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New Pet Meet and Greet Techniques

You’ve decided to add another pet to your household, but, do you know what to do first? Before you allow any new pet into your home you should have it examined to make sure that no disease is present and vaccinations are up-to-date. Whitworth Animal Clinic provides veterinary services for pets from Madison, Huntsville, and the surrounding Madison County areas. Dr. Whitworth can also help with the integration process and answer all of your questions.

It is important to know how to integrate a newcomer so that they will be welcomed and accepted by your current pets. The initial introduction, if done correctly, will ensure a smooth transition; however, it is recommended that you understand animal behavior, their instincts, and your role in the process.

Animal Instincts

Animals are “wired” to behave according to their ancestral roots whether wild or domesticated. This means that they prowl stalk, bark, chase and even eat their prey for a reason. Many times these behaviors are exhibited to please their owner because they have an emotional attachment and a willingness to please. Animals interact with each other in ways to determine dominance and territory and may even compete for your attention using postures and sounds to communicate their feelings. It’s important that you understand the body language of your pets so that any negative behaviors can be avoided. Growling or hissing sounds between pets indicates aggression and stress, you should calmly distract the animals until you can move them away from each other.

The Introduction

When a new addition arrives at your home he/she is equally as frightened as your established pets. Separate them for a day or two so they can become familiar with each other’s scent and feel less threatened. Also, it’s a good idea to exchange toys among pets to assist with the adjustment process as a new scent will be slightly familiar when physically introduced. The next stage is to allow your new pet to “see” and smell your other furry residents. Put the new pet in a room with a mesh gate to separate them but allow them to get close enough to sniff noses and look at each other. This will allow your newcomer the perfect opportunity to become acquainted or retreat if frightened. After introductions, pets can be in the same space with your supervision in the event of a problem.

Determining Your Approach

When choosing which introduction approach to use, you should take into consideration the breed, age and sex of your pets. All of these factors will determine how one animal will react to the other. For example, a 9-year-old cat that has never shared her home with other animals might never acclimate to sharing her home with a new pet. In contrast, a kitten that has been separated from the rest of her litter might welcome another animal to keep her company. There are several low stress techniques that can be used to successfully introduce a new pet in your home. Keep in mind that you should never force unacquainted animals together, a slow methodical approach is best to prevent injuries or aggression.

Confinement. Keep your new and current pets in different rooms for several days or even a couple of weeks until they acclimate to each other’s scent. Make sure that each animal has a place to go to the bathroom (e.g., a litter box for cats), a food bowl and a water bowl, in each room. Feed each pet on either side of a closed door, again, in separate rooms. Put their food bowls close enough to the door to allow each animal to smell the other. Continue feeding them in this manner, slowly moving the bowls closer to the door each time you feed them. Eventually, you can open the door, so the two animals are eating side by side. If they are able to eat calmly while standing next to each other, they should be able to get along. Another option is to keep each pet in an animal crate that are placed next to each other, giving the animals time to get used to each other’s scent.

The Switcheroo. While keeping your animals in separate rooms, swap the blankets that each of your animals uses. Another option is to gently rub a cloth on one animal’s cheeks and put in under the food dish of the other. When the animals eventually meet, their scents will be familiar to each other.

Neutral Territory. If possible, introduce your new and current pet to each other in a neutral space, such as a park (that you don’t usually frequent) or a neighbor’s yard. Using a neutral territory for your introduction will make your resident pet less likely to view your new pet as an intruder. If you are introducing two dogs to each other, make sure that each dog is on a leash and handled by a separate person.

Remember – not every animal will be compatible. If your introduction does not go smoothly the first time, try again, slowly, at a later date. If several introductions still do not work, contact Dr. Whitworth at (256) 830-1503 for useful information and resources to help your new and current pets make a smooth transition.