There are many myths around animals from shelters. It seems to some that they are calm and grateful, to others that they are unpredictable and dangerous. We talked with the owner of the cats and the dog from the shelter about how their adaptation went. We also found out from experts what features animals have after a shelter and why it is not easier with them than with pets from breeders.
When I was 17, I really wanted to get a cat. I didn’t care how we got him. Mom offered to take a cat from a shelter and sent a link to the Nika shelter. I began to flip through the site and came across the story of the black cat Tony. He was already an adult, he lived with his mistress for a long time, and when she died, the “good relatives” threw the animal out into the street. I was inspired by this story, and my mother and I took this cat.
We didn’t have any problems adapting Tony. I think this is due to the fact that he lived all his life at home with a loving mistress. The cat was accustomed to the tray and understood what could and could not be done at home. A year later, my mother and I decided to adopt another cat. And it wasn’t easy for her.
The cat was about two years old. She was completely street by the time she got to the shelter. When I first saw her, she was very downtrodden, scared. When we brought her home, she did not understand at all how to behave there. The first three months were especially difficult. The cat – we named her Yuki – did not understand how to live at home. She hid behind the desk, under the sofa, climbed onto the refrigerator and sat there, refused to go to the tray, avoided us. Even with kittens it is easier, because at least they are small. If the kitten climbs where it is not supposed to, then you can pick it up, somehow stop it. And we already had an adult cat: she scratched when we tried to take care of her, comb out or trim her claws. She also hissed, infrequently, but unpredictably.
It was a difficult time, but I understood that the cat should be given time to get used to it, no need to put pressure on it. Mom and I lured her with sweets and tried to hold her in our arms at least a little, so that she would understand that our hands only bring her good. Gradually her behavior changed. After a couple of months, Yuki got used to the tray. And after six months, she stopped being afraid of us, she began to come to her arms herself, to allow herself to be stroked and scratched.
At first, Yuki avoided Tony. He was very calm: he did not approach her, did not chase her. And over time, they became friends, slept in a ball and walked around the apartment all the time together.
The most difficult time is the first days after the shelter. The pet can close, hide and not make contact, ignore the tray, not eat, not go to the toilet. Moving to a new environment is stressful, and each animal deals with it differently. The adaptation period can last from three days to several months. At the same time, there are cats and cats that immediately feel at home in a new place. The behavior of an animal after a shelter is very individual.
If the animal is hiding, do not lure it out, forcibly pull it out of the shelter. Better to just leave him alone. Over time, curiosity will overcome fear, and at least at night the cat will begin to go out, explore new possessions, and eat.
Ignoring the tray and hissing is a protest. I would advise keeping a hissing cat in a separate room and avoiding direct contact with other tailed ones. Cats do not always easily converge with other relatives. They need time to get used to someone else’s smell, and also to realize that they will not have restrictions in food, water, attention.
I was prepared for the fact that it would not be easy. I understood that the animal is my responsibility, you can’t play and give it back. Although there were moments of impotence. For example, I could have a hard day, and when I came home, I saw that the cat was misbehaving. Then thoughts arose: “Yes, why do I need all this?” But then I calmed down.
I never seriously considered the idea of taking the cat back, although there is such a possibility – to return the animal. I read the stories of animals that were returned several times, I felt so sorry for them.
Animals are rarely returned, but it does happen. This usually happens if the owners, faced with difficulties, are not ready to solve them.
With any animal, from a shelter or from a breeder, you need to deal with. Both a puppy and a grown dog can have behavioral problems – everyone needs care and upbringing. If there are serious problems, you can contact a cynologist or zoopsychologist. When an animal is taken from a shelter, employees warn about it.
Adaptation is required for any animal, no matter where it comes from to a new home. At first, the animal will need to get comfortable. And the owner himself during this period, it is important to remain calm and patient.
In 2019, my mother and I began to live separately, the cats stayed with me. In 2020, during the quarantine period, I saw on the social networks of the Wet Nose shelter that a pug was brought to them. I have had a love for this breed since childhood, pugs are very cute. And when I saw this dog, I immediately decided that it was mine.
Chloe turned out to be an easy character, she is very contact. But the previous owners obviously looked after her incorrectly. The dog had problems with teeth, with hind legs, cystitis. When I picked up Chloe, the shelter told me about it and gave me a list of diagnoses. So I knew what I was signing up for. I took responsibility for the animal, for providing him with the necessary care and treatment.
Treatment was not cheap. Giving medication to a dog was also not the most pleasant and easy thing to do. I cured Chloe after the shelter, but over time she needed surgery again due to other age-related problems. But no animal can be permanently healthy, I understood that. My close friends have a dog from a breeder, and they also had to spend a lot of money on its treatment.
The first time during walks, Chloe was very barking at other dogs. I corrected this behavior: reacted to barking, tried to stop her. Now she is much calmer. Even at first, she begged a lot from the table, began to howl, whine. I didn’t let her into the kitchen, I ignored her. Over time, she did not stop begging, but now she does it without a sound, just looks at me with sad eyes.
Probably, it is possible to re-educate an already adult animal and make an ideal trained dog out of it, but you need to devote your whole life to this. I wasn’t ready to do just that. Yes, this was not necessary, I had enough dog friend.
In fact, a shelter dog is not some special animal with a standard set of characteristics.
Dogs from shelters are somewhat similar: they often have learned helplessness, sometimes they feel awkward in society and our sophisticated infrastructure with cars, elevators and stairs. However, shelter dogs are dogs first and foremost, and just like people, they are very, very different: cowardly and self-confident, slow and hyperactive, with different experiences of interacting with people and animals.
Usually people choose a particular dog, talk to it and its handler – the person who is in charge of it at the shelter – and have enough information to make a relatively informed decision and not end up with a pig in a poke. If so, a dog from a shelter ceases to be somehow significantly different from a dog from any other environment. And treat it like a dog.
A person who has taken a dog from a shelter may face all the same difficulties that he would face if he took a dog from a kennel or simply from his hands to Avito. Barking at noise, begging, uncleanliness, destructive behavior, tight leash, disobedience, fear of hygiene are universal challenges faced by dog owners, regardless of their origin.
It should be borne in mind that there may not be difficulties with adaptation if people approach the issue consciously and with an understanding of the characteristics of the canine species. To do this, you should know in advance, for example, that dogs are pack animals and do not know how to stay alone at home. To leave your dog alone at home for the first time, you need to exercise it daily for several weeks. That is, you have to take a vacation and devote the first couple of weeks of your life together to the adaptation of the dog. And this is true for a free dog from a shelter, and for a puppy for a hundred thousand from a breeder.
If difficulties arise, they can be solved with the help of specialists or independently. And the solution of these very difficulties will also go according to plan, regardless of the origin of the dog.