Culture shock for pets

Source:Global Times Published: 2016-2-29 19:03:01

Dogs and cats moving to another country also face adjustment issues

Experts say animals usually have difficulties blending into the new environment during the first months after they get to a foreign country. Photo: IC

Kublai Khan, a three-year-old Beijing-born and raised terrier mix, moved to Germany from Beijing a week ago, with his owner Ernest Thornton. And like expected, the dog has shown a few cultural adjustment issues since arriving in the new country.

"Kublai Khan weighs around 10 kilograms, but Germans usually raise large dogs like Labradors and greyhounds, so they are much bigger than Kublai Khan, and they can be rough when they play, so he becomes shy," Thornton said.

"He either hides behind me or lays on the ground and shows his belly," Thornton laughed.

Another adjustment issue Kublai Khan showed is unfamiliarity with his new neighborhood.

"He runs around and smells everything for a long time everyday. I can't let him out of my sight for one second in case he runs away," Thornton said.

Mary Peng, CEO of the International Center for Veterinary Services, said that like people, pets moving to another country face adjustment issues with new food, water and their neighborhoods. This is even more obvious in cats, since they are more sensitive and less dependent on their owners, so the owner can't always soothe them.

The general adjustment issues for pets, according to Peng, include jet lag. During the first couple of months, pets might still live according to the rhythms of their old time zone.

Pets also have a hard time getting used to their new environment. There are many unfamiliar objects, scents and sounds in their new homes. This can cause pets to become overexcited or tired.

Charlotte Landwehr, who moved to Berlin a year ago with her cat Bella, said that during the first two months, Belle acted anxiously and skittishly toward strangers. Every time the doorbell rang, Bella would jump or hide under the bed.

Peng said in those cases, the owners should give the pets some time to get used to the new environment, and expect the animals to get excited or hide.

In some cases, cultural adjustment issues lead to tragic incidents. Peng said that she has seen many indoor and outdoor pets get lost or hurt in an accident in their new countries.

"The traffic in Beijing is pretty slow, normally 30 miles an hour. However, in European countries, the cars go as fast as 60 miles an hour. Some of my clients had tragic incidents because their pets are not familiar with their new environment," Peng said.

Landwehr did a pretty good job helping Bella to get used to the new neighborhood.

Bella was an indoor cat in Beijing, but in Germany, since they have a yard and the neighborhood is quiet, Landwehr decided to let Belle go outside.

"I didn't just let her go outside immediately, I leash trained her for three months to show her the yard and the new environment. When I let her off the leash, she would run 100 to 300 meters and return. Then I let her off the leash and opened the door to let her out," Landwehr said.

Another common adjustment issue for pets is food. Bella, for example, had this problem. Bella didn't eat most kinds of food in Germany. The food she ate caused her to vomit and have diarrhea.

The problem lasted for 9 months, until Landwehr changed her diet to high meat with no grain.

"The food adjustment issue can be very dangerous for pets. If they don't eat for a long time, they might get liver problems and die," Peng said.

"I suggest owners bring some of their old food to the new country, and mix the old food with new food at first to let pets get used to it," she said.

Posted in: Intel

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