Adding another pet to your household? Make sure to plan the first meeting carefully, so that your two pets have a better chance of getting along. First impressions are very important, especially for cats and dogs. Whether you’re bringing home a new puppy or an elderly cat, the veterinarians at Animal Care Center of Castle Pines can help you prepare for all types of new pet introductions.
We have seen all types of pet families here at Animal Care Center! Dogs and cats are equally capable of living with each other and with other types of pets. If you already have a dog and are considering getting a cat, or vice versa, it may be helpful to adopt a companion that is already accustomed to living with other species. Do not bring your pet to a shelter to see how it will react to other animals—this is a stressful experience for your pet, as well as for the other animals.
Follow these general rules for any type of new pet introductions:
- Always make new pet introductions in a controlled setting.
- Plan the introduction for a time when you can all spend at least an entire day together.
- Be patient, speak encouragingly in a calm voice, and praise good behavior.
- For their own safety, keep new pets separated from each other when you are away from home.
- Always supervise interactions until you are 100% sure that the two pets are getting along.
Ten Types of New Pet Introductions
1: Cats Meeting Other Cats
Cats are territorial creatures, and they don’t usually like to share their space with other cats. You may need to keep the two cats separated until they are accustomed to one another. Make sure that they each have their own litter boxes—an extra one is even better. Keep their food and water dishes separated; try placing them on opposite sides of a doorway. Use toys to help them interact and play together.
2: Cats Meeting Kittens
Cats mark their territory by rubbing their heads and faces everywhere – on doorways, furniture, clothing—leaving their scent behind. Incorporate the new kitten’s scent into your household smells, so that your cat gets used to the kitten’s scent. Pet them both a lot! Try swapping blankets around or wiping your kitten’s head and face with a cloth and then placing that cloth under your older cat’s food dish.
3: Cats Meeting Dogs
First, create a safe space for your cat. Make sure that your cat has a secure place to retreat, and place your cat’s food, water and litter somewhere that is not accessible to the dog. Before you bring your new dog home, give them lots of exercise and a good meal so that they are as calm as possible during the introduction. Keep your dog leashed, but let your cat roam freely. Your cat’s first instinct might be to hiss and run and hide—this is perfectly normal. If your cat becomes curious about the newcomer and ventures a sniff, this is a good indication that they could become great companions.
4: Cats Meeting Puppies
Keep the puppy on a leash whenever your cat is in the same room. Always praise your puppy for calm behavior around your cat. Set up separate rooms for your cat and the new puppy; a barrier like a baby gate will allow them to interact and sniff each other. After they both seem comfortable with the new situation, try swapping rooms so that they can grow more accustomed to each other’s smells. Make sure your cat has ample perches that are out of the puppy’s reach.
5: Dogs Meeting Other Dogs
Canine interactions are always unpredictable! Try to introduce dogs to each other in neutral territory, like a park. Avoid traveling with both dogs in the same vehicle. Recruit a helper to handle the new dog, and keep them both leashed during the introduction. When you all arrive home, take both dogs for a walk together around your neighborhood before you go inside. Keep the two dogs separated whenever you are away from home, until they have become accustomed to each other.
6: Dogs Meeting Puppies
Let the new puppy stay with its mother as long as possible. Puppies learn basic good manners and how to communicate with other dogs from their mothers. Older dogs can be impatient with frisky puppies. The more puppies can learn about the rules of play and polite doggy behavior, the better they will get along with adult dogs. Don’t scold your dog if it growls at a puppy – growls are a form of communication, and the older dog is teaching the puppy how to respect boundaries.
7: Dogs Meeting Cats
Dogs should always be leashed when meeting cats. Pay close attention to the body language of both animals and watch for warning signs. Mutual curiosity is the best indicator that the two will get along. If your dog seems calm when meeting a cat, and will obey sit and stay commands while the cat roams freely, it’s not likely that your dog will behave aggressively toward the cat in the future. However, if your dog seems fixated on the cat, lunging or scratching at doors when the cat is in another room, this probably isn’t a good match.
8: Dogs Meeting Kittens
Kittens are small and vulnerable, especially to dogs that enjoy aggressive play. Never leave a kitten alone with a dog—you could be putting it in danger. Prepare a room for the kitten that your dog can’t access. Give your dog lots of exercise before meeting a kitten, so that they will be more relaxed. During the introduction, keep the kitten in a carrier and your dog on a leash. If your dog remains calm, and obeys sit and stay commands, let the kitten out to explore while your dog is leashed.
9: Meeting Pets of Other Species
It’s difficult to tell whether dogs and cats will cohabit well with rabbits, birds, lizards, or other small pets. Extra supervision is always required. Cohabitation will depend on the personality of your cat or dog, and whether or not they consider small animals as prey. Cats will usually hunt birds, just as dogs will usually chase rabbits. Behavior training can help prepare dogs for accepting other animals, but some breeds will instinctually hunt smaller animals. Make introductions in as controlled a setting as possible, and observe your pet’s body language carefully.
10: Meeting Kids and Babies
Small children might seem frightening to new pets – they make loud, unexpected noises and sudden movements that can startle some animals. When startled, they might instinctually bite or scratch. Never leave children and new pets unsupervised. Teach children not to disturb pets while they are eating or sleeping, how to touch them gently, and how to play with the pets. Eventually, they will become best friends.
Need more advice about introducing a new pet to your home? The veterinarians at Animal Care Center of Castle Pines are experts in animal care and behavior training. We are an accredited member of the American Animal Hospital Association, and we take great pride in being among the 15% of small animal practices in the U.S. who successfully strive to meet and exceed over 900 standards. Contact us with any questions about introducing your pet to a new family member.