by Barry KuKes
Adopting a new pet can be an exhilarating time for you and the animal adopted, but it can also be a time of stress and adjustment for both. Humans need to deal with the stress of the new pet learning the rules, and not using the kitchen floor as a toilet. They also need to adjust their lives to accommodate the pet. They can’t decide to spend the night elsewhere because their dog is waiting for them at home, and if they don’t go home, that’s when the pet will use the kitchen floor to relieve themselves. It’s a learning process for both humans and pets, but there are many other stresses for the pet.
Animals can’t tell us what they feel, but they may try to show us in their behavior. When a person adopts a dog, for instance, we talk to them about the 3-3-3 rule. This rule simply states that a pet in a new household will adjust to their new home gradually. In the first three days, they will be a bit scared and unsure of what to expect and how to behave. They will not know all the rules, and they will make mistakes. Once the pet reaches the three-week mark, they will be feeling more at ease. They won’t be wondering about when they will be going back to the shelter as much. They will have mastered many of the rules by this time, but they will still see how much they can get away with too.
By the third month, they will be your best friend and will be loving life. They will know where to sleep and will be aware of their owners’ schedules and routines. They will learn how to tell time, a trait that has always amazed me. How do my dogs know when it’s time to eat? Within 30-minutes of their usual dinner time, they will begin to shark around in an attempt to get my attention so I will feed them. I always tell them. “You need to wait. It’s not time yet,” unless, of course, it actually is 5, which happens frequently. Again, how do they know that?
Making accommodations for your pets goes much further than just coming home at night. Observe your pet and how they react to specific actions or noises. Many dogs are scared of thunderstorms and other loud noises like fireworks. Protect them from these noises, so they are less fearful. Some pets hate the vacuum cleaner. Try to vacuum when they are out of the room. Some pets don’t like going in the car. A stray dog I fostered hated riding in the car. He would slobber all over the window and door so much that I needed a large bath towel to clean up the mess. I concluded that he might have been driven to a remote area and abandoned. He associated a car ride with abandonment, which is very sad. I hope his new family has corrected that association by taking him for a ride to get ice cream regularly.
Let’s not forget about cats either. Many cats prefer to be alone and hide from humans and other animals. It might take a cat as long as a year to come to their owner or the pet sitter finally. My wife pet sits for a family that has three dogs and two cats. One of the cats is a loner. She had never seen the cat for over two years, but finally, the cat came out of its room and looked at her. That was it—just a look and then back into its room.
The cat eats, drinks water, and uses the litter box, so it appears to be doing okay. He just doesn’t like people.
Then some cats LOVE people and can’t wait to be with them. They purr, make biscuits on their owners’ stomachs, and love to snuggle in bed with their owners. Animals all have their own unique personalities.
Observe your pet to make the most out of your relationship.
Lastly, adopt, don’t shop.
Barry KuKes is the Community Out- reach Director for the Halifax Humane Society. You can reach Barry at 386. 274.4703, ext. 320, or BarryK@halifax humanesociety.org