When it comes to introducing a new pet to your existing pets, patience is a virtue. It can be tempting to try and make them a member of the family immediately, but you’ll avoid problems and stress all around by taking your time.

How to go about introducing a new pet? Take our tips for a successful meeting to heart, and you’ll all be well on your way to a home of happy pets (and pet parents!).

Introducing a New Pet: The Meet and Greet

New pets will be on unfamiliar territory which may make them a bit shy and reserved. Your existing pets will likely be very interested in a new pet and may consider this an intrusion of their space. To minimize problems, you’ll need not only patience, but planning. Considering the age, species and size of both your current pets and new pets is also important.

There are no hard and fast rules for introducing a new pet, but here are some smart strategies to get everyone started off on the right paw.

Dog to Dog Introductions

  • Before bringing your new dog into your home, take all your dogs on a long walk in a place none of them considers familiar. You may need 2 human walkers – one for new dog, one for existing dog.
  • Start with your new dog behind your existing dogs, and let the newcomer follow and sniff.
  • Then let your new dog take the lead while your existing dogs get to check him out from behind.
  • When they are all in a calm state, it’s ok to bring them all home. Your original dogs should enter the house first and “invite” the newcomer home.
  • After that, let the dogs establish their own hierarchy of dominant and submissive. This should not involve fighting! If you are having trouble, give us a call for more ideas and guidance.

Cat Introductions

  • When you bring your new cat home, place her in a prepared, separate space all her own. Include her food, water, litter box, bed, and toys and perches. Keep the door closed and your other pets out of this space.
  • Next, let your new cat investigate the house while your other pets are in another room. This lets her build confidence with her new space while feeling safe.
  • Start introductions by letting your pets get to know each other through the closed door. Feed your new cat and existing cats at the same time, on opposite sides of the closed door. They will smell each other and associate one another with something positive.
  • Gradually decrease the visual barrier, by substituting a baby gate or screen door for the closed door. Keep interactions brief and positive.
  • Keep your pets busy and focused on you with treats, giving them known commands like sit, or offering a chew toy to keep them busy while the visual barrier is open.
  • If you fear your original pet may jump over or knock down a barrier, keep them on a leash or harness.
  • Once your pets are calm and comfortable spending time together with the barrier between them, it’s time for a face to face meeting. Keep this short and productive by asking for tricks from your existing pet to keep him or her engaged and focused.
  • Reward calm behavior, stay positive, and keep these sessions short. In some cases, pets will be comfortable with one another after one face-to-face meeting, and others may need several meetings before they are calm.

If at any point of your introductions you see warning signs, such as aggression, desire to flee, or chasing behavior, immediately separate the animals. Start over again at a later point. Go back to the first steps, increasing the distance and barrier between them. If you have concerns about behavior or need help, please give Huntington Veterinary Hospital a call.