This article is contributed by guest writer, Emily Parker (author of Catological)
Introducing a New Pet to your Household
Getting a new pet is always exciting. However, it also comes with complications, especially if you’ve already got a furry friend at home. There’s nothing worse than having two pets who don’t get along; it’s like having two best friends who hate each other!
To help make sure this doesn’t happen to you, this article lists some handy hints that will ensure that your new pet gets along fantastically with your existing feline or canine family member.
How to Introduce a New Cat to Your Cat
Cats are notoriously territorial and aloof creatures, so bringing a new kitten or senior cat into your home and into your resident cat’s space can have some challenges.
The most important thing to remember during this time of transition is that you know your cat best. You know whether she is friendly and comfortable with other cats or is more distant or even aggressive. The introduction strategy that you pick should be tailored to suit your existing cat’s personality and needs.
That being said, there are some good general tips that can be tweaked to fit any cat’s personality:
Before you set a single foot out of your door to go pick up your new cat, you need to make sure that your house or apartment is ready.
You should have a new litter box (some cats are happy to share a tray but others aren’t, so buy a new one just in case), toys to entertain your new cat, and a room set up where he or she can spend the night.
This is all fairly typical new pet owner information, but don’t forget to treat your new kitty as well as you did your first adopted fur baby.
It’s essential that the transition into your home goes smoothly for your new cat and that he or she feels safe and comfortable. You want them feeling as content and relaxed as possible before you actually introduce them to your existing cat.
Take Things Slowly
When it comes time for the actual introduction, let your cats sniff at each other through a doorway first.
In the animal kingdom scent is everything, so it’s important for your existing cat to get used to the smell of your new cat, and vice versa.
Try keeping your cats in separate rooms and then switching them around so each of them gets to spend some time in a room smelling like the other. This way, they’ll recognize each other’s scents when they meet for the first time and things will go more smoothly.
You can also try the old trick of rubbing each cat with a clean towel and then letting the other cat sniff and inspect it as an introduction.
Make Use of Feeding Time
If your cats are anything like mine, then there’s no time that they’re happier or more content than during feeding time.
If you harness the positive emotions that come with a nice big bowl of cat food and channel them towards your new cat or kitten, then there’s a possibility that a correlation will be formed.
Give Lots of Love
Most cat owners know that cats are actually a lot needier than most people think. They still require lots of love and affection to stay happy.
During the period that you introduce your new cat to your older cat, make sure you still give both of them attention.
If your new cat is a kitten it can be tempting to play with him or her all day and neglect your older cat, but this is a recipe for disaster. Love both of them equally and eventually they’ll learn to love each other!
How to Introduce a New Dog to Your Dog
Dogs are generally more social than cats, but introducing a new dog to your existing pooch can sometimes have unexpected complications.
Listed below are some strategies to combat these difficulties, but keep in mind that as a pet owner no one knows your dog better than you. Pick the strategies that suit his or her personality and attitude to other dogs.
The First Meeting
The first meeting between any two dogs should be heavily supervised, and in the case of introducing a new dog to your existing pet this is especially important.
You can never truly predict how a dog will react to another dog, so both pooches should be leashed during the critical first encounter.
Let the dogs sniff each other and even play together if all seems to be going well, but keep the leashes on.
Keep Interactions Short
For the first few meetings, it’s important to keep interactions between your existing dog and your new dog nice and short.
Your existing pup is probably used to briefly getting to know strange dogs at the parks that you frequent or in the neighborhoods that you walk in, but might not be used to spending extended periods of time with fellow dogs. To keep both dogs comfortable, supervise short interactions until they’re used to each other.
Most dogs are very treat-motivated, so make sure to reward good behavior during the first few hours and days of introduction. Do not give treats in response to bad behavior, even though it may be a tempting way to deescalate a bad situation.
While dogs are happy to share some things, they can get territorial about others.
Make sure that you buy a new food bowl, water bowl, and bed for your new dog at the very least.
If there’s room in your budget for a new set of dog toys, then this should be a priority too. Minimizing situations in which your dogs may fight over items is a great way to avoid any conflict.
How to Introduce Cats and Dogs
Of all the pet-introduction scenarios, introducing a dog and a cat is the most difficult.
While it’s always good to stay optimistic, it’s important to know that not all dogs and not all cats will get along. While your pets should be able to at least reach a state of peaceful coexistence, your dreams of your cat and dog curling up together may be a little too far out of reach.
That’s not to say that it’s impossible, of course; if your cat is friendly and peaceful and your dog isn’t too energetic or aggressive then things may work out just fine. In fact, some dog breeds are generally more accepting of cats and make the introduction process much easier!
That being said, it’s important to let things develop naturally between your pets and not try to force them together if they’d rather stay apart.
During the all-important first encounter, however, there are some tips that you can use to increase your odds of your new dog or cat becoming fast friends with your existing pet.
Before your dog and cat even meet face to face, it’s important to let them get used to each other’s scents. Lock your existing pet away and let your new furry-friend explore your house and get familiar with your old pet’s various smells.
Once the initial exploration is done, lock your new pet away and let the older one come back out and smell some of the places that your other pet was. This technique is a completely risk-free way of letting your two pets get comfortable with each other.
The blanket trick I mentioned earlier is another great way to trade scents.
Tire Your Pets Out
For older cats and dogs this tip isn’t so relevant, but for energetic puppies and kittens it’s essential.
Before you let your two pets meet for the first time make sure to tire them out. Take your dog for a walk and play with your cat. Once they’re on the verge of wanting to take a nap, you can make your move. If your pets are tired any aggression between them will be minimized.
The First Encounter
Keep your dog on a leash and your cat in a cat cage or carrier basket. Let your dog approach your cat’s cage and monitor their reactions closely.
If your cat is hissing and spitting or your dog is growling, remove both animals from the situation and try again later. As mentioned before, trying to force a relationship will almost certainly turn out for the worst.
Keep repeating this cage-leash interaction until both animals seem comfortable. Once they are, try letting your cat out of his or her cage. While this may seem unfair to your dog, remember that even a medium sized dog has the potential to do a lot more damage to a cat than a cat does to a dog.
In The Long Term
Don’t leave your pets together unsupervised until you’re certain that there’s no risk. The time that this will take varies between individual cases; it could be as little as half a week or as long as a month.
Once your two pets are successfully cohabitating, continue to monitor their relationship. Just like with human friendships, cats and dogs can go through periods of ups and downs.
If you begin to suspect there’s a danger of them becoming aggressive towards each other, keep them apart for a few days. However, try not to over-police their every interaction. If your cat hisses at your dog for stealing a bite of his or her food, it’s not necessarily a sign that they hate each other and need to be watched at all times.
Once your pets get used to each other and you find a balance between caution and paranoia, you’ve succeeded!