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Introducing New Pets the Right Way

 

 

new puppy, new pet, introducing new pets

Our new addition, Gidget

Hi everyone! Welcome back to Tales & Tales with Dr. Ferrell. Today, we’re going to talk introductions.

new puppy, new pet, introducing new pets

Petunia

Jiggy, Corey and I recently introduced a new puppy, Gidget, to our household. Initially Jiggy wasn’t sure she was ready to be a big sister, but with proper introductions, she’s adjusting quite well. I thought it would be a great time to revisit this blog from last year.

Meet Petunia. Petunia comes to stay with me whenever her parents are traveling. She’s absolutely hilarious and keeps us entertained the entire visit. The first time Petunia visited, Jiggy looked at her wiggling wagging body and jumped onto the back of the couch. Corey Cat went for the dining room table.  But Petunia is incredibly sweet and good at reading Jiggy and Corey’s behavior cues and respecting their boundaries. So she let Jiggy and Corey come to her when they were ready and it’s been smooth sailing every since. We have lots of four-legged visitors to our house, so I’m lucky that Jiggy and Corey Cat both tolerate newcomers well. But what do you do when your resident pets don’t willingly welcome new additions? 

 

Dogs & Dogs:  Introducing dogs is usually a bit easier than introducing cats, so let’s start there. Now, remember, these are the basics! If you have questions or trouble at any step, give us a call and we’ll help customize the plan for your pets’ specific needs or anxieties. Here’s a nice article for additional information as well: Adding a Second Dog to Your Family.

 

 

 

  1. BEFORE you choose your new dog, talk to your veterinarian about your family’s needs and expectations and what will be the best fit for your household and lifestyle. 
  2. All pets being introduced should be spayed or neutered.
  3. Introduce them on neutral territory. A large space is ideal so they have plenty of room to move around and investigate each others’ body language. If at home, use the yard if possible (if fenced) or choose the largest room available.
  4. Begin with the new dog in a crate/kennel. Allow your resident dog to sniff and check out this new addition at his/her own pace.
  5. Once both dogs are behaving calmly, switch them. Let the new dog out to explore the new surroundings and get used to the scents of your current dog while he/she is kenneled.
  6. Once your new dog has explored and is calm, let the other dog out of the kennel. It may be appropriate for some dogs to remain on leashes initially–ask your vet about your specific dog. Note: if you are nervous, your dogs will be nervous. Make sure you are relaxed and calm when you decide to introduce your dogs.
  7. As your dogs get to know each other, running, jumping, bumping, and barking are all normal behaviors. Frequently when dogs want to make friends they will “bow” to the other dog–front end down, ears perky, rump in the air, tail wagging. This is a good sign.
  8. Exercise, exercise, exercise–the more excess energy you wear off, the better behaved and more accepting of each other your dogs will be.
  9. If either dog becomes anxious, acts fearful, growls or snaps, it’s time to give us a call for a more customized introduction plan.

 

 Dogs & Cats:  Alright, now let’s mix it up a little. As all cat owners know, cats have their own set of rules. And they haven’t shared them with us. But almost all cats can learn to live in harmony (or at least tolerance) with dogs. There may be some variation here depending on who was at home first–the dog or the cat, so call us if you have any questions. For more info: Cats & Dogs Can Live Together

 

  1. Again, talk to your veterinarian first to help determine the best fit for your household and how to meet your pets’ individual needs.
  2. Spay or neuter all pets.
  3. Ask the person you’re getting your new pet from if they’ve ever been around the other species. How did they react? Were they scared, overly aggressive, etc? Discuss these answers with your veterinarian to make sure moving forward is the right decision.
  4. If you have a dog and want to bring home a cat, work on obedience now. Your dog should be able to sit and stay and down even with distractions BEFORE a new cat arrives. Make sure your dog is well leash trained in case you need some restraint while meeting the new cat. If you have a cat and are bringing a new dog home, don’t introduce them until your new dog’s obedience commands are learned and obeyed.
  5. New cats should be confined to a small area (one room or bathroom) initially to ensure he/she feels safe as they become acclimated to their new home. Provide them with bedding, toys, scratching post, litterbox, and food and water. Make sure they still receive plenty of attention and play time. I like to occasionally switch bedding between the dog and cat so they get used to each others’ smells.
  6. When first introducing your dog and cat, place your dog in a kennel and allow your cat to sniff and explore the new sounds and smells without face to face interaction. I don’t usually have cats take a turn in the kennel at this point, as they may feel trapped or threatened by the larger dog circling them, but do allow your dog time to explore the room the cat was staying in and get used to those smells.
  7. Once your dog is calm while able to see the cat, you may take your dog out of the kennel but keep him/her on a leash. Use sit, stay, and down commands to ensure your dog will still respond while excited over a new friend. Allow your cat to meet the dog at his/her own pace, while keeping your dog in a sit or down position. You may need to repeat this process daily for quite some time, every pet differs.
  8. Once your dog and cat both react calmly to each other, you can remove the leash and allow them to explore each other more freely. If either one becomes anxious or hisses, growls, etc, separate them and back up a step or give us a call for some help.

 

 

Cats & Cats: This can sometimes be the most difficult introduction to make and is actually the inspiration for this blog. One of our clients found a sweet stray cat, Eggplant, and would like to adopt him. Kiwi, his current kitty, has pretty strong opinions on most topics, so we’re not sure yet how he’ll accept a new friend. But here are the steps we’re following. Additional information: Two Cats in One Home

 

  1. The first two steps are always the same. Talk to your vet. Spay or neuter.
  2. Confine the new cat to one room and provide them with bedding, toys, scratching post, their own litterbox, and food and water. Keep the cats separate for a couple weeks. Use this time to visit the vet and make sure your new cat is FIV and FeLV negative and has no internal or external parasites.
  3. I like to occasionally switch out bedding or toys to allow each cat to get used to the other’s scent.
  4. If they aren’t responding to the other cat’s toys or bedding with hisses and snarls, we’re on the right track. Eventually, when you’re home, leave the new cat’s door open. Never force the two cats together–let them go at their own pace. Separate them again if bad behaviors arise and try again in a couple days or call us for help.
  5. Each day, you may move the cats’ food and water bowls a little closer together (beginning in separate rooms). Feeding twice daily rather than free feeding is recommended to avoid territorial issues while you’re not supervising.
  6. This step is the most important thing about having multiple cats in a household! Litterboxes. If you don’t like litter, cat poop, or plastic boxes full of both, cat ownership may not be for you. You need at least one box per cat, plus one, spread out all over the house.  When in doubt, use more litterboxes. The most common complaint when introducing a new cat (and the most common reason cats are relinquished) is urinating outside the litterbox. Scoop every litterbox everyday. Once weekly, dump out all litter and clean the boxes thoroughly. Dry completely before refilling with litter. Seriously, this is really important. 

 

Again, these are very basic instructions. All pets vary in their socialization, anxiety level and behavior. If you have any questions or concerns about introducing new pets, call us anytime.

(reprint from 09/18/13)

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