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Tips for the First Few Days of Pet Adoption

tortie cat being petted while standing between his owners feet


You just adopted a new pet and congratulations are in order! The first few days are extremely exciting, but they can also be a bit scary for a brand-new pet parent.

Bringing a new pet home is a major change for you, your family, and your pet. If you discover you’re feeling stressed or anxious as your pet gets to know your routine, just know that you are not alone. The adjustment period with a new roomie can be a bit overwhelming for everyone. By anticipating some of the issues that might arise, they can be a lot easier to deal with. Luckily, we have resources here on Petfinder to help make this transition less stressful!

To best prepare yourself, take a little time to look ahead to the first 30 days and collect some tips on what you can do to make the transition go smoothly.

For right now, let’s dive into some of the most common new pet adoption challenges, and explore some resources and tips that can help you tackle them if they arise.

First 10 Days: Common Challenges


Dogs sometimes really tune up their vocal cords when they are stressed or out of their element. If you have just adopted a dog from a shelter or a rescue group, keep in mind that their whole life has suddenly changed. Some dogs will have been bounced around from new place to new place and are experiencing a lot in a short period of time. They may express their anxiety or stress as barking.

If your new dog is barking when left alone, not only do you want to get to the root of the problem quickly, but your neighbors probably hope you will, too (especially if you live in an apartment complex or row home). Barking when left alone can be due to breed characteristics, territoriality, desire for attention, boredom, or anxiety. We have some solutions to each of these issues. If the issue is territorial and is mostly aimed at mail and delivery people in particular, you can read more here to work on that behavior.

If your new dog barks when guests knock on the door, you can work on this problem over time with your new pet.



Your new pet needs to find a way to make themselves feel safe. You may notice your dog, cat, bunny, ferret, and even small pocket pet hiding or confining themselves to one sheltered spot where they feel most comfortable. This is especially true for cats when they arrive in their new digs.

The less threatening your pet finds their new space, the better. Let them choose their comfort level before expecting your new dog or cat to wander into other rooms. It may take a little while for your new ferret to explore that spacious multi-level pen you purchased for them. You can help your pet gain confidence by creating a “safe space.” This can look different for every pet. Perhaps a comfy bed and blanket will do the trick, or if your adopted dog is used to a crate, that could be a comforting place for them to retreat. Small pets will want a box or store-bought critter shelter to snuggle in. Make their safe space as calm and relaxing as you can before graduating to other areas. Once comfortable, they will begin to explore further.


Refusal to Eat

It’s common for new pets to seemingly go on a hunger strike. On top of a brand-new home, their diet and feeding routine has probably just changed as well.

First, rule out medical concerns. Consider all the circumstances of your pet–they have just experienced a major life change – and assess their energy level and whether they’ve stopped drinking water in addition to not eating. Call the adoption group or your veterinarian if you are concerned.

Are you making mealtime enjoyable and providing food in a non-threatening space? For example, if your cat’s food bowl is next to the loud clothes dryer, or you are feeding your dog near a heating vent that is kicking on and off, they might hesitate to eat. Keep external factors in mind, and research the best places to feed your new pet.

Your pet will get used to their new routine over time, but consistency is key. Feeding at less-hectic times can make your pet feel more comfortable. It’s recommended that you set a regular feeding schedule.



House-soiling accidents are no fun and can occur with even housebroken pets. Transitional accidents should always be expected, but there are ways to smoothly transition your pet back to their housebroken status.

For cats: This is a brand-new environment for your cat, so remembering exactly where the litter boxes are may take a little time. Place the litter box in the most accessible spot possible. If they are still not quite getting it, you can confine your cat to one room with the litter box in it, and only grant them access to other rooms once they’re using the box regularly. You can find more tips on litterbox training. Keep in mind that different cats need different size litter boxes. And lastly, keeping the litter box clean is key!

For dogs: Dogs will come into your home with varying levels of housebreaking. Hopefully, the adoption agency can give you some history on your new dog so you’ll be better prepared once you are home together. If they don’t have any background to share, it’s best to assume even an adult dog will need a refresher course. If you adopted a puppy, there’s a good chance you’re starting from scratch. The best way to approach either situation is with patience. Getting used to a new schedule is another big change in your new dog’s life. For more details on how to approach housebreaking, read here.



Sometimes stress in a new environment manifests as over-excitement. Over-excitement can be in response to obvious outside factors, like other pets in the home or someone knocking on the door. It can also happen when there’s seemingly nothing at all to be excited about.

Enrichment can help your pet burn some energy and keep them from getting too overstimulated. Redirection can be especially useful to head off over-excitement. For example, you can redirect their attention to something else before they reach the point of over-excitement with a toy, a game, a command, or a reward for their calm behavior. Teaching them the “watch me” command or the “place” command (directing them to their own “place” before they get too excited) can be a bonding experience for you and your pet, as well as a tool to help keep their excitement in check.

For cats, access to toys during appropriate times can keep them stimulated and help even out their energy level. Be sure to switch in new toys to keep them interested or try adding some catnip for added interest and to give an older toy a refresh.


Not Coming When Called

Your pet may have never experienced having to come when their name is called, so be patient as they learn your new expectations. If you gave your pet a new name, they’ll also need to adjust to that name before they succeed at being called.

You can work on this behavior with your dog by exploring the tips and tricks of teaching recall.


When to Seek Help:

While many behaviors are consistent with the transition of a pet into a new home, there are things you should be on the lookout for that warrant outside help. Reach out to your veterinarian if you see signs of aggression (especially if they are brand-new behaviors), uncharacteristic lethargy, excessive vomiting, diarrhea, or cough/cold type symptoms.

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