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, 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.

Pet Net Safety Event Logo*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's Rescue Kittens

Nicholson's Rescue Kittens

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from the breeder who had severely neglected him, he was just happy to be in a safe place and was so relaxed, yet still withdrawn.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.

A Second Chance Rescue Dog

A Second Chance Rescue Dog

“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.

21 Responses to “Safety in Rescuing a New And/Or Abused Pet”

  1. mia says:

    Great article Jaime, this is very useful info. What a neat idea by petside, ill have to surf around and see what everyone else wrote. Thanks for these great tips though:). Mia

  2. It took Dennis a long time to get over his fear/trauma of whatever happened to him before he ended up in that canyon and then in rescue. His “safe” place was outside behind the garbage barrels at the side of the house; he would run there whenever something scared him, which was pretty much every time anything made noise.

    • Briana says:

      Sometimes we have to do the nastiest of tihgns to the nicest of people . I made my point in my write-up, thankful both volunteers and career would speak to me and a good exchange of thoughts, ideas were said and we all listened to each other. Professional and maybe personal courtesies all around!I said and wrote my piece, and now will watch to see how it all comes out. Mind you, I stand by my opinions I wrote up. The MOST SUPRISING thing in all of this is how our local rag actually wrote a decent article! I was stunned in reading how balanced it was. Maybe now that the News & Messenger is consolidating in one place in the City, tihgns will be looking up!Maybe.

  3. Great article and tips!!

  4. Ruby & Penny says:

    Thanks for the info. Penny’s safe spot was in the corner of the living room, on the back of the couch, where she could watch the door and all activity in the house.
    Love Ruby & Penny

  5. AnimalLuvr says:

    Our poor thing hid in the laundry room for days when we first got him, I think these recommendations are very accurate. Thanks for posting this Jaime, it will be a good resource for many people.
    We will be sure to stop by the other blogs today too 🙂

  6. Michael says:

    This is great advice for anyone taking on a rescue or an abused animal. Great article!

  7. Sarah says:

    This is a really informative article, very well-written. We have never heard of Petside but will be sure to check it out. Im going to fwd this link to my friend who just adopted a rescue dog that they think came from a puppy mill. Hes having a hard time adjusting 🙁

  8. Marcelle says:

    Great article with really good info. I think the people you interviewed are right on in their assessments of rescues, coming from someone involved in rescue too. It is really important to give the dog his own space and time. Its really great you are calling attention to this.

  9. Joan says:

    My dog, Gibson, was 5 months old when rescued and was terrified of the house and everything in it, including toys, balls, etc., which he didn’t have a clue what he was supposed to do with. His safe spot was outside, laying behind a chair, up against our house.

    Your info is the best I have ever seen and really hits all the points. Thank you so much.

    p.s. Nine years later Gibson is a happily adjusted golden retriever. A rescued pet is a challenge, but the rewards you get in return are PRICELESS!

  10. B&E says:

    Fantastic article Jaime. When we rescued our two kittens they were from an abused home and it took months for them to acclimate, Im glad you had such good info from people like Lissa to guide you in writing this. THis is a great article and what a fantastic idea on Petside’s behalf. We are going to check out the other articles now.

    Woofs and purrs,

    Brian and Esther

  11. Penny says:

    This is a very well written and informative article, one of the best Ive read today from Petside. So many people these days are taking in abused pets and rescue pets that its important for them to know what they are getting into. Thank you for posting this very appropriate piece.


  12. Bill says:

    I rescued an abused and neglected cat about two years ago and it took him a good two months to acclimate and adjust. This is some good info though for people who are just starting out in rescuing animals or considering taking in an abused animal. It takes a lot of work and a lot of patience.

    And to your interviewees, Marie and Lissa, I commend them on being so dedicated to their causes and being so highly respected in this difficult field.

    GREAT article, I will be forwarding this link around to some rescue friends for sure.

  13. Doggie Lover says:

    Great article Jaime! I strongly believe there needs to be more info/tools for those who rescue animals. Too many people have the misconception their rescued pet is going to be happy right away in their new home. Like your article states, building trust is extremely important! I know it took some time to build trust with my rescued pup! Now she is perfect. 😉 I love all you do for the animal world!

  14. You just keep getting better, and this is a tremendous post – thanks for reminding folks what is possible. I would suspect that many have no idea.

  15. Khyra says:

    Mom is still working out my ‘issues’ from the past –

    Tank woo fur this grrrreat post!

    PeeEssWoo: So nice to see woo again!

  16. M says:

    These tips are very Good, and Right-on-Target… Thanks for sharing your advice… One more thing these tips are also Good for when taking in abused children, I know, I’ve been there. Good Advice !

  17. Ann says:

    In helping these animals, I think patience and love make a great difference. Show them you care about them (they can feel it)and gradually they will learn to trust you. Though tough, it’s the most rewarding job that one could ever have. Seeing them recovering from their ordeal and becoming happy once again give the care-giver a great sense of satisfaction.

    How are you??????
    We missed you a lot!!!!
    You can’t imagine how much we were when your comments is appear on our blog!!!!
    You’re soooooooooooo special for us and we’re very very sad when we haven’t news from you!!!!
    Are you all ok???
    We read your blog each time you write a new post….
    we keep you in our hearts every day because you’re one of our best frieds!!!
    pleaseeeeeeee…take care of you ok????
    And how is your mommy???Is still sad a lot???
    We think it must be terrific loose her job….
    We would love be there and give her tons of licks….
    ANd MAya wants to give a special woooooofff to you all…
    Yes…she’s growing a lot..
    only 4 months old….but 20 kg weight!!!!
    She’s becoming like her dad….a big big Golden retriever!!!!
    HAve a wonderful day!!!!!!
    Tons of love and kisses!!!!
    Can’t wait to hear from you again!!!

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  20. Brett says:

    Great info here. Time and patience are the keys.

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