If you are an animal lover, chances are that at some point in your life (once you are sure you have the time and resources to do so), you are going to go out and rescue an adorable, four-legged friend. You love and adore your little fur-baby, but after a certain amount of time, like most parents, you may start wondering if your cat or dog might be happier with an animal friend. You can give them all the time and attention they need, but someone to keep them company when you are at work would “definitely make them happier.”
While in many cases this is true, it is important to prepare for introducing each new member into your pack. You don’t want your house to become a dog versus cat battle zone. You want all members of your family,new and old, to feel as comfortable in their house as possible. Though each introduction will be different depending on the species, number of animals, ages, genders and individual temperaments, there are some basic tips for introducing a new animal friend into your pack that can help the process go a bit more smoothly.
Introducing a Dog
Dogs to Dogs
Introducing a new dog into a family with one or more resident canines can be tricky. Like most “pack” animals, dogs have a social structure and dominance hierarchy. The Humane Society of the United States says that this hierarchy serves to maintain order, reduce conflict and promote cooperation between the members of the pack. So while this hierarchy can help create a peaceful environment for all of the pets in your life, it can also be a difficult period of time for both your new dog and also your older companions. Dogs have to figure out where they fall in the hierarchy, so it is important to introduce new members of the pack slowly.
First, choose an unfamiliar location to start your puppy introductions. This will keep your current dog from viewing any newcomers as an intruder. If you are adopting a dog from an animal shelter, they often request that the dogs have a meet and greet beforehand to ensure compatibility.
During introductions, each dog should be on a leash and handled by a different person. Allow them to sniff each other and completely check one another out. Be wary of body language; signs of aggression include raised hackles and teeth baring. If all is going well, be sure to provide lots of praise for the new friends. Have them each sit and give them treats so they associate the new dog they’re meeting with a positive experience.
When you feel like the investigating has tapered off and the two dogs are tolerating one another, it’s time to head home. It is ok for one dog to take the dominant position, such as claiming toys or beds, so don’t be too worried that this is a sign of life-long conflict. This is all part of that doggy hierarchy. And throughout all the ups and downs that come with new interactions, remember to remain calm and happy. Your current pup can pick up on your stress or anxiety and this could cause them to act out in your defense. But not to worry, if you keep cool and allow both dogs to adjust at their own pace, before you know it your pack will be totally comfortable and happy!
Dogs to Cats
Introducing a dog into a pack with cats can be more tricky than bringing in a new dog. Cat personalities and willingness to tolerate dogs can vary enormously. Some cats may act fearfully and some will be ready to play from the get go. It is important to consider the personality traits of your cat before adopting a new pack member. If you have an indoor cat who hasn’t interacted with other animals for the majority of their life, bringing in another pet could be very stressful for them. Is your cat comfortable meeting new people? If they tend to run and hide under your coach when anything out of the ordinary happens, this pet might not take a new addition to the family well.
For cats who are more sociable, adding a dog into the mix might lead to a great inter-species friendship (yes, it is possible!).When you first bring your new pup home, it is important to separate them from the resident cat. You can section off the house and switch off which rooms each animal has access too. This will allow each animal to grow accustomed to the other’s scent. Once the new dog is calm, or at least not obsessed with the idea of finding and playing with the cat, you can start the real introductions.
Leash your canine companion up and allow the dog and cat to be in the same room. The American Humane Association recommends that you continue the introduction step until the dog is calm and is ignoring the cat. Also be mindful of your cat’s behavior after the introduction. If they appear to be comfortable and are eating and using the litter box like normal, then these are good indicators that the cat is not feeling overly stressed. Remember, you should only allow the dog and cat to be unsupervised together after you are completely confident that they won’t harm or cause stress to one another. It will often take longer for a relationship to develop between these two species than between two dogs, but give it time.
Introducing a Cat
Cats to Cats
Like with dogs, you don’t want to just throw a new cat into your resident cat’s territory. Instead, you are going to want to start by keeping the two fur babies separate for a few days. Allow them to grow accustomed to the other’s scent and to the idea that there is another cat in their house.
After a couple days, you can begin the introduction process. Start by allowing the two to see each other through a door way, for example. After a couple days of this type of preparation, you can move to a neutral room to introduce them. Animal Planet recommends that if one or both cats seem stressed by the presence of the other, keep the encounter short. Repeat the process again the next day with a longer session. Gradually, they will begin to accept and tolerate each other. Depending on the personalities of your feline friends, their period of introduction and adjustment may take a few weeks or even months.
Cats to Dogs
Though you cannot force a cat and dog to get along, but there are some ways to welcome a new cat that will increase your chances of this happening drastically. When you first bring a new kitty home, you should give them a few days to adjust. This could be confinement to one room or side of the house with a litter box, food, water and toys. Start feeding your cat near the door that leads to the rest of your pack. Feed your other furry friends on the other side of the door. This will allow everyone to associate each other’s scent with something positive.
Like when introducing a new dog to a resident cat, slow and steady wins the race. Keep the dog leashed for the first few meetings and don’t rush the encounters. When the time is right and your pets all feel comfortable and secure, all the members of your pack will learn to coexist happily.
Your Happy Pack
With time and patience, every animal can learn to get along. Remember to make all encounters as positive, happy and relaxed as possible, and you should see a great deal of success. If you are having any aggression problems, however, consult a professional to come in and help. They will be able to identify the problem and get you closer to the happy, loving pack of rescue animals of your dreams.
Lead image source: A&A Photography/Flickr