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Adoption Resources


Here are additional resources you can utilize and refer to when adopting a pet from the York County SPCA, including:

  • Understanding common diseases
  • Adoption aftercare
  • Knowing how to help your new pet properly decompress and settle into their new home

Below are downloadable PDF versions of these resources:


Tips for Bringing a Shelter Dog Home

Reward Your Dog

Dogs learn by association. Reward your dog's good behavior with treats and praise. Don't reward bad behavior. Never punish or scold them, just ignore it. Your dog will soon start to associate the good behavior with rewards.

Be Consistent

Don't let a puppy get away with things you don't want them to when they're older. Make sure all the family enforces the same rules so that your dog doesn't get confused.

Be Positive

Don't train your dog when either of you are tired. If you're not enjoying the training, neither will your dog. Always be friendly and positive. End every training session on a happy note with praise and petting.

Have Patience

Don't have unrealistic expectations. You're much more likely to remain patient if you don't set your sights too high when starting out. Enjoy the training process.

Remember the 3-3-3 Rule

It takes 3 DAYS for your new dog to decompress, meaning they may experience a lot of emotions in this new environment. They may feel scared, nervous, overwhelmed, and/or stressed. Many shelter dogs experience a lot of change in a short period of time -- from being a stray to coming into a whole new facility at our shelter with new people, animals, smells, and noises and then moving again into a new home, for example. Have patience and give them their space when they first come home for them to adjust how they feel comfortable to.

It takes 3 WEEKS for them to start learning your routine and settling in. You will begin to see their personality traits come out as they feel more and more comfortable in their new home. 

It takes 3 MONTHS for them to start to feel at home. Around the 3-month mark, they will begin to build trust and a true bond. They will gain a complete sense of security with their new family.


Tips for Bringing a Shelter Cat Home

At First, Keep Your Cat Separated

Please keep your new cat separated in their own room for at least 10 - 14 days. A spare bedroom, bathroom, or the laundry room are all great options. Make sure that the cat knows where their food, water, and litterbox are. To make the transition easier, use Feliway to calm your new cat or Cat Attract to attract cats and kittens to use the litter pan.

Introduction to Your Other Pets

When first introducing your new cat to other animals in the home, baby gates can be a useful tool. This way, they can see but not get to each other to become familiar. Scent swapping is another way to help your animals acclimate to each other. Try exchanging towels, blankets, or beds so they can get used to each other's scent. It is also helpful for cats that are shy or leerier of people, to leave something with your scent on it with them such as an article of clothing that has been worn.

Getting Used to Your Presence

Let your new cat get used to your presence by coexisting with them. Reading out loud while in the room is a good way to acclimate the cat to you. If they hide, please do not pull them out. Go to them, or let them come to you. Patience is key.

Exploring the Rest of Your House

Eventually, your cat will be ready to explore the rest of the house after initially settling in. Some ways to know that your new cat is ready to be introduced to the whole house are if they are greeting you when you enter the room and if they are no longer hiding, seeming comfortable in the new space.

Understanding Common Feline Diseases

FeLV: Feline Leukemia Virus

  • Viral infection only contagious among cats.
  • Spread through the saliva of an infected cat, usually from normal social behaviors like grooming and sharing food/water bowls (EASY TO SPREAD).
  • Should either live in a house with no other cats, only FeLV positive cats, or cats vaccinated for FeLV (at the owner’s risk, as the vaccine is not 100% effective).
  • Many cats live reasonably normal lives as long as precautions are made to protect them from wounds, parasites, and other infections since their immune system is suppressed. A smaller degree of cats may develop chronic respiratory infections, chronic dental disease, bone marrow issues, or certain types of cancer at a younger age.
  • Some cats can either completely eliminate the virus from their system or decrease the load enough that it remains dormant and does not cause issues.

FIV: Feline Immunodeficiency Virus

  • Viral infection only contagious among cats.
  • Spread through saliva into deep wounds – through bites (NOT easy to spread).
  • Can live in a house with FIV negative cats as long as no aggression/fighting.
  • NO longer referred to as feline AIDS.
  • Many cats live reasonably normal lives as long as precautions are made to protect them from wounds, parasites, and other infections since their immune system is suppressed. A smaller degree of cats may develop chronic respiratory infections, chronic dental disease, bone marrow issues, or certain types of cancer at a younger age.

