Pet introductions are tricky, whether adding a puppy to your existing pack of dogs or merging your dog and cat households with your partner. Here are some tips to make the introductions go smoothly.
Adding a new pet to your home is always exciting, but it can become more complicated if you have other pets set on their way. A new pet is about to arrive and compete with them for food, toys, and affection. Even the most friendly pets could feel on edge in such a situation!
It’s best if your pets become fast friends. Some chill pets may make introductions simple with a casual smell that leads to a tug-of-war. Most pets will need more patience from you to introduce them.
Even between species, introductions tend to be the easiest for young pets. Puppies and cats raised together will be more likely to have a good relationship and be well-socialized. If you work with older animals, there are still options. There is hope even if your dog has a bad habit of not learning new tricks or you are moving in with a partner who has a snobby cat.
Here are some tips and tricks from animal trainers to make your pet from a stranger to a happy companion.
You should ensure that the training of your pet is up to par before you bring another one into your home.
This is particularly important when introducing animals with a high prey drive (a behavior common in many hunting and terrier dogs) or could be better at reading social signals about other animals wanting to play. Cats and overly enthusiastic puppies don’t always get along. And if the dog doesn’t allow enough space for the cat, it can cause nasty scratches.
You can train your dog to respond to a command like “leave” to divert their attention if necessary. It will stop them from chasing other animals or roughhousing before it gets heated. Please give them a place to cool down before returning to their friend.
Consider working with an experienced dog trainer to create a solid program for your pup if your dog’s skills in obedience are rusty.
#2. Keep them Separate to Start.
It’s not a good idea to put a kitten or puppy on the floor and then see what happens. This can be dangerous for both pets. Keep any new pets in a separate area of the home until they are used to the sounds and smells of another pet.
Closed doors will help you create separate areas in your home. For this period, most cats will be happy to stay in one room if it has all the necessities (food, water, and a litter box). Give the first pet as much space to move around so they think the new animal has yet to invade their territory.
Then they’ll be curious about the person on the other end of the door and do a lot of sniffing. This is a sign that they are getting used to each other.
#3. Introduce them to each other’s scents
It is through scent that animals get to know one another. Making them familiar with the new animal’s smell in their home will help lay the foundation for a successful meeting.
After a few days, swap the soft items. As they cuddle up with the same blanket, each animal will become familiar with the scent of the other and stop seeing it as a danger. Repeat this process several times and add more scent-marked fabric to maintain the smell.
The animals can either be introduced gradually in the same home or between homes.
#4. Create safe zones for your cat
It’s vital that if a cat is a part of the introduction, they have a space where it can retreat whenever needed. It could be a high cat tree from which they can look down at the dogs below or a cubby or closet with a cat door that will keep them out of the area.
Before the introductions, get them used to this area to know where to go when a dog has more enthusiasm for wrestling.
#5. Give everyone a workout before introductions
Introduce two a bit stir-crazy pets, and you’re setting yourself up for a disaster! Before introducing pets, keeping them as calm as possible is best. You can burn off some energy by taking your dog (or leash-friendly cat) on a long walk or giving them dog enrichment activities. It will make them more relaxed and friendly when they meet their new roommate.
#6. Introduce yourself at mealtime
Dinnertime may seem strange to introduce your pet, but it’s a great opportunity! It’s no coincidence that so many first dates between humans happen at dinner. Eating with others makes us feel secure, which is valid for your pet.
Start the process by starting on opposite sides of an open door. For now, keep any dogs on leashes to avoid them lunging towards the door. This will also help you establish good habits later. You may consider a leash if your cat is leash-trained or aggressive. However, cats tend to flee from stressful situations.
Serve each pet their usual meal and let them enjoy it while smelling and hearing the new animal on the other side. Repeat this process over and over until your pets start to associate the presence of another animal with delicious food. Getting your pet used to the other animal’s presence may take several weeks.
When they are comfortable with the routine, replace the closed door (the old child gate your mother has stored in her attic will do) with a dog gate. The interaction between them will bring a new element to the process. They may even be eager to get close to the entrance to sniff. It’s okay, but keep an eye on the leashes so that their interactions are controlled. Continue to feed in this manner until it becomes routine.
The next step (drum roll, please) is (drumroll, please!) It would help if you had reasonable leash control to stop unwanted interactions between your pets quickly. Your pets may still be primarily focused on food, but they can sniff, play, or get closer to you if that is what they want to do.
You can remove their leashes once you are confident they will interact peacefully. You should continue to supervise interactions for a while, but congratulations–you’ve successfully introduced your pets!
#7. Continue to Practice Good Habits
It’s a big deal when your pets can share a room, but that doesn’t mean the journey is over! You may discover unexpected frictions as your pets get to know one another.
Give your pet their resources if they show any signs of resource guarding. You can also separate the food and toys. Consider varying their feeding times, placing your cats’ bowls on elevated surfaces, or using personal feeders with microchips to stop your pets from fighting over food.
You can also use it to reinforce positive interactions between your new housemate and you. You can start small by treating the animal when it looks at you. This will help create positive associations. You can reward them with treats or praise as they become more friendly.