The charm of having furry companions keeping you on your toes throughout the day is undeniable! Nothing screams home and family more than having your pets run up to you after a long day at work (at home or otherwise). The love that comes with an animal is something that has not gone unnoticed by many given that around 67% of all households in the United States are home to a pet!
So if lockdown has got you wondering whether you might be willing to take on the responsibility of an additional pet, this is your sign to go for it! The psychological, physical, and emotional benefits associated with raising your own furry pup, kitty, or bunny can make for an enriching and life-changing experience.
Bringing a new pet into a family with resident animals is definitely a great idea but not one that comes without its fair share of concerns. Introducing your new pet to your resident pets can make for a challenging experience, especially if the introduction is between two entirely different species - say, dog and cat or cat and rabbit.
If you have put your foot down and made the decision to give another deserving animal a loving home, read on to discover the best possible ways of creating a smooth and friendly introduction to your other pets. Do not disregard the power of a first impression, even with animals!
How to introduce a new cat to a resident dog?
If you have decided to adopt a new cat, excellent choice! Cats are loving creatures with personalities for ages! Before you do make the important, life-changing decision of adopting a feline, consider doing your research with the shelter of your choice on which of the cats show a certain level of comfort with dogs. Introducing a cat that is scared or boisterous might trigger your dog’s instincts to chase it around, which can be detrimental to the development of a safe and comfortable relationship between the two.
When you first bring your new pet home, demarcate specific areas in your house to your dog and your new cat. Make sure that the space given for your cat is one where the dog does not have access. Remember that introduction cannot happen without supervision.
Keep the introductions positive, slow and controlled. Consider using pheromones or swap the scents of the animals by rubbing them down gently with a clean towel. During the introduction, make sure that your dog is on a fixed leash (you might have to remove the cute matching bandana to your friendship bracelet) and your cat has quick access to a safe space that the dog cannot invade.
Remember to take the introduction slowly and gradually, breaking up the meeting into smaller sessions spread out over a couple of days. You can even consider feeding both of your pets by placing their dishes on the two sides of a door. This will enable the association of enjoyment (the action of eating) with the new smell of the other animal. Start with a little distance between the dish and door on both sides and gradually bring them closer together. When you recognize that a certain level of comfort has been established, use a doorstop to hold the door a little ajar but firmly in place, allowing both animals to see each other but restricting access and contact.
How to introduce a new dog to a resident cat?
When considering how to introduce a new dog to a cat, it is very important to keep the breed of the dog in mind. Dogs can injure cats very easily, even if they are playing. There are some breeds that also have a high prey drive, which should therefore be taken into consideration before the adoption of a new dog.
The first step to creating a smooth and safe introduction is ensuring that you have full control over the meeting. Follow the above steps of introducing the two animals to each other’s scents by placing their dishes on the opposite sides of a closed door.
After this has been repeated over a couple of days, you can consider attempting a face-to-face introduction. Keep your dog on a fixed leash and use treats to train it to sit and stay quiet. However, let your cat roam freely, allowing it to cautiously approach and explore the new dog. Ensure that this happens when your cat is relaxed after an entire day of playing with safe toys.
Your cat’s first reaction might be hissing or hiding - which is normal and absolutely okay. It would be a good idea to have another family member involved in the introduction, to provide an extra pair of hands and eyes if required.
If your cat shows signs of curiosity and tries sniffing your new pup, this is an excellent indication that the two could become great friends!
How to introduce a new rabbit to a resident cat/dog?Introducing a new rabbit to your cat might be a little difficult to do - cats are considered predators to the prey that are rabbits. They can, however, become good companions given the right introduction to each other. Your first step to a rabbit-cat introduction is recognizing that it is very likely that your rabbit will begin getting anxious. Begin with a scent handshake - this involves transferring the scent of your rabbit to the cat and vice versa. Use a clean cloth to carry out this simple scent exchange. Once this is done, secure the rabbit by placing it in a covered x-pen or hutch. The pen or hutch needs to be big enough for your rabbit to hop around comfortably and have access to all that it needs including water, food, and hay. Begin small and brief introductions with the cat and rabbit interacting with each other through the cage. Make sure that you are in the room the entire time this interaction is happening.
When introducing a new rabbit to your resident dog, find a space in your home that is free of distractions and is not often used by your dog. This should be a space where you can control the interaction at any point. As with the cat, keep the rabbit in a safe enclosure like a pen or cage and bring the pen to the new space for introduction, allowing it to get accustomed to the same. Introduce the dog slowly and ensure that it is on a fixed leash. Getting a family member involved in the introduction as an extra pair of hands can always be of great help.
Break these introductory sessions into small and frequent periods spread out over a couple of days before a face-to-face interaction happens. Remember to keep your dog on a leash and give your rabbit the freedom to choose whether it would like to interact with the dog or withdraw.
Remember that you are in control of how the situation will unfold. Stay firm in the power that you command, and remember to exercise as much patience and time as is required! Choose neutral environments, rope in an additional family member and you should be able to carry out this first meeting smoothly and safely!