals as well as chemicals. We all hear about the antifreeze in the garage spilling on the floor and the dog licks it up and gets very sick. There are so many chemicals in your garage and your home, out in your yard people spray weed killer and pesticides. So those are some things to think about.
If you have a pool or a pond on your property, is it covered or fenced in? Think about your garbage, is your garbage secure? So your trash cans, if you have trash cans outside, do they have a lid? Is the lid secure inside? Is the trash secure somewhere that your dog's not going to be able to tip it over and get into some harmful people food that could be dangerous to him? So there's a lot of things to think about and certainly it takes some research.
Again, discuss it with a veterinarian, talk to the experts at the shelter that you're working with. They can certainly help you. Being prepared with the basic items for your new pet will help things go really smoothly and I'll get your new relationship off to a great start. Aimee said that they have adopt in shop stores for the Michelson Found Animals Foundation, and when they do those events, they recommend that you have a list of the following things. She says to make sure you have a collar, ID tag and a leash for your dog. If you're going to have an outside cat, you should also have a collar and an ID tag for your cat. You don't want to think about your new pet getting lost before they even come home to you. But mistakes do happen obviously and you want to make sure that they get back to you as quickly as possible.
You should also think about microchipping. That is a great way to ensure that you pet always gets returned to you. Of course, it won't happen immediately because they'll have to take the pet to a police station or a vet clinic or some animal control officers have a scanner, but they take them somewhere that they can be scanned for microchip to find your information. And if you do microchip your pet make sure that you have your information up to date at all times. If you change your address or your phone number, make sure you update it on your dog's ID tag or the microchip as well. If you don't have a name picked out yet, Aimee suggests that you just put your last name on the ID tag so people won't necessarily know your dog's name, but they'll know your name and your phone number, which are the most important things to get your dog returned as fast as possible.
If you adopted your dog from a shelter or rescue organization, they were most likely microchipped when you adopted them. A lot of shelters are doing that now. But you have to remember to register the microchip so that you can be contacted. And then she also wanted me to mention that at The Michelson Found Animals Registry found.org, which there is a link to on our website theoryofpets.com. You can register your pet for free, so keep that in mind. If you need a place to register your pet, you can do that on found.org for free.
You should also have a snugly warm bed or some kind of a sleeping mat that will help your dog or cat settle in. It also gives them kind of a place of their own that they can go and feel safe and secure. Food may seem like an obvious thing that you need to have, but you have to make sure to stock up before you bring your new pet home. The best thing to do is ask the shelter that you're adopting from, for recommendations for that particular pet. They may know about any food allergies or sensitivities. They can tell you what diet the dog is already on. Even if you don't want to feed that diet, say they feed something that's not the highest quality diet much, most shelters don't because it's very expensive for high quality food and they feed so many animals. So if you want to switch your dog's diet, be sure that you do that very gradually and you can get that information on our website as well. There's a link for a website that tells you how to gradually switch your dog's food so that you don't cause any digestive upset.
With food, you also have to think about poop. So you need to be sure that you have a litter box and litter for your cat poop, bags for your dogs, maybe a pooper scooper if that's something that you need. Toys are an important part of keeping your dog or cat entertained, they can also serve as stress relief and make your new pet feel more at home. So it's certainly something to think about, especially for their first few days if you give them a few new toys to play with it entertains them and keeps them mentally stimulated. They're not so focused on being in a new environment and helps them adjust a little bit easier. So toys are really important.
Also a crate or kennel can create a safe space for cats or dogs who may be overwhelmed. Obviously they've been in a cage in a shelter, in a very small area, they've had a lot of stimulation with your family, any new pets that they might meet at your home and new environment. So there's a lot going on and a crate or a kennel, as I said, it just gives them that safe space that they can go to to get a break from everything else. So that's another important thing that you should always have.
Once you bring your new pet into your home there are some things to consider as well. You really need to focus on daily human contact. Positive socialization is really, really important, especially for the first few days. So if you have small children, don't let them run over, crowd the dog or the cat, don't let them smother them. It needs to be positive socialization really, a lot of playtime, a lot of fun training sessions. If you have a cat, just some nice snuggles and some pets, whatever the cat wants. Some cats are a little bit more standoffish and they don't want a whole lot of attention. Some cats really enjoy pets, but they like it to be nice and calm. They don't want kids jumping around while they're laying there resting.
So consider that, especially for the first few days, that positive socialization is extremely important. You need to start house training right away and set up rules from the start. Consistency is key. So you need to, for a cat, create a safe, contained space. Maybe a bathroom or a bedroom for the new arrival, wherever their litter box and their food is going to be. For example, we have our litter box in our laundry room and the cat's food and water is in there as well because we have dogs, so it's up high on a shelf in there so that the cats can reach it, but the dogs can't. So when we bring a new cat home, we always put them in there for the first day and we just let them sit in there. They get used to where their food is, where their water is, where their litter box is. Then once we open the door and let them out, sometimes they even spend a couple of extra days in there. So don't be surprised if your cat spends a couple of days in that area once they get used to that being where all of their things are and that's really all that they need is a place to go to the bathroom and they need their food and their water. You can throw a bed in there for them too and they are going to feel really comfortable in there. So they may spend a few days in there. They may come out after the first day if they're very social. It depends with cats.
