Congratulations on your growing family! As an experienced pet parent, you already know the challenges of bath time and the rewards of growing old with your pet. We’re so excited that you’ve decided to add to the family with a new pet.
Just like having another child, introducing your new pet to your other pet (or pets!) can be anything from awkward to effortless. It all depends on your family and your pets’ personalities. When introducing your new pet to the family, keep in mind the following tips for success based on whether they are a dog or a cat.
We highly recommend bringing your current pet with you as you visit local shelters or friends looking to rehome their pet before you commit to bringing them home. You can tell a lot about the potential bond your new pet will have with your other pet by their first interaction. Contact the person or organization where you plan to adopt your pet from to see if you can participate in a Weekend Foster. Fostering a pet for a weekend or even overnight will allow you and your potential pet to spend time together in your home before adoption.
Introducing a Dog to Another Dog
When introducing a new dog to another dog, it is best to go for a walk with your dog in the park and have a spouse or friend walk your new dog in the same park for a gradual approach. Having them on leashes and closely monitoring their first interaction will be critical. Once you meet up, allow them to introduce themselves and sniff each other. If they are friendly to each other, then that’s great!
The next step is bringing them home. Consider putting your new dog’s bowl and bed in a separate space. This will allow them to observe and respect the space that your existing pet has already established. As they get more comfortable with each other around the house, bring their beds and bowls into the same space.
If at any point one or both of them becomes defensive as though their territory has been threatened, then you’ll need to spend more time on multiple introductions at neutral locations during this introductory period for them to become familiar with each other.
Introducing a Cat to Another Cat
Cats can be incredibly independent and territorial. When bringing your new cat into the home, create a small, dedicated space for them to call their own. Allow your existing cat to roam freely as usual so that they can observe each other. If your existing cat is used to free-feeding, then you’ll want to switch to mealtimes during this introductory period to minimize conflict.
Prepare your cats meals at the same time and place their bowls down at the same time with some distance in between. Closely monitor their feeding to ensure they respect each other’s bowls and they allow limited interaction over time. Be patient as it may take a couple of months for them to become family. Soon your cats will have a language and routine of their own!
Introducing a Dog to a Cat (And Vice-Versa)
Due to the difference in size and strength, it is best to allow your cat to have control during the introduction while your dog is comfortably leashed. It will be important to keep them at a safe distance to observe each other without actually touching. During this introductory period, carefully watch your cat’s body language as they approach your dog.
Are your cat’s ears pinned back? Is your dog starting to whine or bark at them? If you notice that their body language isn’t relaxed or calm, them make sure to separate them. Dogs can easily become fixated on cats in a way that may frighten your feline family member. Train your dog to recognize and respect your cat by rewarding them for staying calm around your cat or focusing their attention elsewhere when your cat is in the room.
Introducing dogs and cats to each other is typically a longer process as they learn to be around the other. Through repeated and gradual desensitization, your pets will learn to coexist and become beloved family members.