Welcoming a new pet to your family is a beautiful thing. To make sure everything goes smoothly, when it comes to introducing pets to each other, you’ll want to have a plan in place. You want to make sure that everyone adjusts to each other as quickly and problem free as possible.
Here are some in-depth tips on introducing your pets to the other members of your home (furry and human).
How to Make Your New Pet Feel Comfortable
Your pet will be new to you and your family, of course. But you and your family are also new to your pet! This is a stressful time for your new family member. You’ll want to do everything you can to help ease the new pet into your home.
Don’t be surprised if the new pet acts timid. It’s not uncommon for a pet to be outgoing and happy at the shelter and then fearful in a new environment. But there’s also a chance your pet will be excited and ready to go.
Just be gentle and cautious when bringing the pet home. Doing so will help ensure they will be able to trust you.
At What Point Should You Introduce the New Pet to Your Resident Pets?
There’s no single answer to that question. Different pets will act in different ways when they get to a new home. It could take a few minutes for everybody to adjust to each other, or much longer. Be patient, and stay positive – no matter how long it takes.
Planning ahead is important when introducing pets to each other.
The two biggest priorities will be keeping everyone safe and building a positive relationship. Watch closely for any cues that something might not be quite right.
If you have dogs and cats, it might be easier to introduce the same species first. Introducing pets of different species right away could be difficult. Introduce your new dog to other dogs first. Introduce a cat to resident cats first.1
Introducing New Puppies to Older Dogs
Introducing pets to each other can be exciting and challenging. This is especially true when introducing puppies to older dogs already in your home. But you’ll be surprised how far a little preparation can go. For example:
- Put your resident dog’s toys or chews in a safe place. That will help reduce the chances a dominant dog will exhibit any dangerous behavior toward the puppy.
- Set up some “safe spaces” in the home. These will be areas the dogs can be separated from each other if they need to get away for a few minutes.
The resident dog feels that your home is their territory, so they might feel the new dog is infringing on that territory. Keep the older dog on a leash, and have someone else keep the new puppy on a leash. Hold the leashes loosely while you let them sniff each other.2
Keep a Close Eye
During this introduction — and all introductions between a new pet and current pets, for that matter — watch both of the animals closely. Stay calm, but watch their body language.
For example, if you hear any growling, or see raised fur on the back of the neck, separate the pets. The same goes for other signs of aggression, such as a flashing of teeth or hunching of the backs.3
Introducing Dogs of the Same Age
Introducing pets may seem easier when they’re both dogs of the same age. But you’ll still want to be very careful and be ready to react to signs of dangerous behavior. This is the case whether you’re introducing one senior dog to another, or dogs of any age.
It might be hard to do this, but try introducing the dogs to each other in a fenced-in area away from your home. The reason is that if you do this in your backyard, your resident dog will already have claimed this as their territory.
If you can’t find “neutral” ground, then the backyard will be your best option. Keep both dogs on leashes as they learn more about each other. If you don’t have a large yard, then a large garage should do.4
Other Tips for Introducing Dogs to Each Other
If the dogs seem to be getting along, consider taking them out for a walk. Ask someone else to walk one dog as you walk the other. They should be close enough to know each other is there, but far enough apart so the dominant dog can’t reach the other dog.
Watch for positive and negative body language. Remember: flashing teeth and growling are signs of aggression. Positive body language includes wagging tails and curious sniffing. When you see that, you’ll know the introduction was a success.
Introducing a New Cat to Your Dog
If you’re bringing a new cat home to meet your pooch, keep each pet secure for the first meeting. In fact, make sure they’re separated for the first few days. Put the dog in a room while the cat roams around and gets used to your home.
Then switch – put the cat in the room, and let the dog roam around. This will give your dog a chance to get used to the scent of the new cat. When both pets are calm, it’s time to introduce them.
Keep your dog on a leash for the first time the two meet. If your pup shows any aggression toward the cat, separate them again. If both pets are calm and relaxed, take the dog off the leash. If they’re not, you might need to call a professional for pet training.5
Introducing a New Dog to Your Cat
The process of introducing a new dog to your resident cat is similar. Keep the animals separated for a few days after you bring your new puppy (or older dog) home.
