Deciding to rehome a pet is a selfless act that can prove to be an extremely rewarding experience. By adopting from a rescue centre, you are providing a loving home for a pet that needs it whilst helping to reduce the number of unwanted animals. However, this is a responsibility that shouldn’t be taken lightly. You need to ensure you are financially stable as well as able to provide everything the pet will need, including a lot of your time. The rehoming process requires patience, as shelters want each pet to go to the most suitable home possible. As should always be the case, animal welfare is top of their list of priorities.
An open mind is the best approach to have when considering adopting a pet, but it is also beneficial to have an idea about the type of animal you want. Consider what would be the most suitable pet for you according to your household and lifestyle, and factor in the size, breed and temperament. Discuss what each member of your family wants, as it is not in the pet’s best interests to bring them into a home where not everybody is completely dedicated to their care.
You need to think about which shelter you will adopt your pet from. Research various organisations and bear in mind that visiting any too far away may be impractical. Your new pet could find travelling a long way in a strange environment difficult, and you need to make them feel as safe as possible. Staff should be knowledgeable and should want the best for the animals in their care. An informative shelter concerned about animal welfare will welcome questions, so ask whatever you need to. Find out as much as possible about the animal you are interested in, especially their history, as this could reveal more about their temperament or behaviour. Don’t forget to enquire about the shelter’s history as well, so you can gain an idea of their ethos and dedication.
Visiting the shelter
Each shelter has its own adoption procedure. Some will record details about your home and lifestyle, and will then select animals for you to view based on them. Others will allow you to view all of them. Always remember to remain open minded when visiting a shelter. If you like the look of another animal more than one suggested by staff, remember they might not be as well-suited to your lifestyle. Listen to the staff’s advice, as they always want what is best for the animal.
A positive sign of a good match is the animal approaching you, as this demonstrates they are confident and unafraid of human contact. If they appear stressed or unresponsive they could just be reacting to the shelter environment, and might behave differently once outside.
A home visit can be carried out by the shelter to assess whether it is a suitable environment for a potential pet, or you may be interviewed about your lifestyle. Ensure you prepare well for any assessment.
Shelters will usually spay or neuter all animals in their care to help deter the number of those that are unwanted and abandoned. Furthermore, they will usually administer all of the appropriate vaccinations and in the case of puppies and kittens, will vaccinate according to their age. You must check with the shelter or your vet whether any further vaccinations are required upon adoption, and when these are due.
Walking and playing
After deciding on an animal, the shelter might allow you to take them for a walk or play with them. When walking a dog consider whether you are able to effectively control them, and note how relaxed they appear to be around people and other animals. Any aggression should be noted, as unless you are previously experienced with animals that have difficulties, you may be unable to provide them with the care they require. An animal displaying aggressive tendencies should not be brought into a home with children.
A shelter environment can prove stressful for some animals, so they could behave differently once outside. Bring along a toy for them to play with as a form of interaction, and note their responses to you. A good sign is the animal engaging with you and showing willingness to play. Remember to keep dogs on the lead at all times when outside of the shelter.
It is important to ensure that every member of the family visits the pet at least once before deciding to adopt. Everyone needs to agree on the animal and the animal should have responded positively to all. Don’t be disheartened if the pet you wanted doesn’t turn out to be the right one for you. There are so many animals available at various shelters that you are eventually bound to find one that is.
Before bringing your pet home
Once you and your family have agreed on the pet you wish to adopt, you may be able to visit them a few more times before taking them home. Use these visits to get to know your new pet as much as possible, as this will establish familiarity and help to make them feel more at ease whilst settling in.
You need to ensure you have everything your pet will need for when they arrive at your home. This includes a bed, food and food dishes, toys, plus a lead and a collar with an identification tag for a dog, and a litter tray for a cat. Consider where your pet will sleep and whether you will need anything to facilitate this, such as a crate. You also need to decide where your pet will go to the toilet and buy any necessities such as puppy training mats or a pooper scooper. There are many more items you can buy, but at the very least you must have the basics.
Each family member needs to know their role when caring for their new pet and the level of responsibility it entails. For instance, whoever is designated to feed them has to remember to do so every day at the correct times.
Bringing your pet home
It is important to make sure your pet will be completely secure when transporting them from the shelter to your home. There are a few different ways you can do this, including crates or cat carriers, pet seatbelts and harnesses, as well as dog guards. Regardless of the method you choose, your pet needs to be completely restrained to avoid causing injury to themselves or passengers.
Take your new pet to their toilet area as soon as you arrive home, as this immediately shows them where they are expected to go. Give your pet a lot of praise when they go in the correct place, but don’t shout or punish otherwise. Remember they are still adjusting to a new environment and such behaviour may trigger a negative response, especially in an animal that has experienced previous trauma.
Remind your family, particularly young children, not to overcrowd the new pet. They will likely be nervous or anxious, and this will only exacerbate those feelings. Leave your pet alone to explore and adjust to their new surroundings, allowing them to approach you when they feel ready. They need time to settle and build their confidence.
The first night might be difficult for your pet, so expect some crying or whining. This is not unusual because of the change in surroundings and noise level when compared with the shelter. Although it may be extremely distressing, you must ignore such behaviour so your pet can eventually adjust to their new surroundings and routine. Responding to their cries will slow down this process, making them think you will always give them attention if they do this. To help your pet settle, ensure their bed is as comfortable as possible and play the radio so there is some level of noise.
Over the first few days it is important to take your pet for a check-up at the vet to make sure they are healthy. They could also need vaccinations.
The first few weeks
Always remember your pet will need time to adjust after the big change of moving from a shelter into their new home. Some will take longer than others to acclimatise so patience and understanding is vital at this stage. The true temperament of some animals might only emerge after a few weeks, as they may have suppressed their personalities whilst in the shelter environment. Many shelters offer ongoing support after adoption for any problems that arise, so do not hesitate to contact them. Don’t give up on your new pet if they initially prove challenging unless any signs of aggression are displayed, as it is unfair for them to be taken back to the shelter unnecessarily. A lot of effort may be required to care for your new pet, but the rewards will be the satisfaction that you helped an animal in need, and the love they will show you in return.
A firm routine will help your pet to settle into their new home. Feed, walk, take your pet to the toilet and put them to bed at the same time every day. Routine is especially important after rehoming an animal that may have experienced trauma or upheaval prior to being rescued. Begin to socialise your pet, but remember this is a gradual, long-term process. Depending on past experiences, some animals might not react well to other animals or humans, so initially limit their exposure and gradually increase this based on your pet’s progress.
The common misconception of rehoming a pet from a shelter is that the animals are taken there because of something they did. This is often not the case as animals arrive at shelters for many reasons, sometimes because their owners are no longer able to provide the care they need if they are taken ill, or are financially insecure. Support your local shelter and animal welfare by rehoming a pet.
Protect your new pet by insuring them. Animal Friends offer a range of policies for you to choose from.