by Sarah Woodard, Authoress and Healer
Rescue pets are wonderful! They bring joy to our lives and rescuing them saves lives. I’m very much an advocate of #adoptdontshop.
My years as an animal communicator and healer have taught me that most rescue animals also come with some emotional baggage, and it’s up to us as pet parents to help them through it.
Whether you’ve just adopted your pet or they’ve been with you for a long time, here’s what they’d like you to know. Plus, some tips on how you can help them get comfortable.
1. Thank you!
Every rescue animal is deeply grateful to have a safe, loving home. They may not know how to show you yet, but they have a heartfelt gratitude that will never diminish.
How you can help: Know that they’re grateful and they don’t mean to misbehave. Keep that in mind as you interact with them.
2. I’m scared.
Moving to a new home, no matter how loving it is, is scary. It may take them months to understand the household routine, “unpack,” and settle into their new living space.
How you can help: Talk to them. Think of this as having a conversation with a young child. “Good morning ____. How did you sleep?” “Hey buddy. What should we watch on TV tonight?” They’ll understand you, even though you won’t hear an answer. It will also help them feel more connected to you. And if you use these one-sided conversations to explain the daily routine, they’ll pick up on it quicker. Be sure to get down to their level and look them in the eye when you talk to them.
3. I have trust issues.
Many rescue pets have had bad experiences with people. They may be distrustful of only one gender, or they may have generalized trust issues as a result. Even though they’re struggling to trust you and their new home, they’re also struggling to trust they won’t be abandoned again.
How you can help: First, know that any behavioral issues likely come from their past experiences. Be patient. Second, tell them what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. When you leave the room, tell them where you’re going and that you’ll be right back. When you leave them home alone, tell them where you’re going and what time you’ll be home. Again, get down to their level and look them in the eye.
4. I’m nervous.
Sadly, many rescue animals are worried they’ll be brought back to the shelter or to the scary situation they lived in before. Part of this is because they’re so grateful they’re also afraid of losing their new, safe home. Sometimes, this is also because they’ve been brought back to the shelter by homes that turned out not to be a great fit. It happens, and there’s no shame in that.
How you can help: Remind them every morning when you get up and every night before bed that you love them and that you’ll never give them up or hurt them. Give them a kiss or hug if they’ll tolerate that. If they’re not into that level of affection, a pat or a treat works too.
5. I don’t mean to be bad.
All of these big feelings can lead to some behaviors that are frustrating for pet moms and dads. Peeing in inappropriate places, biting, clawing, scratching, whining, hair pulling, etc. Unless your safety or the safety of other family member’s is at risk, try to be patient and work through them. Remember, they all stem from past traumas and big feelings.
How you can help: Gently correct them when they do something wrong. Even though they don’t mean it, consequences help them learn the house rules. Depending on the severity of their anxiety and the behaviors, it may help to speak with a vet and get them some anxiety medicine, at least temporarily. You can also try holistic treatments such as Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM), Reiki, Shamanic healing, etc. to help ease the feelings driving these behaviors.
6. I’m confused.
Often, rescue pets have been moved around more than once in a short period of time. This can leave them confused about where home is as well as unsure how long home actually lasts.
How you can help: During play time and meal time, remind them that they’re home now. If you move, they’ll come with you. If you have a child, adopt another furry kid, or have other life changes, they’re still safe and home with you. (If you can’t make them this promise, please don’t adopt a pet.)
7. I’m angry.
Despite being grateful to you for rescuing them, rescue pets are sometimes angry too. Not with you! They’re angry because they’ve had to leave a place they considered home, even if it was not a loving home. They’re angry because they left behind an animal friend that you don’t even know about. They’re angry because that’s an easy emotion to feel and express instead of looking deeper.
How you can help: Be patient. Don’t respond to their angry behaviors with more of your own. Instead, offer them an outlet. A place to run, chew toys they can destroy, etc. Also, create a “safe zone” in your house for them. This can be a room, a crate, anything that’s their space. Anything in it they can bit, claw, rip apart, etc. And when they’re in their safe space, leave them alone. It’s a place they can retreat to when they’re afraid. Show them this space and explain it to them.
8. I love you.
Every rescue pet loves their new family. They may not know how to show it appropriately because they were never taught that. It’s up to you to teach them.
How you can help: Training classes or working with a private trainer are always a good idea. You can also provide gentle correction, behavior modification, and praise as appropriate to help them learn the house rules. Yes, cat parents, it works with them, too!
If you’d like to know more about what’s going on with your rescue pet, or any pet, connect with an animal communicator.
About the Author
I am an author, Certified Shamanic Practitioner, Reiki Master Teacher, vegan, cat mom, and animal communicator. I use my gifts to help pets and their people live the happiest, best lives possible. I work with pet families across the country using photos and email. I have helped countless pets overcome trauma, adjust to new lives after adoption, and cope with life changes. I happily provide feedback to pet parents about their pet’s potential medical conditions (please consult a vet for diagnosis and treatment), feelings, likes, dislikes, etc. I’m also proud to provide closure for pet parent’s whose furry family is on the other side of the rainbow bridge.