Getting a new pet can be both wonderful and stressful. These steps will help ensure a peaceful introduction and provide realistic expectations.
Introducing Your New Cats to Other Pets:
Wouldn’t it be nice if all it took to introduce a new cat to your resident pet were a brief handshake and a couple of “HELLO, My Name is….” nametags?
But, since we’re dealing with cats, not people, it’s just not that simple, so you’ll need to have some realistic expectations.
First, it’s recognizing and accepting that you can’t force your pets to like each other. We don’t have a crystal ball to predict whether or not your pets will be friends, but we do have techniques for you to use to increase your chances of success. Most importantly, choose a cat with a similar personality and activity level. For example, an older cat or dog might not appreciate the antics of a kitten.
You need to move slowly during the introduction process to increase your chances for success. You mustn’t throw your pets together in a sink-or-swim situation and hope they’ll work it out
The nature of cats
Cats are territorial, and in general they don’t like to share. A cat who’s unhappy about a newcomer may express his displeasure by fighting with the other pet and marking territory (peeing on the floor, wall, objects).Cats also dislike change, and a new cat in the house is a huge change. These two character traits mean you could have a tough (but not impassable) road ahead.
Some cats are more social than other cats. For example, an 8-year-old cat who has never been around other animals might never learn to share her territory (and her people) with other pets in the household. But an 8-week-old kitten separated from her mom and littermates for the first time might be glad to have a cat or dog companion.All of this means that your current pet and your new cat need to be introduced very slowly so they can get used to each other before a face-to-face meeting. Slow introductions help prevent fearful or aggressive behavior from developing. Below are some guidelines to help make the introductions go smoothly.
Be aware that the introduction process can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, or even a few months in extreme cases. Be patient.
To allow time for the newcomer to adjust to you and her new situation, keep her in a small room with her litter box, food, water, scratching post, toys and a bed for several days to a week.
– Feed your resident pets and the newcomer on each side of the door to this room, so that they associate something enjoyable (eating!) with each other’s smells. Don’t put the food so close to the door that the animals are too upset by each other’s presence to eat.
– Gradually move the dishes closer to the door until your pets can eat calmly while standing directly on either side of the door.
– Try to get your pets to interact with a toy. Tie a toy to each end of a string, then place it so there’s a toy on either side of the door. Hopefully, they’ll start batting the toys around and maybe even batting paws.
– Be sure to spend plenty of time with your new kitty in her room, but don’t ignore your resident cat.
The old switcheroo
To animals, smells are far more important than appearances, so you want to get your pets used to each other’s scent before they meet face-to-face.
– Swap the blankets or beds the cats use or gently rub a washcloth on one cat’s cheeks and put it underneath the food dish of another. If there are more than two animals in the house, do the same for each animal.
– When the pets finally do meet, at least their scents will be familiar.
– Once your new cat is using her litter box and eating regularly while confined, let her have free time in the house while confining your other pets to the new cat’s room. It’s best to introduce yur new cat to a room or two at a time and increase her access to other rooms over a few days. This switch provides another way for them to experience each other’s scents without a face-to-face meeting. It also allows the newcomer to get familiar with her new surroundings without the other animals frightening her.
– You can do this several times a day, but only when you’re home to supervise. If you have to leave the house, put your new kitty back in her room.
– Next, after you’ve returned the cats to their designated parts of the house, use two doorstops to prop open the dividing door just enough to allow the animals to see each other.
– Repeat the whole process over a period of days—supervised, of course.
Slow and steady wins the race
It’s better to introduce your pets to each other gradually so that neither animal becomes afraid or aggressive. Once the cats are face to face, though, there will be some kinks for them to work out.
If you’re really lucky (and your cats are inclined), they may do some mutual sniffing and grooming, and you’re on your way to success. They may sit and stare at each other. You can provide distraction by dangling toys in front of them at the same time. This may encourage them to play together.
They might sniff each other, hiss, and walk away. That’s to be expected. This may go on for a few days or so, and then you’ll probably find them both sleeping on your bed.
Break it up
If you’re not so lucky, they may be very stressed. Fortunately, they may only posture and make a lot of noise. But, as soon as there are signs of increasing aggression (flattened ears, growling, spitting, crouching) make a loud noise by clapping your hands or throw a pillow nearby to distract them. If the standoff continues, very carefullyherd them into separate parts of the house to calm down. This could take up to 24 hours and the cats may take out their stress on you.
If the cats fight repeatedly, you may need to start the introduction process all over again and consider getting advice from a vet or animal behaviorist.
