Preparing Your Home for Your Newly Adopted Pet

By Dr. Karen Becker, DVM / March 18, 2019

Adopting a new pet is a very exciting, fun time for family members (including the new furry addition). It’s also typically a somewhat stressful period as everyone makes the adjustments necessary to integrate the new addition into the household. Planning ahead can make a big difference in managing everyone’s stress during your pet’s first few weeks home.

Pet Proofing Your Home

This should be done before bringing your new dog or cat home with you. You might not think of every detail right off the bat, but at a minimum you should move cords out of reach, pick up everything off the floor and moved plants if your new addition is a kitty.

If you have children, you can involve them by having them get down on the floor to take a dog or cat-eye view of all the temptations your new pet might want to investigate. Pick up anything that has dropped on the floor like rubber bands or paper clips.

Pet-proofing your home before your new dog or cat arrives is the best way to prevent a choking, vomiting, diarrhea or other crisis during those important first few weeks.

Stocking Up on Pet Supplies

You’ll have your hands full from the moment your new pet arrives, so get all necessary shopping out of the way beforehand. This will leave you with plenty of time for bonding with your new pet, house training, socialization, and keeping her out of mischief!

You should purchase all necessary pet supplies before you bring the new addition home — leashes, balls, collars, ID tags, bags, scratching posts, cat litter and litterbox – everything you’ll need to be well-equipped when the new addition arrives.

It’s a good idea to keep your pet on the same food she’s been eating for a week or two, even if it’s not the best quality. Change, whether good or bad, gets translated as stress in your dog’s or cat’s body, so she’ll be feeling a little anxious initially. She’s in a brand new environment, with a brand new family of humans and often other four-legged members as well.

The last thing your pet’s body needs at this particular time is a brand new diet that might cause gastrointestinal problems. That’s why I recommend you purchase whatever food your pet is currently eating, and then slowly wean her onto a better quality diet.

Additional Tips If You’re Bringing Home a Dog

Before the big homecoming, it’s also a good idea to decide where your new dog will eat his meals, the best location for his water bowl(s), and sleeping arrangements – will he sleep in your bedroom, and if so, in your bed or in a crate?

I’m a big advocate of crate training for dogs. I consider it a very important part of keeping your new pet safe when you’re not at home or can’t keep a constant eye on him.

If a crate seems like a jail cell to you, consider this: your dog is, by nature, a den dweller. When properly introduced to his crate, he’ll feel safe and secure in his own little den for the rest of his life. There are many benefits to having a crate-trained dog, for both you and your canine companion.

I recommend you have the crate ready for use when your dog comes home. If he’s allowed to sleep in your bed with you for several days and then you move him to a crate, he won’t view it as a positive change. That’s because he has already learned his nighttime sleeping spot is your bed.

Moving him to the crate may cause an exaggerated response (whining or crying, for example) over and above what you could have expected had you crated him on his first night with you. So I recommend purchasing the crate before the dog arrives, and putting it to use his first day home. It’s important to never use the crate as punishment, only a bedroom and a safe spot to snooze and eat meals. If you use the crate appropriately you’ll find your dog falls in love with his “private den” and use it throughout the day for resting.

If you’re opening your heart and home to a rescue or shelter dog, I also encourage you to visit A Sound Beginning and take a look at the program. A Sound Beginning is the perfect way to help give your newly rescued furry friend the very best opportunity to come into your life feeling calm and relaxed.

It can also help you and your family learn how to interact productively with your new dog. As I mentioned earlier, bringing a new dog home is stressful for everyone – especially first-time pet parents. And the dog may very well bring some baggage from his past along with him that can complicate things. A Sound Beginning helps reduce all that stress for everyone involved.

If Your New Pet is a Kitty, Let Her Set Her Own Pace

If you’re bringing a new cat into your home, regardless of whether there are other pets or children in the family, I recommend you separate the new addition in a little private bed-and-breakfast setup for at least a week. This will help her get acclimated on her own terms, which is the way cats prefer things.

Kitties are very sensitive to new environments, sounds, tastes, smells and so forth – and they are very easily stressed by any change in their lives. Put her litterbox, food and toys in her private room and keep noise, confusion and other pets in her space to a minimum.

Introduce other members of the household to the new kitty one at a time. Ideally, this takes place in, say, the living room, and the new cat has ventured out on her own to investigate. However you arrange these meet-and-greets, they should be done in a calm, quiet, low-stress environment so as not to scare or further stress the new kitty.

Recommended reading for new cat parents:

  • 5 Things Cats Need to Thrive
  • 10 Ways to Make Friends with Your Scared, Shy Cat

Safety First

Whether you’re bringing a new puppy, kitten, adult dog or cat into the family, it’s very important that the new pet not have free rein in your home before you’re completely confident he is safe in the new environment, and that both he and your other pets are safe in terms of interacting with each other in your absence.

Don’t ever leave a new pet unattended with an existing pack until you’re very sure the new arrival has acclimated to the other animals and vice versa.

Special Tip: Don’t you have a pet yet? Check here where to find your new best friend!

SimpleWag wanted to send a big THANK YOU to Dr. Becker for taking the time to educate us on this subject. If you’re bringing home a new pup, be sure to check out the list below! 

New Puppy Checklist

New Puppy Checklist

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About the author

Dr. Karen Becker, DVM

Karen Shaw Becker received her degree in veterinary medicine from the Iowa State School of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Becker completed exotic animal internships in California and at the Berlin Zoo, Germany, and is certified in acupuncture, homeopathy and rehabilitation. Dr. Becker is the founder of Natural Pet Animal Hospital, Feathers Bird Clinic and TheraPaw Rehabilitation and Pain Management Clinic in Illinois. She is also licensed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to rehabilitate injured and orphaned endangered species through her non-profit organization, Covenant Wildlife. Dr. Becker often lectures and writes about species appropriate nutrition and has co-authored the Whole Dog Journal’s Best Homemade Diet Book of All Time award, “Real Food for Healthy Pets.” She was deeply honored to be named one of Chicago’s Top Ten Vets, according to Chicago Magazine. Dr. Becker is also the veterinary consultant for Mercola Healthy Pets, the largest pet wellness website on the internet. She consults for a variety of pet wellness and pet food companies, designing diets and pet health products to improve the wellbeing of companion animals worldwide.