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Introducing a new pet to your family can be an exciting, but challenging, time for everyone. This is especially true if you have children and other pets living in your home already.
To set the stage for a harmonious introduction, it’s important to be patient and take it slow, following some key tips to help both new and existing pets feel safe, secure and loved.
Before you bring a new pet home, plan ahead and make sure you have everything your new pet needs – food, toys, treats, a bed and water. Ideally, your new pet will have his or her own space for the first few days or weeks they’re home. You will also want to talk to your kids about how to properly handle and play with pets, according to My Happy Pets.
Remember to take it slow when it comes to trying to have your pets share space or introducing the animals to each other. Meeting or smelling each other through a closed door is often a good way to let pets get used to each other’s scents, or you can let each pet sniff a piece of laundry or fabric that has the other pet’s scent on it so they can start to familiarize themselves with how the other smells.
There are a number of things to keep in mind as you begin to introduce your new pet. Here is a round-up of specific tips for a few different scenarios to help you prepare.
Children and Pets
- Remind your children to stay calm and be very gentle with the new pet.
- Do not leave children unattended with a new pet.
- Let children know that they should not try to jump on, tackle or pick up the new pet.
- Teach your children to let the pet approach and sniff them before any petting takes place.
- Try to encourage quiet voices so as not to startle the new pet.
Puppy and dog to dog Introductions
- Introduce puppies or dogs in a neutral environment, such as a park, or if you want to make introductions at home, place two crates or large cages near each other and let the dogs meet through the gates.
- Keep both dogs on leashes, and do not force the dogs to interact.
- Reward each dog as they interact well, and allow them space between meetings.
- If either dog begins to growl or tense up, lead them away from each other and try again later.
- Let each dog take turns roaming the house and playing in open space while the other dog takes a turn in a crate or separate, closed off room.
Kitten and Cat to Cat Introductions
- Provide the new kitty its own space with water, food and toys as it becomes acclimated to your house.
- Allow each cat a few minutes of independent time to explore the other’s space.
- Introduce the cats with a baby gate or crate to separate them. Don’t be surprised if there is some hissing at first.
- Allow the cats to get close and sniff each other, as long as they are doing so peacefully.
- If either cat is stressed or upset, separate them and try again later.
- Don’t let the cats spend time together unsupervised until they’ve interacted safely several times.
- Whenever either cat behaves well with the other, praise them verbally and with treats.
Dog to Cat
- Introducing dogs to cats, or vice versa, requires similar steps, but because they are different species, there can be more challenges.
- Remember to make introductions with leashes and/or crates or baby gates.
- Keep the animals in separate spaces until they are familiar and comfortable with each other.
- Keep a close eye out for aggressive behavior in either animal. If they are tense or aggressive, separate them and try again later.
- It’s easy to assume that a small pet is safe from a larger pet because they are in an enclosure or cage. But small animals, such as hamsters, birds, bunnies and guinea pigs, can be at risk if your new dog or cat isn’t properly introduced.
- Make sure to keep small pets up high and in a separate space as the animals get used to each other.
- Only allow the larger pet into the room with your small pet when supervised.
- Another good option is to introduce small pets to each other in a bathtub. This way they can roam freely and it is a neutral space for both of them.
Getting a new pet is exciting, and when you set your pets and family up for success through proper preparation, the process can be relatively smooth and stress-free.