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How to introduce a new pet to your older one

Bringing a new pet into the family requires careful planning, patience, and a gradual approach

Visual introduction should take place in a controlled environment.
Visual introduction should take place in a controlled environment. (Pexels/Barnabas Davoti)

Introducing a new pet to your family, while exciting, can be stressful for both the new pet and your existing one if not handled properly. To ensure smooth and peaceful coexistence, introducing pets to one another requires careful planning, patience, and a gradual approach. So, how can you make this transition easier for everyone involved?

It’s unrealistic to expect harmony between your pets as soon as they meet. It’s not the norm. One of the first steps, then, is to create a separate space for each animal. This is especially important when introducing cats to each other.

Set up a designated area for the new pet, complete with food and water bowls, as well as separate toys. This will allow both to have their own personal spaces, minimising the chances of territorial or resource-related conflicts from the start. By providing these separate spaces, you give them the opportunity to become acquainted with each other without immediate pressure or disruption of their existing routine.

Maintain a consistent routine for both pets while they reside in separate areas of your home. Routines are crucial for pets, for they provide a sense of stability. Stick to a schedule for feeding, playtime and other activities. Once the routine is established, move on to scent-swapping as the next step. Introduce an item that carries the scent of your first pet to the new one, and vice versa.

Also read: How can you make the process of ageing easier for your pets?

This exercise is particularly important for cats, since they rely heavily on the scent for familiarity. Allowing them to become accustomed to each other’s scent before they encounter one another physically increases the likelihood of a positive association when they finally meet face-to-face.

Next comes the stage of visual introduction, which should take place in a controlled environment. Allow both pets to see each other without direct contact, minimising the potential for conflict. You can use a gate or a transparent barrier to keep them separate. At this point, it’s important to create positive associations for both pets. Offer treats or toys to reinforce a pleasant experience. Simultaneously, pay close attention to body language. While obvious signs like hissing and growling indicate discomfort, be mindful of subtler cues, such as flattened ears, a tucked tail, or raised fur along the back. If you observe signs of unhappiness, it’s best to postpone the meeting.

After a successful visual introduction, you can allow direct contact between your pets. But you must supervise this interaction. If you are introducing two dogs, keep them on leashes. Opt for a neutral outdoor location to minimise territorial tensions. Give them the opportunity to sniff each other while keeping the leashes loose. If you are introducing a dog to a cat, always keep the dog on a leash while allowing the cat freedom to move around. When introducing cats, ensure there are hiding spaces or elevated areas in the room for them to retreat to if they feel uncomfortable.

Positive reinforcement is a key aspect of the entire process. If both pets remain calm during the meeting, be sure to reward them with treats and praise. On the other hand, if any signs of aggression become apparent, it’s important to divert their attention and distract them from the negative behaviour.

Also read: Debunking 9 common misconceptions about dogs and aggression

Once your pets demonstrate positive behaviours during supervised interactions, you can gradually introduce short periods of unsupervised time in shared spaces. As their relationship strengthens and they exhibit greater compatibility, you can increase the duration of these unsupervised sessions. It is important to ensure that both pets receive equal attention, affection and playtime to prevent any feelings of jealousy or resentment.

Remember that the time it takes for pets to fully accept each other can vary. By remaining patient and providing a consistent approach, you can help foster a harmonious bond between your pets.

Nameeta Nadkarni is a practising veterinary soft tissue surgeon and pet blogger from Mumbai.


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