By Karen Thomas for
Paradise Pets Magazine, Key West, FL
There is nothing more gratifying than adopting a pet from a shelter or rescue organization. You will be saving a life. Even if you adopt from an organization that has a no-kill policy, you will be helping to rescue another animal by making space available at the shelter. By adopting rather than buying a new companion animal, you will reduce the demand that drives the commercial breeding of puppies and kittens. Each year millions of healthy and well-behaved animals are destroyed in shelters simply because there are not enough homes for all of them.
If you adopt a young adult or senior pet, you can avoid much of the diligent work related to house-training and teething. Puppies and kittens are cute, but they require lots of attention, training and patience. An older dog might fit in better with your laid back adult Labrador than a rambunctious puppy. Kittens are easier than puppies, but you may also want to consider the benefits of an adult cat who has already gone through the high-spirited kitten stage.
Before bringing home your new pet (whether a puppy, kitten, dog or cat), do your best to make sure they are as healthy as possible. Obtain copies of all medical records from the rescue organization for yourself and your veterinarian. If your new companion hasn’t been examined recently, make an appointment with your vet for a complete physical exam. You’ll want to make sure your newcomer has a clean bill of health before exposing other animals in the home to any risk.
Keep in mind that any change, even a positive thing like moving to a home, can be stressful for animals. Stress, travel and transport can aggravate underlying disease and may even cause physical ailments. Ask what food your new companion has been eating. If you’ll be feeding the animal something different, you’ll want to make a gradual transition to the new diet to avoid gastrointestinal upset. So, the goal is to minimize stress as much as possible.
Cat or dog proof the home
Along with the basic medical needs being assessed, take some time to inspect your surroundings. Are your home and yard appropriately dog and cat proof? Some common safety concerns include toilet seats, electrical cords and outlets, house plants (some are toxic to pets), garbage cans, and unsecured kitchen food storage. You may want to move valuable or fragile items from common areas. We use baby gates in our home to help keep curious puppies out of trouble.
How can we help our new pet feel safe and loved in their new environment?
I find it’s so important to designate a safe place where your pet can be away from the action — by his choice or by yours. He should be able to access the place himself whenever he feels he needs a “time-out”. You can also put him in there and close the door. It might be a crate, or even an entire room. This safe place should feel like a safe haven at all times.
We use our ‘healing room’ as our safe place for the dogs. I like to diffuse essential oils to promote relaxation such as lavender or a favorite blend called ‘Peace and Calming’. I also created an organic essential oil spray blend called ‘Serenity’ which contains lavender, ylang ylang and frankincense. I always keep a bottle handy to spray inside crates, bedding, inside the car or directly on their coats to promote a feeling of relaxation.
If there are existing animals in the home, communication is very important during this entire process. From the moment you’ve made the decision to adopt a new pack member, start letting the other animals in the house know this so that there are no surprises. Since they read our thoughts, I would show them mental pictures of the animal and how they can help ‘show him the ropes’ while interacting harmoniously. Since animals love to have ‘jobs’ I would assign each one a different job for the integration process to go smoothly. For example, I would assign the role of ‘peace ambassador’ to one and to another the job of being in charge of ‘toy sharing’. Spending lots of quality bonding time with each animal individually and collectively is very important during the first weeks that a pet is in a new home as well.
Routines and Rules
Dogs, especially, crave routines, boundaries and rules. Cats like to know what to expect too. When pets don’t understand, they feel uncertain and may hide out under a bed or behind a chair until they feel a little more comfortable. Sensible rules and structure help pets feel secure in their environment. Being consistent with training, helping pets understand what behavior you want and providing a solid routine is very appreciated from a pet’s point of view. They become more confident when they know their role and what you want them to do. All too often animals are told ‘no’ as in what not to do, but then not shown an acceptable alternative behavior.
When we first adopted Merlin, our Catahoula mix puppy, we established a daily routine which included pack walks and short training sessions a few times per day. He was eager to learn, and the other dogs loved the opportunity to model appropriate behaviors during the training sessions. ‘Group training’ is a great way to keep everyone involved in the integration process.
The most important thing to remember when integrating a new pet into the household is to practice patience and enjoy the process. Things won’t be perfect overnight as it takes time to learn each other. Having high expectations can turn into feelings of disappointment quickly if the expectations are not met. Any negative emotion (fear, anger, anxiety) will be sensed by your new companion and may delay the learning curve. This would be a great time to start a spiritual or mindful meditation practice if you don’t already have one. Within a few weeks everyone will be more balanced. Feeling the unconditional love of a pet fill our home and heart is a gift, and giving them the love and respect they deserve is true compassion. May your hearts and homes always be filled with such love!
Karen Thomas, R.N., is a certified Healing Touch for Animals (HTA) Practitioner in the Florida Keys. Healing Touch for Animals is a holistic approach influencing the health and well-being of animals through energy medicine and intention. HTA techniques restore harmony and balance to the energy system while providing physical, emotional, mental and instinctual stability, thus supporting the body to self-heal. This work can be done in person or distantly.
Karen can be contacted through her website www.pawsitivetouch.org or email her directly at karen @pawsitivetouch.org Karen’s organic, therapeutic-grade essential oil sprays can be purchased through squareup.com/market/pawsitivetouch
This article was originally published in the April-June 2016 issue of Paradise Pets Magazine, Key West, FL
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