The Herald Bulletin

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Columns

April 6, 2013

Maleah Stringer: Don’t be surprised if shelter animals are slow to adjust

Sometimes I am amazed that more animals aren’t homeless considering the expectations people have concerning them. Many think of pets as furry four-legged humans, expecting them to act human, then only to be upset when they act like animals.

We at the Animal Protection League and many other shelters and rescues spend a great deal of time with people who are adopting our animals. We explain that animals coming from shelters have been eating, sleeping and going to the bathroom in the same place often for months. So it is an unrealistic expectation to think that a dog who has been living in a kennel is housebroken — yes, there is real good chance that that dog will have a few accidents in the house and you will need to house train.

Don’t expect your new pet to settle right in to the routines of your home immediately. It can take weeks or even longer. Just because you’ve picked them and fallen in love with their cute face does not mean that they have bonded to you. Like any relationship, it takes time to develop love and trust and it is not different with an animal. Think about situations in your life where you have taken a new job, moved to a new city, lost your best friend. How long did it take you to adjust? To calm down?

Do not expect the new pet to become instant best friends with the existing animals in the house.  It takes time. That is why it is so important to do the introductions slowly and to make sure they are always supervised. And no, a day or two is not doing it slowly. Crating and rotating dogs so that they become used to each other, keeping the new cat in a separate room or even in a large kennel, and allowing other pets in the home to get used to them can determine success or failure.

Having two dogs is different than having one — and three becomes a pack. The dynamics change whether you like it or not. There has to be a top dog who answers to the top human in the house. Be prepared for these changes.

Cats are sensitive creatures; especially as adults, they often do not handle change well. Yes, they may hide when you first bring them home. Let them. Remember, if you adopted from a shelter they have lived in a small cage and can be overwhelmed with the sudden freedom. That’s why, depending on the cat, it is best to ease them into having the run of the whole house.

And about the kids: Being a kid-friendly pet does not mean that that pet should have to endure anything a child wants to do to it — poke, ride, crawl on, poke, pull tails and ears. If you allow a child to tease and torment an animal, is it really fair to return that animal to the shelter if it bites, nips or scratches a child? This does not make them aggressive; they are protecting themselves. Remember, crates are for the pets, not playhouses for children. Please do not let children get in pet’s crates, depending on the animal it could be setting up a dangerous situation.

Maleah Stringer is executive director of the Animal Protection League, 613 Dewey St., Anderson. She can be reached at 356-0900 or at maleahstringer@aol.com.

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