You’ve done your research and found your perfect new furry family member. Now it’s time to get your home ready for their arrival. Here are some things you can do to help introduce a new pet to your home.
Adding a new pet to your household is exciting but the reality is, pets take commitment and work. Before your pet comes home, discuss and agree on who will be responsible for regular tasks such as feeding, picking up poop/litterbox cleaning and baths. Having a clear plan on responsibilities will solve any arguments on whose “turn” it is later.
Create a safe, quiet space for your new pet with their bed, food and water and litterbox for cats. This will help them stay calm and not be overwhelmed by a huge new space. Clear the room of any cables, potential spots they could get stuck if trying to hide and any toxic plants. For cats, prepare safe hiding spaces and places to climb up on so they can get away if needed.
Make a note of your preferred local vet, emergency veterinary hospital and puppy schools so you are ready to take your pet for any check-ups, microchipping, training etc. Schedule an appointment with the vet for a few weeks’ time so you can do a full health check early on.
If this is the only pet in the house, once they are calm and comfortable, allow them to explore more of the house, this should be after about a week. For some dogs, it may be best to be given a guided tour while on a leash so you can control and redirect any inappropriate behaviour.
For cats, it is best to sit just outside the room with the door open and encourage them to come to you freely. After 15 minutes, if your cat seems comfortable, you can let them explore on their own, keeping an eye on them in case something happens. Start with an hour of free exploration and increase the time as your cat gets more comfortable.
Close off any rooms that are out-of-bounds and allow your pet to sniff and explore as they are comfortable. Reward your pet for good behaviour with treats or affection so they create positive associations with the new surroundings.
Adjust the amount of exploration depending on how your pet responds. If they seem nervous, don’t force it, rather adapt to expanding the “tour” one room at a time.
Puppies should be kept in one room of the house until they are house-trained.
Once your pet is completely relaxed you can move their bed and food to their permanent location.
Ensuring your existing pets are comfortable with their new potential friend should be a priority before you even consider getting a new pet. Improve the chances of everyone getting along by controlling the situation from the start.
Whether it’s dogs, cats or a combination, you will need to keep them in separate spaces until they are comfortable with each other and their new surroundings. Giving each pet their own space where the other is not allowed will help them ease into the change. The key to introducing your pets is to do it under supervision in a neutral space and to reward calm behaviour.
A way to start is by feeding the pets on either side of a closed door. This way they will be able to smell each other without getting overwhelmed by seeing each other and avoiding any potential chasing. Once both pets can calmly eat near each other you can move on to letting them see each other.
The safest option for face-to-face interaction is to do it through a gate or sliding door where both pets can see each other without the risk of a physical altercation. Distract each pet with their favourite toy or treat so they learn that it’s better to ignore each other. Keep the interaction short, calm, and controlled.
Once both pets are calm or if you think both pets can handle it, you can remove the barrier and have the pets meet in a neutral space. Keep any dogs on a loose leash so you can control any over-excited or aggressive behaviour. This is especially important when introducing cats and dogs, as a dog’s instinct will be to chase the cat should they decide to run away.
Watch both pets body language, if there are any arched backs, hissing, staring or stiff bodies, separate the pets and go back to the previous step. The goal is to keep your pets safe and not force interactions.
If your pets are calm, give them a treat and allow them to get a bit closer (still with loose leashes). If your dog is trained, have them sit or lie down and allow your cat to move freely around the room. Once again, reward your pets for staying calm and ignoring each other. Allow the interaction to last a few minutes and increase the time each day until they can live happily together.
Always consult your vet when introducing a pet to your home. They will be best equipped to give advice on dietary changes, behavioural issues and how they think your pet will respond to environmental changes.