Safety in Rescuing a New And/Or Abused Pet
Today’s post is part of the Annual Pet ‘Net Event, sponsored by NBC Universal’s wonderful pet website, Petside.com. Today, in collaboration with pet bloggers across the country, we are drawing attention to safety issues regarding pets, from food and nutrition, to holiday, first-aid and travel safety. As ThoughtsFurPaws is very rescue-focused, I chose to specifically post about safety in bringing home a rescue pet or a formerly abused animal.
*Please take a look around at all the other wonderful blogs participating today; there is some fantastic information being presented to readers everywhere about pet safety. For a complete list of bloggers and topics, click here or see the press release here.*
Rescuing a pet calls for certain safety measures, especially if that pet has been abused. Whether it’s a dog or cat, your new rescue pet may not acclimate as quickly as possible unless you provide the right type of environment and give him enough support and time.
According to Lissa Nicholson of the blog Forever Foster, who is a well-known and respected cat rescuer, taking in a pet that has been abused will take some work. “It is very important to make sure the person truly understands what they are getting into, are prepared for problems that may come up, and to make sure they know they can ask for help or advice if they need it,” she said.
People should have a plan in place before picking up their rescue pet, whether it’s a cat or a dog (or even a bird), and know that there is no “typical” behavior for an abused pet, although you may notice that they want to be alone, that they cower when you approach, or have other symptoms.
Nicholson, who fosters rescue cats, says that those she’s fostered have all reacted quite differently.
“I’ve had three who were badly abused and two of them were the most easy-going of all my fosters,” she said. This is also my experience. When we rescued Gibson, our white Golden Retriever from the breeder who had severely neglected him, he was just happy to be in a safe place and was so relaxed, yet still withdrawn.
“To me, it underscores the importance for a potential adopter to really spend time with the individual kitty, and have proper discussions with foster parents about what they can reasonably expect from an individual animal,” she said.
A woman who I will refer to as Marie (she has requested anonymity because her rescue efforts are so far-reaching and potential issues could be caused if her name is drawn up anywhere) and her husband, who lost their dog to cancer last year and are known for fostering Golden Retrievers in the southern California area, said something similar about dogs. Marie is considered an expert in the field of rescuing and rehabilitating dogs, and is considered a veteran expert.
“The first few nights they will be restless. Stress panting (in dogs) is common the first few days. The first time in a house they will generally check out every nook and cranny,” Marie said. “They may not sleep through the night but move around a lot. Some will cry or bark. They may not eat, or eat very little. Some may have an accident in the house or not go for a very long time. In extreme cases of abuse and/or fear they will freeze and drool if approached or belly crawl and stay in small places like under a bed.”
So what can you do as far as safety measures when you are taking in a rescue pet or an abused animal?
1. Do your own research and reading before you bring any pet home so you have a plan before you pick up your pet.
2. If you already have a pet at home, test the new pet with others before taking him home. You need to know if the rescue will get along with other animals. Some see animals already in the home as guides, some see them as a threat or get jealous. Make sure you know this before bringing the pet home.
3. Give the pet time to adjust to you. As Marie said, don’t expect the pet to be “huggy” and playing with you the first day home.
4. Make sure your tetanus vaccinations are up-to-date, and know that a bite wound will probably require a visit to the Dr.’s office and it may become infected, Nicholson recommends.
5. Take the time to learn the pet’s behavior. Marie said that many abused pets or even regular rescues, if not fostered, have never been in a home before or had positive human contact. They need time to learn that it’s a good thing.
6. Provide a “safe place” for the pet to go to alone, and leave him be when he’s there.
7. Don’t force yourself on the pet. Give them the space and peace and quiet that they need to adjust on their own time.
8. Let the pet approach you on his own terms: don’t force attention and affection.
9. Don’t rush the pet into new situations. Let them get used to their new home and then slowly introduce them to new surroundings.
10. Marie said that once trust is established, if you have a dog, try to take a positive reinforcement training class to further bond with him.
11. If you have a rescue cat, Nicholson recommends setting up a safe room with their food, some good hiding spots and litter box, then slowly let the cat out to roam around more of the house to get used to new sights and smells.