Preparing to Add Another Pet to the Family?
“We’ve always had two dogs.”
“A pet needs a friend if by itself all day.”
"I couldn't say 'no' to those eyes."
There are many reasons why pet parents decide to add another furry member to their family. Many animals, such as dogs, are inherently social or pack animals. But just like in the pack, there is a specific pecking order that must be respected. And when it comes to cats, it is all about guarding one's territory. So what is the best way to introduce a second furry member? Preparation. Remember planning the feeding, exercise, vet, pet insurance, housebreaking, and more when you got your first pet? You will need to do the same with your pet, including planning preventative care.
Here are some tips from the professionals for introducing your new family member.
Introducing a Second Dog
- Meet in neutral territory. Some shelters will encourage families to bring their first dog with them when picking up the new dog. When outside the shelter, giving dogs the chance to meet each other on common ground will help them investigate each other through the usual sniffing methods. If possible, have the dogs go home in separate cars or crated separately. Repeat the introduction outside the home and possibly a walk too.
- Make your home as neutral as possible. Give the new dog their own bed, toys, food, and water bowls. Someday they’ll be inseparable, and you might look back and laugh. But for now, it is a great idea to start as cautious as possible. If your first dog has one favorite toy or lovey, remove it for now and only give back when you also give your new dog a their own toy.
- Expect some jostling for hierarchy. It is entirely normal for dogs to try to jostle for positioning. When you see sneering, growling or other aggressive behavior, watch carefully. If the action goes on for too long or starts to get more serious, distract and redirect.
- Keep dogs separated when not at home. Just like you didn’t know how your first dog would act when alone, you don’t know how the two dogs will act together. Crate them separately until you are confident about their behavior.
Tips from dog parents who have introduced a new dog:
- Give it time; it took us six long weeks
- Let them go on a walk together; it encourages pack behavior.
- Give your first dog plenty of attention, so they know they aren’t being replaced.
- Don’t leave them alone together until they ultimately get along, or expect a vet bill.
Hear what advice pet behavior expert Sarah Hodgson has for Hannah and Penny, an older and younger dog who are experiencing some tension under the same roof.
Introducing a Second Cat
- Get ready for a challenge. Because of a cat’s instinct to protect its territory, introducing a new cat can be challenging. According to the Animal Humane Society, it might take up to 4 weeks for introducing a new kitten and 6 weeks or longer for adding an adult cat. And some cats, especially adults, may never get along. Of course you have good intentions, but cats have tough personalities.
- Keep the new cat separated. Give your new cat its own food and water bowls, litter box, toys, and bed in a separate “safe room”. Let your first cat continue its routine, and be sure to give them plenty of attention, including cuddling, petting, and brushing. Your first cat may see the new cat as an immediate threat to their territory along with their status as your number one.
- Start the introduction. Move both cats' food dishes to opposite sides of the door of the safe room. This placement will help them associate the satisfying activity of eating with being near each other. Now, put your first cat in a room and let the new cat explore your house or apartment. Almost everywhere the new cat goes, they will encounter your first cat’s scent, a great way of enforcing whose territory it is. Now, it is time to introduce both cats to each other slowly with supervision.
- Monitor and Supervise. Just like with dogs, monitor their behavior, and break up any fights with distraction and redirection. You might need a loud sound - pennies in a can, compressed air, or anything else that will get their attention fast. Some experts recommend keeping a small blanket or towel nearby to throw over one of the cats if they are too deep in the moment. Since cats take longer to accept their new roommate, the monitor and supervising period may go on for a while.
Tips from the cat parents who have introduced a new cat:
- We never forced any interaction; cats will do what they want!
- If possible, keep separate litter boxes for each cat.
- Expect some continuous swats or warning hisses.
Introducing a New Cat or Dog to Your Home
- Bring the new pet in and put them in a contained area. Suddenly a new animal is being introduced to your current pet’s territory. Your current pet probably has no clue what is happening or how to react, so be sure to give them plenty of attention and act as nothing is changing.
- Introduce slowly. A new introduction works best if two people familiar with the first pet can accompany the animals. Be careful of any potential issues, such as an energetic puppy with an elderly cat. You might want to keep the dog on a leash during the first introduction for safety.
- Give the cat an escape route. If a cat feels threatened, they will often try to escape. A quick route to safety under the sofa, up a cat condo, or other perch will help the cat feel more comfortable. Separate them until they both have their own space and let them get used to one another. It may also help to have treats nearby and have the dog focus on you as the owner rather than the cat. You do not want the dog to think the cat is prey or a toy. While this rarely happens, it is good to be prepared.
- Monitor and Supervise. Continuous monitoring is needed to ensure safety, mostly for the cat. Just like other introductions, do not leave the two pets alone until you are sure they get along. You might want to always leave an escape route for the cat, such as a gated room the dog cannot enter.
Tips from the pet owners introducing a new pet:
- Our second pet was from a rescue and they could tell us if he was good with other animals.
- Eventually we had to bring in an animal behaviorist! But it was worth it.
- Try to walk the puppy, play with the kitten or some behavior that tires out the younger one, so they meet on equal energy levels.
- The younger one just wanted to play and was more energetic and aggressive at times.
If you want a two-pet household, but you don’t have the time to dedicate to a proper introduction phase, consider raising littermates and starting with two. Pet behavior expert Sarah Hodgson is a big fan of this approach.
Keep in mind that adding a second pet can increase the chances of medical mishaps. Rough play, extensive chasing, twisted leashes, and occasional fights can lead to vet trips. Look into Spot dog and cat health insurance before introducing your new pet, Spot offers a 10% multi-pet discount so you can get a break off your second pet’s premium!
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