If you have seen a new pet that you wish to join your family, but already have pets at home then as much as it seems exciting to you, you have to think of the pets you currently have. For them, it can be confusing or upsetting, especially if they have been an only pet for a long time. There are however steps you can take to make the transition easier and improve the chances of them becoming friends.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not as simple as getting two animals together and leaving them to it, hoping they will learn to get along. First impressions are just as important to pets as they are to humans, so you need to make sure the initial contact is as stress-free as possible for them both.
When you bring a new pet into your home, you should not allow them to roam freely right away, it’s a better idea to keep current pets and your new addition separated and out of sight from one another. This allows the new pet to familiarize themselves with their new surroundings as well as to spread their scent for the current pets to acclimatize to. After a couple of days, exchanging the pets' bedding can help give both the opportunity to get used to the scent.
Once you have allowed the scents to be exchanged, you should move your older pet into a different room or garden if the weather is suitable, giving your new pet the opportunity to look around. This will let them leave their scent in different areas, but don’t allow free roaming for any more than 20 minutes each time, numerous times throughout the day. After this time, put your new pet back into their usual separated area and let your old pet look and sniff around the house. This can be confusing to all pets, so it is important that you provide a lot of reassurance. Once the pets are not chasing around for the new scent it’s time for them to meet face to face.
To introduce dogs face to face, do so on a neutral territory to stop territorial attacks or anxiety. Find an area where both can run around, as using a lead can make them more territorial. First, let your older pet search the area and leave their scent in the area, then swap and let your new dog out to sniff around. Once this is ready you can also bring your old dog into the area to meet the new dog. You will know they are happy if their tail is high and wagging. Keeping the tail low or ears flat could mean they are not comfortable. If this occurs separate them straight away and try letting them get used again to the scent before trying again.
If the new dog is a puppy, you will need to ensure they are supervised at all times. The reason being puppies are extremely playful and you don’t want to upset your current dog, ruining the chance of a good future relationship. Ensure the older dog gets alone time or somewhere they can escape to if it gets to be too much.
Cat introductions are best with the animals in separate rooms so just a door divides them. Feed both on their side of the door and move their bowls closer each time. Once they are comfortable, you should be able to open the door a bit so they can see one another. The hissing or growling does not mean they are going to attack, however, if your cat seems distressed or angry it’s better to slow down with the introduction. Ensure that each cat has their own personal space to escape to and hide if things get too overwhelming. In time, your cats will be able to adjust to the presence of the other. Older cats can be more territorial which could mean that you have to permanently keep them separate from new additions.
Introducing dogs and cats
Although it’s not always easy to introduce new dogs and cats, it is possible and will mainly depend on how their past experiences with cats or dogs have been. If you have a dog that is young, they are likely to be playful, which could be deemed as a threat by a cat. As with introducing two cats, keep both the dog and cat in separate areas allowing them to slowly get used to one another’s scents. Stop if either animal becomes too stressed rather than scolding, and reward good behavior with treats.
When you first bring the cat into the same room, you should keep the dog away for a short while on the other side of the room. Let your cat get closer when they seem comfortable enough. At this point, keep the dog calm by offering treats and reassurance. Make introduction sessions short but regular and never leave them alone until they are both totally comfortable. Ensure your cat has an escape place the dog can’t reach and feel free to go back a step or two if either animal is showing distress or aggression.