Bringing home a new animal into a household that already has a pet can go without a hitch or it can end up being a huge headache. Either way, it’s something that will probably make you a bit nervous, so here are a few tips that might make it go smoothly for everyone.
First of all, no matter what type of pet you already have and what type you want to bring home, make sure they are all healthy and up-to-date on all their shots/vaccinations. You don’t want to introduce a disease or fleas into your home and to your existing pet!
The next thing you’ll want to make sure of is that your attitude and the emotions you project are 100 percent positive. Animals are very sensitive to what we are feeling, so you’ll want to have an upbeat, confident attitude when introducing a new pet(s). No anxiety or fear allowed!
After you’ve checked off those first two items, the next task you’ll want to tackle is to let your established pet get familiar with the newcomer. Gradual introductions are the best and you must supervise the animals at all times.
Ideally, the new pet should have a room of its own that is isolated from the other pet(s). Introductions should always be supervised and pets should not be loose. Have your dogs on leashes, behind gates, or in crates. Cats should have their own crates too.
The sense of smell is much more important to dogs and cats than it is to us. They meet, identify, and greet each other through scent. You can use that in your introductions.
For cats, put the new kitty in a crate and after a time, take the kitty out and leave it in a room by itself and take the empty crate to the existing cat to smell and check out. Or, you can switch the cats’ sleeping blankets/beds so they can get used to each other’s scent.
You can even try feeding the cats with a door between them (not too close at first!). They can associate something pleasurable with the other’s scent. Try feeding special treats on top of a blanket or towel that the other cat has used.
Another method people use is to have the pets switch rooms. The existing pet can stay in the new pet’s room, while the new pet gets to roam around the rest of the house. Again, they can smell the other’s scent and become accustomed to it.
After some time, you can prop the door open a bit or use a baby gate so they can take a peek at each other, and eventually, you can try putting them together in an open space with your supervision. You can try holding your cat while a friend holds the newcomer in the same room. If that goes well, you may want to let them roam freely with each other. If they fight, that may mean you’re going too quickly, so back off a bit and start over.
For dogs, you can let a new dog into your backyard to smell your existing dog’s scent and leave some of his own. Then, put your existing pet into the backyard to take a whiff.
You can use a crate to bring in a new pooch and let established pooch smell and check him out. You can do the same with a new cat. If your existing dog is crated, you can put the crates across from each other and gradually bring them closer until they are side by side.
Always use a leash on your pooch in a face-to-face meeting with a new dog. You can hold your dog while a friend holds the new dog. Let them sniff noses and greet each other. Watch for signs/sounds of aggression. If you want to take extra precautions, use a muzzle. Keep the meetings short at the beginning until they get used to each other. It’s also best to have short, frequent meetings rather than long, infrequent meetings.
Have treats readily available and give lots of praise to reinforce good, friendly behavior. Be observant and watch for signs of aggression or fear. The pets might not fight, but they may be exhibiting negative behaviors that will not make for a harmonious household.
Another great way to introduce dogs together is to walk them together. You must be able to control them at all times, and keep them separated until they, and you, feel comfortable letting them sniff the same spot. One key is to keep them moving forward and letting them get used to walking on either side of your comfortably. As an added precaution, it’s a good idea to have a friend help you walk them together, or just have the friend walk along while you control both dogs.
When putting a dog and another small animal like a cat together, it’s probably best not to leave them alone together. If you leave the house, crate or confine one or the other to ensure safety. If you’re introducing a cat and dog, it’s best if your dog is trained to listen and obey commands such as “sit,” “stay,” and “leave it.” You can start with having them smell each other through a closed door, then gradually move onto a face-to-face meeting in a controlled manner.
In the meeting, the dog should be on a leash and sitting next to you, while a friend can be across the room with kitty. The dog should be praised and rewarded for behaving and the meetings should only last a few minutes at a time. Gradually increase the time and also let the cat explore and check out the dog. The goal is to get them to at least tolerate each other without fear or aggression.
And remember, it’s very important to keep in mind that animals can sense your emotions. Believe and act as though the introductions are going to go well, that you see all your animals getting along. Don’t act fearful or nervous. Act with positive energy and confidence.
That, along with taking reasonable precautions, will make it a happy introduction for all.