New Pet Owner

Got a New Pet? Your Guide to Making Introductions

Got a New Pet? Your Guide to Making Introductions

Did a new cat or dog arrive in your home over the holidays? Or is one of your resolutions to add to your family with a pet in the new year? If you already have a dog or cat accustomed to being the head pet of the house, introducing a new member takes some planning.

Animals are emotional and territorial creatures, and one of the strongest emotions they experience is jealousy. But if you're willing to be patient, there's good news: Although a newcomer may initially raise hackles, most pets come to accept one another. In the best-case scenario, they bond. But don't expect all to become best friends; some simply develop an indifferent tolerance.

Before bringing a new pet into your home, first make sure he or she is healthy. Schedule a veterinary exam (before the introduction, if possible). During the checkup, discuss spaying or neutering and also have the new pet microchipped. And remember to register and update your HomeAgain membership to extend the same benefits to your new pet that your other enjoys.

Just For Cats

Create a safe, temporary home for a new cat to get used to the surroundings. If you have a spare room or bathroom, that's ideal. If not, an oversize dog kennel can work. Furnish it with a litter box and a safe, warm spot for the cat to sleep. Devote a corner to food and water, and add a scratching post and a toy to let the newcomer know it is welcome. Don't allow other pets in.

Before you debut the new kitty, trim both cats' nails. When you introduce the newcomer, place her at a distance from your original cat. Avoid contact with both, and speak in a calming voice.

Sniffing, hissing, and vocalization may take place, and that's fine. Just don't allow fighting. If that ensues, separate the cats and re-introduce them in a day or two. Cuddle and play with each cat separately during this transitional period.

Dogs & Cats

Fully supervise the introduction, keeping the dog on the leash so that you can pull back if one pet becomes aggressive or there's a danger of the dog being clawed. Also, make sure the cat has an escape route. In most instances, both animals will do a lot of sniffing to acquaint themselves with each other's scent. Reward them for staying calm; separate them if they become combative.

Just For Dogs

Dogs are social animals, and every pack has a hierarchy. Yours will sort out which is the leader of the pack if you give them a chance. Start by bringing both dogs to a neutral location, such as a park. Ask a friend to handle one of the dogs, keep both on leashes, and let the dogs approach one another.

Just as you would let a dog sniff one he encounters on a walk, do so here... briefly. Then separate the dogs, give each a brief walk, command them to sit or lie down, then praise and reward them with a treat. Then bring them back together to calmly reacquaint.

If they assume a playful position, you're in luck; your dogs soon will be pals. If you observe aggression or timidity, back away with the dog and repeat the walk, command and reward.

Continue to allow the dogs to interact for short periods of time. Once they tolerate one another, bring them home. Give each dog his own water and food bowl, bed and toys. Confine them in separate areas whenever you leave and avoid making one jealous of the other by being more attentive.

If your pets still can't get along, ask for guidance from your veterinarian, an animal behaviorist or a certified dog trainer.