Note: Never try to break up a cat fight by picking one up; You’re bound to get hurt.
There are other things you can do to help ease tension between feline roommates.
– Have your cats examined by your vet before introductions to make sure they’re all healthy.
– Have one litter box per cat plus an extra one.
– Try to keep your resident pets’ routine as close to what it was before the newcomer’s arrival.
– Make sure all cats have a “safe” place to escape to.
Introducing Your Dog to Other Pets
From “the leader of the pack” to “the top dog,” plenty of simplistic metaphors come from the canine world. But relationships between canines can be pretty complex, beginning with the very first meeting.
Like most animals who live in groups, dogs establish their own social structure, sometimes called a dominance hierarchy. This dominance hierarchy serves to maintain order, reduce conflict and promote cooperation among pack members.
Dogs also establish territories, which they may defend against intruders or rivals. Of course, dogs’ social and territorial nature affects their behavior whenever a new dog is introduced to the household.
Choose a neutral location
Introduce the dogs in a neutral location so that your resident dog is less likely to view the newcomer as a territorial intruder. Each dog should be handled by a separate person. With both dogs on leashes, begin the introductions in an area unfamiliar to each, such as a park or a neighbor’s yard. If you frequently walk your resident dog in a nearby park, she may view that area as her territory, too, so choose a less familiar site. If you are adopting your dog from an animal shelter, you might even bring your resident dog to the local shelter and introduce the two there (some shelters may even require that a new dog meets the resident dog before the adoption is complete).
Use positive reinforcement
From the first meeting, help both dogs experience “good things” when they’re in each other’s presence. Let them sniff each other briefly, which is normal canine greeting behavior. As they do, talk to them in a happy, friendly tone of voice; never use a threatening tone. (Don’t allow them to investigate and sniff each other for too long, however, as this may escalate to an aggressive response.)
After a short time, get the attention of both dogs and give each a treat in return for obeying a simple command, such as “sit” or “stay.” Take the dogs for a walk and let them sniff and investigate each other at intervals. Continue with the “happy talk,” food rewards, and simple commands.
Be aware of body postures
One body posture that indicates things are going well is a “play-bow.” One dog will crouch with her front legs on the ground and her hind end in the air. This is an invitation to play, and a posture that usually elicits friendly behavior from the other dog. Watch carefully for body postures that indicate an aggressive response, including hair standing up on one dog’s back, teeth-baring, deep growls, a stiff-legged gait, or a prolonged stare. If you see such postures, interrupt the interaction immediately by calmly getting each dog interested in something else.
For example, both handlers can call their dogs to them, have them sit or lie down, and reward each with a treat. The dogs’ interest in the treats should prevent the situation from escalating into aggression. Try letting the dogs interact again, but this time for a shorter time period and/or at a greater distance from each other.
Taking the dogs home
When the dogs seem to be tolerating each other’s presence without fearful or aggressive responses, and the investigative greeting behaviors have tapered off, you can take them home. Whether you choose to take them in the same vehicle will depend on their size, how well they ride in the car, how trouble-free the initial introduction has been, and how many dogs are involved.
If you have more than one resident dog in your household, it may be best to introduce the resident dogs to the new dog one at a time. Two or more resident dogs may have a tendency to “gang up” on the newcomer.
It is important to support the dominant dog in your household, even if that turns out to be the newcomer. This may mean, for example, allowing the dominant dog to claim a special toy or favored sleeping spot as his own. Trying to impose your preference for which dog should be dominant can confuse the dogs and create further problems.
Introducing puppies to adult dogs
Puppies usually pester adult dogs unmercifully. Before the age of four months, puppies may not recognize subtle body postures from adult dogs signaling that they’ve had enough. Well-socialized adult dogs with good temperaments may set limits with puppies with a warning growl or snarl. These behaviors are normal and should be allowed.
Adult dogs who aren’t well-socialized, or who have a history of fighting with other dogs, may attempt to set limits with more aggressive behaviors, such as biting, which could harm the puppy. For this reason, a puppy shouldn’t be left alone with an adult dog until you’re confident the puppy isn’t in any danger. Be sure to give the adult dog some quiet time away from the puppy, and some extra individual attention as well.
When to get help
If the introductions don’t go smoothly, contact a veterinarian or behaviorist. Dogs can be severely injured in fights, and the longer the problem continues, the harder it can be to resolve. Punishment won’t work, and could make things worse. Fortunately, most conflicts between dogs in the same family can be resolved with professional guidance.
Copyright © The Humane Society of the United States, 2013