Introducing new pets to the household needs to be taken slowly. If you have ever watched My Cat from Hell or other animal behaviour programs, you will know the consequences of an inadequate introduction of a new pet to the household when you already have animals in the home, but these tips for introducing new pets to the household are sure to help. Animals are territorial and there are many things to consider when thinking about having a multi-species household or a household with more than one of the same species. These tips for introducing new pets will help take some of the stress out of the situation though.
We like to assume that animals need and want companions, but this isn't always the case. Humans are social creatures and some animals are sociable too, but others prefer to be left to their own devices. For example, if you already have a dog and are thinking of getting another, consider the breed traits of your dog. There are other factors to take into consideration too, such as age, temperament, neutered status and health. Think about it, if you have an elderly house cat who loves to curl up in a ball and sleep for the day, should you really consider introducing an energetic terrier who loves to run around all day? This is one of the first things to think about when considering introducing new pets to the home.
If you are considering rehoming an animal from a shelter, think about their background and whether they will fit into your home with your current animals. If they were used to a quiet home with no young children and no other animals, it might not be fair on them to bring them into a home with too much chaos and confusion, as it may induce stress.
Animals should be introduced slowly as your current pets will consider the home as their territory and may not initially welcome this new furry creature who is stepping onto their turf. Find a neutral location where you can introduce the newcomer to each pet (if you have more than one) and keep a close eye on them whilst they assess each other.
Keep treats on hand to reward good behaviour. They will soon learn that a snarl, bark or a hiss is not the way to behave and the treats will encourage positive associations with the newcomer. Try not to punish either pet if there is adverse behaviour as this will only encourage negative associations.
Cats are solitary creatures and unlike some animals, don't have that pack mentality. Therefore, if you're introducing cats, it may take a little longer for them to get used to the idea of not being the king of the castle. One of the first things to do is prepare a room with toys, water, food and litter tray for your new kitty. This will allow them to get used to their surroundings before introducing the other pets. When you have spent a little time with your new cat, spend some time with the other animals in the home so they can get used to the scent of the new addition. If you have dogs in the household, keep them on a lead when you're first introducing them and ensure that there are opportunities for your new cat to retreat to higher ground where they will feel safer and less threatened.
Whilst some species are predators, some are considered prey. If you're considering a multi species household, this is something to bear in mind. Where dogs and cats are concerned, they have a natural chase instinct so when they're being introduced to the smaller furry pets in the household, some care and attention needs to be taken. For example, if you have rabbits or guinea pigs and are thinking of introducing a dog to the household, make sure the rabbit or guinea pig is in a secure cage and allow your dog to see them and have a sniff so that they can become familiar with this new creature that they may have never encountered before. If this is successful and there are no signs of fear then allow the dog to sniff your pet whilst you're holding it, but be sure there is someone else on hand to supervise in case your dog gets a little excited. The dog will have a natural chase instinct but if your dog is on a lead whilst the rabbit is roaming around the house or garden and they both seem calm and relaxed, you're one step closer to having a tranquil multi-species household.
There are products you can buy which can help reduce stress amongst the animals during the introduction process. Comforting pheromone sprays can be bought from pet stores and these can give your cat or dog a feeling of security during the process.
Has anyone had to introduce a new pet to a household where there are already animals? How did you cope with the situation? Perhaps you have some more tips to share.
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