Our pets are our family members, and just like introducing any new family member, it can be hard to tell how the others will react. With children you have nine months to prepare them but your pets often just get another animal dropped into their environment. And as territorial beings, they do consider it theirs. Simply bringing home another pet and then hoping for the best is often a recipe for disaster.
If this initial interaction is poorly-planned, it could taint what otherwise could have been a very positive and loving relationship among your pets. Instead of the all-at-once approach, animal behavior experts recommend a step-by-step method. There are many plans online for how to do this, but any good plan will take the following into account while adapting for their own home, pets and situation.
No Face-to-Face in Beginning
Having the other animal fully present will be too much initially for most dogs and cats. There are so many scents and signals and other cues to take in that it will be a sensory overload. Instead, find ways to introduce their scents to one another. This will still excite them but after a few times, they will relax. Once both are used to the scent of the other, they can meet physically, but with other important conditions met.
When introducing dogs to each other, or cats to each other, or one of each, the same applies – introduce through scents first and do it gradually. Strategies for this are to use toys and other objects with the other animal’s scent on them. Any object used by that pet will do. It’s also important to then allow the pet being introduced into the environment to wander in that environment and to leave its scent there to be found later by the existing pet. Using cages and different rooms to keep the animals separate is important in this stage.
Animals are by nature territorial. If you introduce a new pet into your existing pet’s territory with no warning, it can further confuse the complicated dynamics of the initial meeting. Even if you’ve acclimated the two to each other’s scents, this instinct to protect territory should be eliminated from the picture. Meet on neutral ground initially to avoid this. Parks or a neighbor’s yard are good potential places to make the introduction.
Animal fights may not seem like a big deal, but if a dog attacks a cat, it can be lethal. Dogs fighting each other can also lead to serious harm. Because of this, it’s important to be present and remain in a calm, fun mood so both feel protected and relaxed. Having treats present to reward positive and neutral behavior is wise, as well.
Don’t be disappointed if the first face-to-face meeting between your pets doesn’t go perfectly. If you follow these steps and tips though, it will go smoother than it would have. If it ends up being a disaster, ask your veterinarian for a referral for an animal behavior expert who can help your pets’ interactions improve so they can share you and the home in peace.
And remember, for more information or tips, come see us or contact us! We serve the entire Chapel Hill, Orange County, Pittsboro and Chatham County areas.