The 3-3-3 Rule for Adopting a Pet

2023 was a wonderful year for adoptions, with hundreds of animals finding homes and starting new lives full of love and companionship! As a new year begins with new pets seeking homes, we want to share the 3-3-3 Rule for adopting pets. Before explaining further, we would like to emphasize that this is a general guideline, as there, unfortunately, isn’t a magical timeline for when all pets will acclimate to their new homes. 

Some furriends will make themselves at home the second they burst through the door. Other pets, the majority, will need an adjustment period before fully understanding that they are “home”. When adopting, please be mindful of the fact that your new furrever friend is going through a massive change. It takes time, but we promise they’re worth the wait!

Decompress with success

Planning ahead for your best pal’s arrival, a timeframe when you will be home and able to bond with them is best – even if it’s simply the weekend. When you bring a new companion home, it’s crucial that they have their own space to decompress. Introductions to their new environment and new animals immediately can be detrimental to their acclimation. This would ideally be a room (bathroom, guest room, etc) with their litterbox, food, toys, and bed while they get used to the new space. Asking the shelter what food your pal has been eating in their care can help keep their diet consistent and prevent an upset stomach in the early days, where stress can already disrupt their digestion. It is always an option to transition them to a food of your choosing, and we will happily give you enough of the food they’re used to for a transition! During this decompression period, take your new companion’s lead as their comfort and trust build.

Routines & realizations

 Around 3 weeks is when we typically see pets settling in and learning your daily routines. It is important that these routines are established from the start. These smart sweeties will generally pick up rather quickly when their meal times are, when their new companions return home from work, and when everyone settles in for the night. However, keep in mind that many shelter pets will have lived other lives where their routines were likely different or simply didn’t exist. The kindest thing you can do for your new friends is be consistent and give them grace as they learn. Once the decompression stage has passed, you will start to see more of their personality and behavioral habits. This is a time to discover your new furriends’ likes and dislikes, boundaries, and their unique traits! 

Home is furrever

The third three in the 3-3-3 rule… try saying that three times fast! This is when your new companion is beginning to feel comfortable and building a true bond with their people. Part of this bond is gaining a sense of security with the realization that they are finally in their furrever home. Keep in mind that many shelter pets have either lost the only home they ever knew or they never had one to miss in the first place, which is why this phase can be the longest of the three. If you have pets in the home that they were introduced to, this is generally when they will also realize that their new furry friend is here to stay and be best buddies… or at least co-exist! If they’re insistent on simply co-existing or tolerating each other, it’s important they have a space where they can get away from each other. When it comes to cats and dogs adjusting to each other, baby gates can be a magical tool to allow your kitty to have a dog-free vacation quickly and easily! 

If there’s one idea from this we hope you hold onto and share with others, it’s that it doesn’t happen overnight.  Some pets will acclimate faster than others based on their experiences, and some will require all the patience and compassion you can give them. If you’re considering adopting a new companion, talk with your local shelter about what you need in a companion, and what they need from you. We’re happy to help because we promise they’re worth it!