Adopting or fostering a rescued cat or dog from the shelter is a happy time for you and a relief to the pet. For one thing, you have taken them away from that loud scary place. The new owners or foster family are also excited because they’re bringing a new family member into their home. This new situation is exciting for everyone, with new interactions and adventures to come.
BUT WAIT! Before you go showing off your new pet to your family, friends and resident pets, please give the new animal time to relax for a while. The last thing you should do at this point is to rush them into a whole new dramatic situation. Making them interact or overwhelming them with constantly changing stimuli could get them into trouble if they aren’t ready for it.
Decompress for at least 3-5 days before you take them anywhere or introduce them to more new people and new animals.
Dogs and cats that have been at the shelter, especially those who were there for a long period of time, need to decompress and get themselves back into a calm state of mind, leaving behind the worry and stress they experienced while at the shelter.
Signs of stress:
CATS: urinating outside the litterbox; diarrhea, constipation or other digestive issues; excessive grooming; excessive scratching, isolation, excessive vocalization, decrease in appetite; increased sleeping; aggression toward other animals; and aggression toward people.
DOGS: the same signs in cats plus lip licking (fast little flicks); yawning; turning away; shaking off; half-moon eye; and freezing.
Decompression time can vary for individual cats and dogs. Some pets need more time than others, but at least two weeks is best.
The number one rule for dogs is to keep your new dog/foster in a crate when you are not home. After decompression and everyone is acquainted and comfortable, it is up to you as the owner to see if your pet can be free in the home when alone or if they should be crated.
The number one rule for cats is to limit their environment. Starting them off in one room of the house helps them adjust faster because their new space isn’t as overwhelming. Slowly and gradually let the new cat explore more and more space in the new home.
Check out this handout from the Dumb Friends League on Stress Relief for Pets: https://www.ddfl.org/sites/default/files/Stress%20Relief.pdf