Help with a Recent Adoption

If you have adopted a cat/kitten:

Preparation & Patience Are Key

There’s often a transition period for you, your new pet, and other animals living in your home. It can take anywhere from two days to two months for you and your pet to adapt to each other. Here are some tips to ensure a smooth transition and a happy homecoming:

Plan your cat’s arrival

Try to arrange the arrival of your new pet for a weekend or when you can be home for a few days. This will allow the pet to adjust to his new surroundings much faster. Get to know each other and spends some quality time together. Don’t forget your other pets and people in your home, too! It’s often best to keep the new pet in a quiet room the first several days and away from other pets in the home. Let them get used to each other’s smell through a door. 

Coming home

You may already know this, but cats hate to travel. For the trip home, confine your pet in a sturdy cat carrier. Don’t leave him loose in your car, where he might panic and cause an accident, or escape when you open the car door. He may howl, cry, and use his herculean muscles to try and escape, but don’t give in. He’s much safer in the carrier until he has reached his new home.

Arrived home

After the ride home, your cat, will likely be tired from the ordeal and won’t be in the mood for fun. To ease the transition, select a quiet room where he can hide until his catches his breath and is more comfortable. If necessary, sit on the floor next to him, offer him treats and some light conversation. Let him sniff all your belongings and investigate all the hiding places.

 cat hiding in the cat tree

Gather the necessities your cat will need

  • You’ll need a breakaway collar
  • ID tag
  • Food and water bowls
  • Litter box, litter and scoop
  • Toys

If you have adopted a dog/puppy:

Plan your dog’s arrival

Ideally, your new dog will be arriving during a time when you will be home for a few days and be able to establish a routine. Plan for a space for the dog to eat and to relax in advance, and have those spaces ready when the dog arrives with the volunteers for adoption. If you are going to use a crate, have it ready and looking inviting. Welcome your new family with treats and equip all persons in the home with some for a friendly greeting.

Arriving, and the first few days

When our Happy Tails volunteers finalize the adoption and leave, often times the dog will be concerned and look for their foster to return. Try to read the dog’s body language, and provide a positive distraction such as treats or playtime. If you have a yard, try a walk around the yard with a leash to get used to you, the yard, and walking with new family members. Reward good potty habits right away with praise and a treat.

Go slow, be patient, and allow the dog to explore the home one room at a time. Close off areas of the home that present easy hiding options, are cluttered, or where there are valued items such as a child’s favorite toy that you may not want to be mistaken for a dog toy. Allow the dog to acclimate to your home and the human residents at a comfortable pace. New people should avoid bending over the dog, or extending a hand with open fingers to “sniff”. Instruct family or friends to remain upright and just allow the first few hours to be at the dog’s pace. For the first few days, set a routine for food, potty breaks, walks, playtime and bedtime. Many dogs will start to settle in in approximately three days to a few weeks.

What to expect for housetraining

Some dogs take longer than others to understand where it is appropriate to pee or poop and where it is not, as well as when to expect to be let out or take for a walk. Use positive reinforcement techniques and reward success. Some males may benefit from wearing a belly band until they understand that marking inside is not OK. Allow a full week or so for a new dog to learn. Reach out for help if you get frustrated!


Happy Tails highly recommends professional dog training, at least a few sessions, for all dogs regardless of breed or age. Learning how to effectively communicate with your dog will benefit everyone in your household. There is no such thing as a dog, or a person, too old to learn new tricks from a great trainer. Involve all persons in the household in training routines, especially ones the dog may seem wary of. Breaking through fear barriers involves building trust, and patience. 

man hugging his dog

Gather the necessities your dog will need

  • A secure collar
  • ID tag with your phone number
  • Leash
  • High quality food and water bowls
  • Training treats
  • Bed
woman petting her dog and cat

Be patient and enjoy your new companion

Please be patient as your new pet eases into a new home. Life with you will be a different experience for your new companion, so give them time to adjust and you will soon have a new best friend. Remember, you can always call or email Happy Tails for advice. We are here to help ensure the transition is smooth for you both!

You've tried everything and your pet still isn't settling in?

Please call Happy Tails at 916.556.1155 or email
A Happy Tails animal can be returned to us at any time. Please contact us if you are planning on surrendering a Happy Tails animal. In fact, our adoption contract requires that an adopter must return an unwanted animal in order to protect our animals from agencies or facilities where an animal may be euthanized. If you are returning a dog, please allow time for us to find a foster home. Contact us when you make the decision to return, and we will do everything we can to find a place. Sometimes this is within a day or so, but for some it may take longer.