Giving an adopted pet time to decompress is important

Animal shelter
Homeless dog behind bars in an animal shelter
Adobe Stock

Imagine moving, the stress, getting to know your new neighbors, the neighborhood and the new rules that the people in that neighborhood follow.

This is what your new dog or cat is feeling after being adopted from the shelter. Add on the stress of a crowded facility along with the others.

These animals’ backgrounds are mostly unknown, especially with the strays.

Many of the quirks that we do find here are all that we know about the dog or cat. They could be completely different in a home setting, after a couple weeks to months to decompress.

The amount of time an animal needs to decompress from the shelter environment truly depends on the dog or cat’s temperament, age and the length of time that they stayed in the facility.


For example, the dogs are let out on a strict schedule here. If they are adjusted to this, they may have accidents at home if they are not taken out like the schedule here.

Puppies and kittens seem to adjust extremely quickly in a home setting, but those older cats and dogs seem to have much more of a difficult time getting used to the new routine and family members.

We have shy cats and dogs present all the time that will require a patient home and allow them to decompress and truly blossom once they are comfortable.

We have a two-week trial period for all adopters, but keep in mind, an animal is not completely comfortable with the new routine for a much longer period of time. It could take up to three months).

This is something that all adopters will need to consider before adopting a new family member.

Holly Packman is the cat manager for the Headwaters Animal Shelter. She can be reached at

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