By: Kim Parrish
Introducing new pets to your home can be stressful to both man and beast. The biggest reward will be when all are at total peace with each other. However, this does not happen in days or even weeks. It takes time, patience and love.
Dogs are a little easier to introduce than cats, but the key is how you introduce successfully. It should be done in an open place, both on leads and let them sniff, get their hackles up, circle one another until they grow bored and decide the greasy spot on the road is much more interesting. You should never bring a new dog into the house without an introduction. Dogs are territorial and a new dog in the house is threatening to your dog and a bit scary. A safe and successful introduction should be on neutral ground: Introduce on a lead, take them for a walk together, then bring them in the house.
Once inside, keep an eye out for tension, separate when feeding and until you are totally comfortable with your new pet, it is best to crate or safe place until you return.
Bringing a new cat into the house with a resident dog can be trickier. If a cat has never been around a dog, no matter how sweet your pup may be, the cat is going to react. The way to ease stress for all is to have a room set up for kitty with litter box, food, water and bed. Also provide a place where she can hide, whether it is a box with a towel over it or even a cat carrier with bedding. Shut the door to the room and let the kitty get used to being in a safe place. She may hide under the bed for a week, but I guarantee when lights go out, kitty is up and sniffing around the room. She is also aware of the dog smell (or other resident animal) while getting used to the unfamiliar from the safety of her room.
After a few days depending on the curiosity of the kitty, put a gate up at the door, angled with a space for kitty to get in and out. This allows her the opportunity to go out but retreat safely if need be. The gate provides both dog and cat the safety of getting to know each other with protection between them. Cat and dog will eventually be fine. It just takes time for them both to realize that they are not a threat to each other. However, if months go by and there is no détente between them, it may not be a good fit and sadly, may be time to re-home or return to the shelter.
Cats meeting cats should follow the same protocol as dogs meeting cats. Every animal coming into a new environment needs a safe place. If you just toss the cat or dog in a room and assume that everyone will get along, it only makes matters worse and the chances of a peaceful transition may never happen.
Once you have made the decision to adopt, the steps you follow can be the deciding factor on whether you keep the pet or return it to the shelter. We have found that many people who return, have not followed the transition protocol nor have taken the necessary time it takes for the animal to become comfortable in its environment. Many animals have never been in a home, much less around people or dogs. It can easily take weeks to months for some pets to acclimate while others may feel at home immediately. You must gage the personality of your new pet to determine how to make it more comfortable and please be patient. It will be worth the time and effort.
Providing a safe place for your new pets away from loud noises, other animals and even rambunctious children is the kindest thing to do until they feel safe and secure. Once that happens, you will have done your job as a new adopter and the animal will be happy and well adjusted.
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