How to Help Your New Pet Acclimate to Your Home

Are you the type to think long and hard about adopting a pet? Maybe you’ve done your research on dog breed personality traits to find the best match for your family. Or, maybe you’re prone to spontaneity and fell in love with four legs and a wagging tail at an adoption event.  

It’s exciting to welcome a new furry friend into your life. However, there are a few “best practices” for helping your new dog or cat adjust to your home. 

For example, you wouldn’t just open the door and call it done, right? Of course. There’s an orientation process. 

How to Welcome a New Pet into Your Home 

According to the Animal Humane Society, your pet will need an adjustment period. Just like most people need time to get acclimated to a new environment, so does your pet. Pet professionals will recommend watching your new pet for cues like fear or aggression. 

  1. Don’t give them the run of the house – dogs and cats acclimate best when they know what to expect. And one of the best ways to do that is by giving them a small space they can sniff and feel safe in. A laundry room, small bathroom, or even the kitchen with a gate in place to keep them there is a good start. This gives them a safe space to learn the new sounds and smells. It also makes clean up easier if they have an accident. 

  2. Feed separately  – Do you have young children or other pets? Use caution at first. Even normally relaxed pets can get agitated when you bring a new animal into their space. Keep your new pet in that confined space and feed separately for a few days because animals can get territorial over food.

  3. Introduce slowly – Whether dog to dog, dog to cat, or any combination thereof, introduce them in a common area and keep the sessions brief. Put dogs on leashes and don’t force greetings. Better to let everyone discover one another on their own time than rush friendship. Feed top value treats when they meet one another. If anyone seems stressed or is aggressive, separate them. If you’re introducing a new dog to your current dog, do it first outside your home. The dog park, the neighbor’s yard, the street corner, it’s all more neutral territory than at your home. 

  4. Children and pets – Some of my fondest childhood memories are dressing up our tabby in doll clothes. She was very good to tolerate it. But not all animals will. Also, not all kids understand how to treat animals. Some of them are very rough and will tease the cat or dog or even be cruel to it. I’m sure you know this can provoke scratches and bites from even the most tolerant animal. 

Teach your children how to approach animals and how to watch for body language that shows irritation. All animals give warning signs before they scratch or bite. Cats twitch their tails and hiss. Dogs will bare their teeth and growl. Before that, they’ll usually flatten their ears and drop their tails. 


Learning common pet body language will serve your children well in life. What else would you add being a good pet parent and helping your new pet adjust?