Are you considering adding another furry companion to your family? If so, have you thought about how your new pet will interact with your current ones? Introducing a new pet into the family is always exciting, but it’s important to make sure that the pets you already have are prepared for the new addition. This will help ensure a smooth transition.
Determining your approach
Animals are like people in that each one has his own temperament. Most likely, you already have a strong understanding of how your current pet behaves around strangers, deals with stress and handles uncertainty — as you do with any member of your family. Use this information to determine the best approach to take when introducing your new pet to your current one. For instance, if your current pet does not like sharing his toys, make sure each of your pets has his favorite toy handy during the introduction, so the two pets are not competing for the same toy during the transition.
When choosing which introduction approach to use, you should take other factors into consideration as well, such as the breed, age and sex of your pets. All these factors inform how one animal will react to the other. For example, a 9-year-old cat that has never shared her home with other animals might never acclimate to sharing her home with a new pet. In contrast, a kitten that has been separated from the rest of her litter might welcome another animal to keep her company.
Examples of Introduction Techniques
Again, there are several techniques you can try when introducing a new pet to your current one. Use your knowledge of your current and new pets to choose the one that’s right for your furry friends. Here are a few techniques you can try:
- Confinement. Keep your new and current pets in different rooms for several days or even a couple of weeks until they acclimate to each other’s scent. Make sure that each animal has a place to go to the bathroom (e.g., a litter box), a food bowl and a water bowl, in each room. Feed each pet on either side of a closed door, again, in separate rooms. Put their food bowls close enough to the door to allow each animal to smell the other. Continue feeding them in this manner, slowly moving the bowls closer to the door each time you feed them. Eventually, you can open the door, so the two animals are eating side by side. If they are able to eat calmly while standing next to each other, they should be able to get along. Another option is to keep each pet in an animal crate that are placed next to each other, giving the animals time to get used to each other’s scent.
- The Switcheroo. While keeping your animals in separate rooms, swap the blankets that each of your animals uses. Another option is to gently rub a cloth on one animal’s cheeks and put in under the food dish of the other. When the animals eventually meet, their scents will be familiar to each other.
- Neutral Territory. If possible, introduce your new and current pet to each other in a neutral space, such as a park (that you don’t usually frequent) or a neighbor’s yard. Using a neutral territory for your introduction will make your resident pet less likely to view your new pet as an intruder. If you are introducing two dogs to each other, make sure that each dog is on a leash and handled by a separate person.
Understanding your Animals' Cues
Animals use body postures and sounds to communicate their feelings. For instance, if one dog crouches with his hind end in the air and his front legs on the ground, he is inviting the other dog to play. This is a positive sign and typically elicits friendly behavior from the other animal.
However, if the hair on the back of your dog or cat is standing up, that animal is reacting aggressively, and you should calmly distract the animals until you can move them away from each other. Likewise, any growling or hissing sounds from either animal indicates aggression and stress.
It is important to remember that not every animal will be compatible. If your introduction does not go smoothly the first time, try again, slowly, at a later date. If several introductions still do not work, contact your veterinarian for help. He or she can provide useful information or resources to help your new and current pets make a smooth transition.
Pet proofing your home
Introducing your new pet to your current one is only a single part of the equation relating to taking a new pet home. You also have to make sure your new pet is comfortable in your home, which is a foreign environment to the animal. Like humans, animals can experience high levels of stress when placed in a foreign environment.
Pet proofing your home will alleviate some of the stress new animals feel in a foreign place. To do so, use childproof latches on the cabinets and doors that your new pet can easily access, to help prevent them from prying open dangerous cabinets and drawers. Place cleaners, chemicals and medicines on high shelves. Keep trash containers covered, closed or inside a latched cabinet. Move dangling cords and wires out of reach. Finally, keep an eye out for any tails, paws or noses when you scoot your chair or shut a door, to keep from accidentally hurting your pet.
If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask your vet.