Whether you have a kitten or a senior cat, you’ll want to hold off on the introduction until you know the cat is eating and using the litter box like normal. When that happens, let them meet in person.
Repeat the process outlined above, keeping the dog on a leash while they get to know each other. Supervise all interactions until you are totally confident the two pets will get along. If you have to leave, keep the cat in a separate room until you get back home.6
Introducing a New Cat to Your Cat
Introducing pets can be a beautiful experience. In many cases, they get along right away and become fast friends. But it can also be a challenge, especially when introducing cats. It takes time for cats to get acclimated to a new environment.
Put your new cat in a room with food, treats, water, and a litter box. Put the food next to the door. Then, put your resident cat’s food on the other side of that door.
This way, both cats will associate good things with each other’s scent.
Spend time with each cat, so neither one feels left out. After a couple of days, put the resident cat in the room and let your new pet roam. Then, open the door, and put a baby gate between the cats, so they can meet face-to-face with a safety barrier between them.
Introducing Pets to Your Children
Introducing pets to kids takes a little work. You want to be sure the new cat or new dog isn’t scared. Talk to your children first and explain they’ll need to be very gentle. They shouldn’t make any loud noises or immediately try to hug the new pet.
The first few meetings should be short. Tell your children to slowly and gently pet the new cat or new dog. Also, have the child nearby when you give the new pet food or treats. That will help the pet associate the child with something positive.7
Your children might want to invite their friends over to see your new pet. This is actually a good thing. The more you introduce pets to children, the easier it will be for the pet to get used to kids in general. Watch the pet carefully to ensure everything goes well.8
A New Puppy and Children
Just about all children love to welcome a new puppy to the family — but it’s important to tell your children that a pet isn’t a toy. If you have young children, never leave them alone with dogs of any age – especially puppies.
A puppy needs training to make sure their behavior is acceptable. Your child will need some training to make sure they interact with the puppy safely. Here are some tips to help:
→ Teach children to always show respect to cats and dogs. They need to be gentle when approaching a pet. They should never provoke a pet into growling or barking.
→ If you have a new puppy, have the child sit on the floor at first when petting the dog. That way, the child won’t seem as intimidating or scary to the pet.
→ When a child approaches a new dog, they should always do so slowly. Before the child pets the dog, they should first offer a hand for the dog to sniff. Petting the chest or under the chin will usually be less threatening to the dog.
→ Tell the child not to make any sudden movements or loud noises around the new dog. This could frighten the dog or provoke bad behavior.
→ Tug-of-war with a dog is fun, but tell your child to hold off at first. Some young dogs might get a little carried away. That could lead to a painful bite.
→ Children should respect the privacy of the new dog. Tell them to stay away when the dog is eating, sleeping, or chewing on a toy. You don’t want the dog to feel threatened that his territory is being invaded.9
*Here, you will find some of the best dog breeds for children.
Kittens and Children
Kittens are harmless in the vast majority of cases, but they do have claws and they can scratch your child if they become frightened. Introducing pets to children takes time and patience – that’s especially true when it comes to a kitten.
Here are a few things you can do to help make the introduction a successful one:
- Tell everyone one in the family – children and adults alike – that they always need to keep windows and doors shut. Some new cats are skittish, and they might look for a way to escape.
- Speaking of escape, tell your children to respect a cat’s hiding place. This could be a shelf, a closet, or under a bed. No one should infringe on this area. Close off the cat’s “safe place” with a baby gate if you can.
- When picking up the kitten, your child must always support your new pet’s front and hind legs. Demonstrate the best way to hold the kitten to your child. Always supervise whenever a child wants to pick up the cat.10
Don’t Hesitate to Talk to a Professional
In the vast majority of cases, introducing pets to your family goes smoothly. This is the case whether you’re bringing a kitten into a home with a senior cat, or a puppy to a home with resident dogs or cats.
If you encounter any problems when introducing pets – either to other pets, or to your children – talk to your veterinarian. Your vet may have some training recommendations, or they can refer you to an animal behavior expert. This way, everyone in your home (two and four-legged) can live harmoniously!
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