If you are thinking of expanding your family, be mindful that your current pet may not share in your enthusiasm. Even if your dog loves to play at the park with other dogs, a new pet in the house can be stressful to her. Cats may express territorial behavior that has never been seen before or feel threatened and fight with the new pet. Pets can not always be forced to like each other but with a few tips, the new pet and your current pet can end up being friends or, at the very least, roommates.
Dogs and cats have an enhanced sense of smell. They can tell a new pet is in the house even if they can not see the new pet. A good introduction to a new pet may be through scent instead of sight. Separate the pets into different rooms or crates to allow each of them to smell the scent of the other. For a few days the pets may need to be isolated as one explores the house, allowing each one to take turns. At night, the new pet may need a separate room to sleep in with a door that closes over. It will be cumbersome and may be disruptive to the house but this is normally the gentlest and least stressful way to introduce new pets.
Existing pets may want to defend their territory or protect their owners if they meet a new pet inside the house. If possible, introduce the dogs in a neutral area outside the home such as on a walk or at a park. For cats, this may be harder to do. However, short interactions between the cats with supervision will work. Try to not favor one cat over the other or pick one up as the other may find this threatening. If the interaction becomes tense, separate them and let them each calm down.
Dogs and cats are territorial about toys and bedding. Even if they like the new pet, they may not want to share toys. This is not always true, but to avoid conflict it is a good idea to have toys that each pet can play with and avoid a fight. New toys with no scent are neutral toys that one may claim over the other. Some pets may share equally but it is important to figure out what toy one pet likes and what toy the other pet likes. My cats have their separate toys by choice. One cat loves a catnip mouse and the other cat likes a bell with a few feathers on it. They normally do not play with each other’s toys but when they do, there is very little tension.
When I adopted my newest cat, my other cat was more fearful than aggressive. The new cat is the dominant cat when it comes to where he sleeps and what window he looks out. I did not separate them for more than two full days. After that, I split them up if it seemed a fight was about to break out. The two cats now play together, groom each other, and sometimes cuddle in the same pet bed… they both favor one bed over another. It took some time and patience but keeping them apart initially helps ease the transition.
Have other tips to share? Let us know!