1 Your new pet is probably stressed
This is especially true if you adopted an adult or a less confident kitten or puppy. They’re probably not eating, not playing, and sleeping a lot. Don’t worry, they’re not sick, they’re just trying to cope with moving to a new place. Lots of treats, cuddles, or just time will help them come out of their shell. Talking to them in a low, soothing voice will help as well, as it will help them see your voice as a source of comfort.
2 Start housetraining immediately
Regardless of the age of your dog (or cat), you will want to show them where to go potty and (if dog) take them out frequently. There are many resources online for how to potty train your dog, but this is one type of training you won’t want to delay. If you adopted a kitten, place multiple litter boxes around the house so that they can get to a box when they need to in time.
Also, remember to sign up for training/obedience classes! However, don’t rush into training – if your dog is feeling overwhelmed, chances are they’re not going to respond well to the extra mental stress. If they’ve never been trained, it will be even harder on them, so just go slow for the first couple of weeks.
3 Provide a safe place for them
For cats, this may be a small room that doesn’t have many things they can ruin or that can hurt them, such as a laundry room or bathroom. Start by placing them in that room and then interacting with them in that room only, then slowly introducing them to the other rooms of the house day by day or week by week.
For dogs, if they are crate trained, perfect! Buy a crate for them (they come in both wire and plastic shell style, as well as soft travel crates) and feed their meals in the crate. If not, slowly acclimate them to the crate by providing high value treats such as cheese or roast beef in the crate as well as feeding them their meals in the crate. In the meantime, baby gate them in the kitchen or buy an exercise pen (x-pen) that they can hang out in while you are busy or out of the house. Having a crate trained dog is very useful for housetraining as well as car or air travel, so there’s no reason not to!
4 Feed the same food, at least for a while
Shelters can’t always afford to provide their cats or dogs with the best food, so sometimes you might be thinking of changing their food once you adopt them. However, there are a few reasons why you should keep them on the same food for a while. One, they may have picked up something at the shelter or at the foster home, and if they get diarrhea it may be hard to tell if it’s from the food or from a bug. Also, it may feel familiar or comforting to them to be eating the same food. Lastly, you’ll always want to transition them slowly to the new food. Just like humans who suddenly become vegan or start eating meat again, dogs and cats have a balance of intestinal bacteria that will be thrown off when a new food is introduced. A ratio of 1:4, 1:2, and then 4:1 over a period of 3-4 weeks will help your pet digest the new food more easily without significant digestive upset.
5 Stay at home and just cuddle
If you got a dog, you probably want to show him or her off right away to all your friends. While this is a great thing for young puppies (socialization is VERY important), it may be confusing or disorienting to them to meet a bunch of new people in a new and stressful place. Make sure to bond with them first, at least for two weeks, and then let them venture out into the world. For young puppies 8-12 weeks, if they are not shy or anxious, you can invite a few people at a time to your house to meet him or her. If you feel that your pup is getting overwhelmed, put them away or ask your guests to leave on a good note so that they associate strangers with love and positive attention.
Similarly, you might want to invite all your cat-loving friends to meet your new cat, but give him time to rest first and once he’s comfortable he’ll be the best friend you’ve always wanted.