FIP: Feline Infectious Peritonitis

  • Feline Infectious Peritonitis is a mutation of a coronavirus. Coronavirus itself is a self-limiting intestinal virus in cats that causes mild diarrhea and goes away on its own. It is spread through the feces.
  • Studies show that up to 90% of cats are positive for coronavirus in densely housed populations, such as shelters. Meaning, the majority of our cat population has or has had coronavirus at some point.
  • In some cats, especially young cats, the virus mutates into FIP. FIP can present itself in different ways, but it is a fatal disease.
  • If a cat develops FIP, it does not mean the other cats in their house will develop FIP. At the point of diagnosis of one cat, their other cats have already been exposed to coronavirus and it is all dependent on their own body whether it will mutate into FIP.
  • A cat with FIP cannot directly spread FIP to another cat.
  • FIP can sometimes be hard to diagnose because cats often do not start showing signs until it has progressed to a severe point - at which time it will seem like the cat is declining quickly. There is not one test for FIP; it is based on several factors and physical exam findings.
  • We have a protocol in place to decrease the incidence of FIP in our shelter as much as we can.
  • Currently there is not an approved treatment in the U.S., however, an experimental drug protocol has shown success.

Panleukopenia: AKA Distemper or Feline Parvovirus

  • Panleukopenia is VERY CONTAGIOUS among cats.
  • This is a viral disease that attacks the intestinal lining and the bone marrow – causing very bad dehydration, diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, and a weakened immune system.
  • It can be a fatal disease. If caught early and the cat is strong enough, they can sometimes survive with supportive care.
  • Cats positive for panleukopenia need to be kept separate from other cats until several weeks after resolution of signs because they are still contagious that long.
  • The feline “distemper” vaccine is very protective against this.

Additional Trusted Resources




Feline Panleukopenia


How to Properly Care for Your Rabbit

Step 1: Set Up Safe Indoor Housing

There are several options to house rabbits inside. They can live free reign in a bunny-proofed room/rooms, or they can be contained within a puppy pen, bunny condo, or large rabbit cage. If contained, their space should always be large enough so they can hop around, and they should be let out of their pen for at least a few hours every day for exercise.

Make sure the primary location of your rabbit is not isolated from you and your family. A family room or living room is a good place.

Step 2: Bunny Proof Your House

Rabbits need space to run around and explore. In order to create a safe space for your bunny and to protect your belongings, you will need to thoroughly bunny proof the area. This includes covering all wires with plastic sleeves or flex tubing or lifting them 3-4 feet out of reach of your rabbit.

If you don’t want your baseboards gnawed, you can cover them with plastic guards, 2x4s, or furring strips. You’ll also have to block off certain areas since rabbits like to chew the undersides of beds, items on bookshelves, house plants, and more. Basically, your rabbit will try to chew everything in reach.

Step 3: Provide Fresh Hay

A rabbit’s diet should mainly consist of hay. Fresh hay should be provided at all times. Baby rabbits should be given alfalfa, and adult rabbits should be fed timothy hay, grass hay, or oat hay.

Using a large hay feeder is helpful because it keeps large amounts of hay dry, clean, and accessible.

Step 4: Provide Fresh Greens, Fiber-Rich Pellets, & Fresh Water

Supplement your rabbit’s hay with fresh vegetables, fiber-rich pellets (in limited quantities for adult rabbits), and fresh water daily.

Step 5: Set Up a Litter Box

Rabbits have a natural inclination to poop and pee in one area. Take advantage of this by setting up a medium-sized cat litter box or shallow storage bin near their food/water bowls and hay feeder.

Put a thin layer of rabbit-safe, recycled newspaper pellet litter at the bottom of the litter box. Do not use clay/clumping cat litter or wood shavings, as they are not safe for rabbits. Then, put hay on top of the litter. Rabbits like to eat hay and poop at the same time, so this will encourage good litter box habits.

Step 6: Provide Enrichment

Rabbits can get bored easily. Not only do they need space to exercise, but they also need mental stimulation. Cardboard castles/boxes are great because rabbits spend hours chewing new windows and doorways. Cardboard castles also provide a quiet refuge for the rabbit when necessary. You can also provide a variety of toys for your rabbit to pique his or her interest.

