How To Introduce A New Pet To Your Furry Family

Introducing a new pet into your furry family should be a fun and exciting time. Pets, however, don’t always see it that way.

When your dog or cat is used to being your number one, they may feel threatened or upset by the presence of another animal in the house, and as a pet owner, you need to be able to read the signs. The last thing you want is for your pets to get off on the wrong paw.

Here are a few ways to help your pet adjust so that your furry friends can become BFFs.

The Introduction

First impressions are important when new and resident animals are first introduced. If things don’t start out well, the animals might never get along. A good tone needs to be set from the beginning. Remember never to leave the animals alone together unsupervised when first getting to know each other. As a pet owner, it’s your responsibility to facilitate a smooth transition.

  • Fido, meet Fluffy. Make the initial introduction brief—no longer than five to 10 minutes. Animals need to get adjusted to the sight and smell of each other, and this takes time. Use a child gate, crate or leash to control the animals. All dogs should meet on leashes in neutral territory. If you’re introducing a dog and cat, give the smaller animal that’s more likely to be frightened a safe spot where the other can’t reach him or her. If the animals fight or threaten  each other, don’t punish them. Dogs settle disputes with growling. Cats, on the other hand, don’t learn from punishment or scolding. According to many trainers, cats have poor short-term memory and they can’t make the link between action and punishment.
  • Reward good behavior.Use praise, food treats and toys to promote good interactions and reward non-aggressive behavior. This will enable animals to become more relaxed around each other.
  • Be patient. If the first brief interaction doesn’t go well, be patient and try again. Stay focused and determined. It may take time for the animals to become fully-integrated. If the animals still aren’t getting along after a few weeks; however, considering getting some professional help.

Tips for Cat Owners

It’s said that one of the key differences between cats and dogs is that cats are “silent sufferers.” A stressed or upset dog becomes aggressive, while a stressed or upset cat becomes withdrawn. Dr. John Bradshaw, the foundation director of the Anthrozoology Institute at the University of Bristol in England, believes that cat owners expect too much from their cats, which has led to an increase in dermatitis, cystitis and other stress-related conditions. If you have a resident cat, before you introduce a new cat or dog to your furry family, you should consider the following.

  • What’s your cat’s personality like? Is your cat playful or withdrawn? Does he or she knock around balls of string all day or sit lazily in the kitchen windowsill, a look of fierce, philosophical concentration on its whiskered face? Does your cat rub against your leg when you come home or does it scowl at you from across the room? Before you introduce a new pet to the family, you need to read the signs and determine if your resident cat is going to be compatible with another animal.
  • Is your cat old and set in his ways? If you have an older cat, then the best companion is going to be another older cat. The opposite is also true: if you have a playful kitten, it is probably best to introduce another playful kitten. Animals that have similar ages, personalities and temperaments are more likely to get along.
  • Find your cat’s best potential match. Introducing cats and dogs can be tricky, so have realistic expectations. Your new dog and resident cat might not become best buddies overnight, but most cats and dogs can live amicably in the same quarters. Relaxed, laid-back cats and kittens will get along well with dogs that are cautiously investigative; however, predatory types of dogs are more stressful to cats, especially ones that are already shy and skittish.

Tips for Dog Owners

According to the Humane Society, 40 percent of U.S. households have more than one dog. In other words, introducing a new pet to your furry family shouldn’t be that difficult. Still, the best way to introduce a new member to the pack is slowly and gradually.

  • Don’t just bring the new dog into the house. This is the worst thing a dog owner can do. Not only will the resident dog view it as an invasion of his or her territory, but the new dog will be left with no boundaries, guidelines or rules. Instead, take the two dogs for a long walk and let them get acclimated with each other on neutral grounds.
  • Body language. Pay attention to the dogs’ body language, and let them determine the pace of the introduction. Are they walking side-by-side? Has a hierarchy formed? The body language will help you determine how well the introduction is going.
  • Dogs and cats don’t have to be enemies. When introducing dogs and cats, it’s best to keep them in separate parts of the house for a few days. Then, exchange bedding so the animals have the chance to get used to each other’s scent. During the first face-to-face introduction, keep your dog on a leash. This will make the cat feel safer. Once the animals become comfortable with one another, it’s important to keep the dog away from the cat’s food (yes, dogs love cat food!) as well as the litter box. Privacy and boundaries help maintain good animal relations.

If you consider the personality and temperament of your resident pet, and attempt to match it with the personality of a new pet, then all of your furry friends should be able to get along fine under one roof. Just remember—new friendships take time. One day your pets might be fighting like cats and dogs, but the next day they’ll be best friends forever.