Having a new pet join the family is a rewarding and exciting time. We understand the joy that a new pet will bring you and your family. We also understand that it can be challenging and you may have many questions. When introducing a new pet to your family, it is important to do so in a slow and positive way. Although everyone is incredibly excited about the arrival of your new family member, it is important to anticipate your current pets’ reactions to their new housemate. They may be excited, nervous or a little overwhelmed.
Before you introduce a new pet into your family it is best to set some ground rules and be prepared.
New pet set up
If you know when your new family member is joining the family, it is ideal to have a few things set up for their arrival. Their own bed, food and water bowls, and toys are a great starting point. Having new things for your new pet will prevent existing pets getting jealous of toys being mistakenly pinched by excited arrivals.
Family rules are a great way to ensure that the new addition does not become overwhelmed and will help them settle into your family. Some rules could include:
- allowing the new addition some time to explore the environment
- allotting each family member some time to get to know the new addition
- if your new pet looks scared, allow them some alone time in a safe and comfortable area (this may be at a distance from the excitement, in another room, in their kennel, bed or hiding beneath something)
- give lots of love, praise, and rewards
- provide a comfortable personal space where they feel safe and secure
- ensure your current pet has their own space too
- what food was your new pet previously eating? A sudden change in diet can sometimes cause an upset stomach. (If you wish to change their diet please do so over a period of 7 – 10 days)
- ensure the food you provide is complete and balanced
- provide separate food and drinking bowls
D.A.P or Feliway are synthetic dog or cat pheromones that can be used in the home to help provide a safe and comfortable environment. Please speak to your local Greencross Vet to discuss how D.A.P or Feliway may work for your family.
If you have pets at home, please ensure they are up to date with vaccinations and free from parasites. Your new addition should also be up to date with their vaccinations and parasite prevention. Very young pets may not be fully vaccinated. It is vital that your new addition only socialises with fully vaccinated, healthy, social and, parasite-free pets.
Introductions with dogs
Tips for introducing your dog to a new pet:
- have your dog on a lead and ask them to sit
- slowly introduce the new pet visually – this may be through a door screen, in a crate or on a lead at a distance. Provide lots of praise and positive reinforcement
- continue to positively reinforce both dogs and allow your existing dog to slowly approach the new pet (make sure this is controlled and on a lead). Continue to praise
- you want your dog to associate the new pet with positive reinforcement
- after a few minutes, slowly take the new pet away and continue to positively reinforce your dog
- reintroduce the new pet several times in the day, slowly increasing the time spent together and decreasing the distance between them
- please ensure all interactions are positive – give lots of love, praise, and rewards
- once you are happy that your dog is reacting in an appropriate way, you can introduce them off the lead through a screen
- e.g. existing dog outside and new pet inside with flyscreen between them
- You will need two people for this exercise. One person to praise the new pet inside and one person to praise the dog outside
- It is very important at this stage that you do not positively reinforce any unwanted behaviours
- if the new pet looks frightened or wishes to retreat, let them. You do not want to force the interaction
- once this is successful and you are comfortable, you can allow physical, controlled contact
- keep these play sessions short and positive
- continue to provide love, praise, and rewards
- with lots of love, praise, and positive play, your dogs will become fast friends
If you or unsure what positive play between dogs looks like, or are uncomfortable with introducing your new pet yourself, please contact your local Greencross Vets.
Introductions with cats
Cats love their space and personal time. Cats should be allowed to familiarise themselves with each other over a few days. Once again, always introduce a new pet in a slow, calm, and positive way. Never force the interaction.
When introducing cats it is important to allow them to meet from a distance if they wish. You may find your current cat wants to be high on the bookshelf, just to watch over the room. If this happens, allow your cat the time they need to adjust.
- allow the new pet some alone time to explore the environment
- provide a safe and comfortable space for your new pet, such as a small bedroom
- please use a room that your current cat uses minimally. You may wish to keep this door shut until your new pet is comfortable
- when your new pet is exploring the house, it may be helpful to have your current cat explore the same room afterward
- please do not lock both cats in a room together. They will want their own space to retreat
- Feliway may help in providing a calm environment
- if you would like to use Feliway, it is ideal to have Feliway plugged in 24 – 48hrs prior to your new pet’s arrival
Introductions with children
Encourage children to sit on a chair when first meeting a new pet. The adult should always be in control of the new pet. First interactions can be done by holding the new pet securely in your arms or on a lead, depending on the size and age of your new pet. Lead interaction is not recommended for a young puppy.
Sit next to your child with your new pet securely in your arms. Ask the child to put their hand out and let the new pet say hello. Allow children to softly pat the new pet near the shoulder blades. Give lots of love, praise, and rewards to both the new addition and your child for good behaviour.
If you would like more information on how to introduce a new pet into your family please contact your local team at Greencross Vets.