When you meet new people, you habitually extend a hand, make eye contact, and introduce yourself. With pets, the process is slightly different.
You’ve probably seen two dogs sniffing each other’s tushes, or a couple cats suspiciously smelling one another. Their system of formalities is based upon a series of rules instinctual to them, but looks hilarious and bizarre to us humans.
Bringing a new pet into your ecosystem at home is fun and exciting for you (woo hoo, new cuddle buddy!), but will likely ruffle some feathers (well, fur) when your resident pug Peanut meets your new pomeranian Peaches. And you know what they say about first impressions: you only get one. So when you make the initial introduction, make sure to have a plan in place – don’t just throw your pets into the same room and hope it’ll work out!
New Doggy Debut
The way that Peanut and Peaches interact during those first couple meetings is gonna impact their ongoing relationship. A few simple steps can ease the pooches into accepting one another – and hopefully serve as the foundation for a lifelong friendship.
Leash ‘em up and bring ‘em out! Go for a walk with Peanut and Peaches, but keep some distance between them. The idea is to let them be near each other without any tension since their focus will be on the walk. Pick a route that you don’t normally use so it’ll be fresh ground for both dogs (i.e., not your front sidewalk).
Meet ’n greet
Now the pups need a bit of face time. Using a neutral spot that won’t be claustrophobic (doorways, corners, small rooms), allow them to sniff each other for a few minutes, then move on. If they want to play, let them do their thing for a couple extra minutes.
Home at last
First, let Peanut and Peaches chill outdoors, then bring the resident pooch inside and grab the newbie doggy thereafter. Keep their encounters short and sweet – if you see stress or anxiety, separate them immediately and proceed later after they’ve calmed down.
When you’re at work, keep Peanut and Peaches in separate rooms, at least in the beginning. The last thing you want is for them to fight and possibly injure each other while unsupervised.
Show ‘em who’s boss (hint: it’s you)
Dogs are pack animals, and you’re their leader. Though they will decide which of them is the dominant doggy, you’re still the top authority figure and you rule the roost. Use positive reinforcement to reward good behavior and divide your attention equally among both pups.
Cat’s Outta The Bag
Just like with Peanut and Peaches, you gotta be thoughtful when welcoming a new kitty into your family. Cats are territorial and thrive on routine so your upfront effort will lead to their longterm success.
Mi casa is not su casa (yet)
Before you invite Princess The Persian into your dwelling, create a separate space for her, complete with toys, bed, food, and litter box. A bedroom, office, or bathroom will suffice, as long as she’s independent from your resident fluffball, Roxy The Ragdoll. The point is to let Princess adapt to her new surroundings one room at a time, while gradually increasing her access to the other rooms.
No doubt Princess and Roxy have peered at each other, and probably pawed at each other, under the door. After about a week of segregation, crack the door open and let them view each other’s beautiful faces. If you see signs of aggression (flattened ears, growls, crouch stance) bring them back to their separate spaces to cool off.
Sniffing Things Out: Part 1
You want Roxy and Princess to develop positive associations with each other’s scent, and it starts with mealtime. Put their dishes on opposite sides of Princess’ door (not too close!) and slowly move the bowls closer to the door over the next several days.
Sniffing Things Out: Part 2
Time for the ol’ switch-eroo. Start by rubbing a clean towel along Roxy’s face, and leaving it in Princess’ space – then vice versa. Let each kitty investigate the pheromone-filled towel and familiarize herself with the new scent.
After your precious new babe has gotten accustomed to her little one-room universe, she should explore. Let Princess roam around in Roxy’s territory, and put Roxy in Princess’ teeny kingdom.
It’s (group) play time
Once you’re comfortable letting the kitties hang out, try to engage them in group play. Since cats are natural hunters, having them expel their energy together can divert aggressions and help solidify their forming bond.
As you go through the new pet introduction process, always be patient. Remember that you’ve disrupted their entire world, and it may take awhile before peace is restored in your household. But with some extra TLC and perseverance, you may witness a new set of BFFs sooner than you think.