Are you ready to add a new pet to your household? Is your current pet ready? They may be delighted to have a new friend, or they may resent the disruption to their normal routine. Slow introductions and realistic expectations will help pets more readily adjust to the changes and become best friends. Here are Pet Emergency Clinic and Referral Center’s nine tips on how to smoothly add a new four-legged friend to your fur family.
#1: Choose the right pet
Consider your current pet’s needs and personality before bringing a new pet into your home. Will your little dog be intimidated by a larger one, or vice versa? Will your senior cat be overwhelmed by a feisty kitten? Try to find a new pet that will be a suitable companion, and ensure that they fit into your current family lifestyle.
#2: Prepare for your new pet’s arrival
Your new pet will need a separate area with their own food and water bowls, a bed, a pet gate or crate for dogs, and a scratching post and litter box for cats. Inquire about the new pet’s current food, and then slowly transition to a food of your choice. Cats will appreciate height, such as a perch or cat tree, and, if necessary, a Feliway pheromone diffuser to help reduce their stress. Choose a time to bring your new pet home when you are available to help with the transition.
#3: Schedule a wellness exam for your new pet
Ensure your new pet is healthy by scheduling a wellness exam with your family veterinarian, who will perform a nose-to-tail physical examination, and check for fleas, intestinal parasites, and infectious diseases. Your new pet may need updated vaccinations, or require other medical treatments before contacting your current pet face-to-face.
#4: Let your pets become acquainted through scent
Pets will more readily accept each other if they have the chance to exchange scents before meeting. Rub their coats with a towel or sock to provide each other’s scent, or swap their bedding. When introducing cats, feed them on opposite sides of a door, and keep the new cat contained for a week.
#5: Plan the first face-to-face meeting between your pets
Dogs are more comfortable if they meet on neutral territory, such as a quiet street or park. Keep them both on a leash, and recruit a friend or family member to walk one of the dogs. Instead of initiating direct face-to-face contact, bring the new dog in from the side, and allow them to walk a distance from each other. Use plenty of treats and praise so they will have a positive association with the meeting. When introducing a new cat, slightly open the door to their separate room, and allow them to glimpse your current pet. If they become overly excited, close the door, and repeat the procedure after they have relaxed. This technique may need several repetitions, but once the cats are calmly sniffing each other, open the door wider to allow more contact.
#6: Provide positive reinforcement for your pets
Proceeding slowly, with plenty of treats and praise, is essential when introducing pets. Harsh corrections will add stress, and pets will associate each other with punishment. In the beginning, leash dogs at all times, so you can quickly pull them away should an altercation develop. Distract dogs from the other pet with, for example, a “Sit” command and an ensuing reward. Cats can also enjoy treats, play, and praise to connect their meetings with a positive experience.
#7: Avoid unsupervised contact between your pets
Controlled interactions should continue until you feel your pets are safe and comfortable with each other. Your new dog may need containment in a crate or pen when you cannot supervise them, and your cat should always have their safe space available. Don’t hurry the adjustment period, and never leave your pets unattended, only to find a scuffle that reverses your gains has taken place.
#8: Keep your normal pet routine
Pets are more comfortable with a consistent routine, so try to keep everything as normal as possible. Feed your current pet on the same schedule, take them for their regular walks, and spend one-on-one time with them. Provide group playtime activities with both pets so they will continue developing a positive association.
#9: Allow your pets to develop a relationship on their own time
Some pets adapt quickly to a new friend, whereas others may be annoyed about sharing you. Do not force close contact between pets. Allow them to go at their own speed, and don’t be discouraged if it takes longer than you had planned. Being patient and positive will provide the best results, and will help your pets learn to live peacefully in your household.
Our Pet Emergency Clinic and Referral Center team hopes your introductions go off without a hitch. Don’t hesitate to contact us if your new—or existing—furry friend gets into trouble when your family veterinarian is unavailable.