Step 7: Groom Your Rabbit

Rabbits are naturally clean animals and wash themselves frequently, but you still need to groom your rabbit on a regular basis. Rabbits go through shedding cycles a couple times a year. It’s important to brush your rabbit to remove all the excess fur. Otherwise, your rabbit could ingest it and have serious digestive issues. Regular nail clipping is also important because long nails can get snagged on things or they can curl into your rabbit’s paw.

Step 8: Bring Your Rabbit to a Rabbit-Savvy Vet

Rabbits are prey animals, and so their natural instinct is to hide any symptoms of illness. You must keep a watchful eye to ensure your rabbit is eating, drinking, pooping, and peeing regularly. If you notice any change in behavior, it is important to call your veterinarian immediately. In addition to responding to illness, it is also essential to bring your rabbit in for regular veterinary checkups. The vet can check the ears, eyes, teeth, and gut to make sure the rabbit is in good health.

How to Properly Care for Your Hamster

Step 1: Picking a Cage

The ideal hamster home is as big as you can make it, full of deep bedding (4-6”+) to burrow in and lots of enrichment. Wire-top cages with solid plastic bottoms or aquarium tanks with wire lids are best. Minimum floor space is often cited as 450 sq. inches, the same as a 20-gallon long tank. A longer cage is preferred over a tall one. As a bonus, bigger cages fit more fun activities for your hamster and do not need to be cleaned as often! Try to avoid module cages with lots of tubes, as these are harder to clean and hamsters can chew the plastic or become stuck in the tubes. For an affordable option, you can convert a large storage tub into a hamster home!

Step 2: What to Include

Hamsters are most active overnight, so their cages should provide everything they need to stay busy while you’re asleep. Every hamster habitat should have deep bedding to nest and burrow in, a solid (not wire) exercise wheel, hide boxes, food, a water bottle, and plenty of toys to chew, climb, and explore. Bedding can be made of unscented paper, hemp, aspen, or spruce, and will need fluffing up periodically. Wheels must be 10-12” in diameter to prevent injury—large enough the hamster’s back doesn't curve while running on it. Some safe chew options include natural wood, grass balls, unsalted walnut shell, cork logs, pinecones, cardboard, lava rock, and hard Whimzees dog chews! Experiment to see what your hamster likes best, but offer a variety.

Step 3: Diet

Hamsters are omnivores and require diversity in their diet. Feeding a combination of lab block and seed mix is recommended. Lab blocks are nutritionally complete but “boring” to the hamster, whereas seed mixes are natural and exciting, but a picky hamster can choose which parts to eat and ignore the rest. Consider serving some or all of your hamster’s food in the forage or ‘scatter’ style by spreading it around the cage and hiding pieces for your hamster to find. This more closely mimics their natural feeding behavior and keeps their mind and body active! Hamsters will appreciate small amounts of extra protein, vegetables, and fruits in addition to their seeds and pellet.


Step 4: Cleaning

Hamsters are organized animals and prefer to pick one spot to do the majority of their business. Remove spots of soiled bedding and droppings daily. Expect to replace all soiled bedding with fresh bedding every week or so depending on the size of the enclosure. The entire cage should receive a thorough clean once a month with mild soap and water or diluted vinegar. Hamsters have very sensitive respiratory systems and cannot handle most commercial cleaning products, so be sure to pick something gentle and allow the cage to dry completely before moving the hamster back in.

Step 5: Handling

Do not wake up your hamster while they’re sleeping to play—they may startle and bite. Wait until the evening hours for your hamster to become active before handling. When lifting a hamster, cup your hands on either side of their body and scoop. Always keep a hand under them to support their hind end. Go slow with your new hamster to build trust. If you want your hamster to enjoy time with you as much as you enjoy them, respect their space and don’t force them. Adding some tasty treats into your handling sessions won’t hurt either!

Step 6: Health

A number of common health issues can be prevented by reducing stress on your hamster and providing proper husbandry. Short bouts of diarrhea can be caused by overfeeding vegetables and fruits, so take care to introduce new food slowly and keep portions small. If you are sick, avoid handling your hamster, as they can catch some illnesses from us! Watch out for signs of respiratory sickness like sneezing, clicking, heavy breathing, runny eyes and nose, and general unwellness. Pay attention to your hamster’s energy level and appetite. As your hamster ages, they are more likely to develop tumors, much like people. Always check with a small animal vet if you’re concerned about any changes in appearance or behavior.