But for dogs you need to start the house training right away. If they're not trained to go to the bathroom outside, you need to start any kind of behavior modification training. If they're jumpers, if they're barkers maybe they don't have any training at all, so you're starting over with — sit and stay and lie down, that kind of command training. It all needs to start right from the get go. It's consistent. It's the best thing for the pet. Also, obviously they're coming from a shelter, even if they've been surrendered and they've only been in the shelter for a day or two, they've been through a lot of trauma. They left a home where they used to be or they've come in off the streets and had a very rough time for possibly quite a while.
So any animal that you adopt is going to need a lot of TLC in the beginning. Pets might be nervous or scared when they're adjusting to a new home, especially if they've been adopted from a bad environment. You just need to be patient. They might have accidents even if the shelter claims that they're house trained, they could have a bout of intestinal distress, often that's caused by stress, it's caused by switching a diet too quickly. So that stuff can happen and it's certainly not their fault. They may act out for a little bit. They may be like children trying to push their boundaries a little and see what they can get away with. They also may be just acting out because they're so overly stimulated and excited that that's how it comes out. So be patient, lots of love and TLC. They'll adjust, you'll adjust and everything's going to be fine. So keep that in the back of your mind at all times that you just need to be patient and it will all work itself out as long as you keep up with your training and give the dog or cat what they need.
If you do have other pets you want to introduce your new furry friend to your existing pets very thoughtfully. Introducing a new pet to existing pets takes time and patience. You can never force the interaction and you have to have a place for each of the animals to go if they do feel threatened or overstimulated. Crates are a great thing for that.
You can slowly bring them back together after they've had some time to calm down. For dogs you want to make sure to choose a neutral location. Maybe an unfamiliar park would be a good idea for the first meeting. A lot of shelters will recommend that you bring a one dog to meet the other dog and they'll do it like out in the parking lot or off to the side of the shelter, not in the fenced in area where the dogs are used to going, but at a neutral place. You want to do that so that there's no sense of dominance or territoriality from your existing dog or from the shelter dog. Have the dogs on leashes. They should be held by two different people. You should not be doing this together — yourself holding one dog in each hand. So two different people, and that's so that you can maintain control over the interaction at all times. One person is focused on one dog. When that dog starts to pull or growls or something like that, that one person is in charge and you're not trying to do that by yourself. You need to take turns walking with each dog and then the other in the lead and observe their reactions.
Have some treats ready to reinforce good behavior and slowly allow more interaction if both dogs seem to be comfortable at home. You cannot leave them alone together until you are positive that they are going to be fine. With some dogs it clicks almost instantly. With others, it takes them a couple of weeks to adjust to each other.
It's going to be fine, no matter which way it happens for you. You just need to have patience and know that the dogs need time to adjust.
For cats, that safe, contained space would also allow other pets to sniff them. So let's say you put the cat in a cat carrier, you can set the cat carrier down and your dog can sniff them, and they have that barrier between them so you don't have to worry about any issues with aggression or anything like that.
Then you can move from the small carrier to a seethrough baby gate to separate the rooms and that will allow some visual contact. Only when both animals are calm should you remove that barrier. And even then you need to be sure that a dog is on a leash or you are in the room. If you have two cats that are meeting each other, you are in the room so that you could intervene if anything does happen and you can control those initial reactions.
Again, you should never leave new pets unsupervised until you're confident that they're going to get along with your existing pets. And you should always be sure that a cat has somewhere to escape that a dog can't follow. So as I mentioned in our laundry room, we have built a little platform and a shelf that's up high. That's where our cats can go to eat, drink, so the dogs can't get into their food, but it's also a place where they can go to escape. We have… One of the rooms in our house has a little cat door on the door so the cat can slip into the bedroom and go in there and be away from the dogs. And if a dog — our dog's don't chase them — but if they were to chase them, the cat could run right through the cat door and the dog wouldn't be able to get them. So you always have to have little places set up like that so that the cat can go somewhere to escape the dog if they don't want the dog around.
Those are all of Aimee's tips for bringing home a new adopted pet. If you guys have any questions or comments for me or Aimee, feel free to get on our website theoryofpets.com. As I mentioned, if you enjoyed this podcast, please get on there. You can leave an iTunes review. It takes just a couple of minutes and it really helps me when I reach out to experts like Aimee, I can show them that you guys are out there, you're listening, you want to hear more and that's a really a big benefit for me.
So thanks again to Aimee Gilbreath from the Michelson Found Animals Foundation. She's always such a pleasure to chat with and she always shares great information with me. So I really appreciate that.
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