You love your current pets so much, that you know your heart has room for another. And now, you’ve seen a heart-warming ad on Facebook or Craigslist. Should you go ahead and pick up that new kitten or puppy? That’s up to you, but here are a few things to consider before adding a new pet to your home.
Avoid holidays. Transitioning to a new home is stressful enough for pets, so surprising the family with a new puppy on Christmas day might not be the best idea. The holidays are notoriously chaotic, so go ahead with your plans for a new pet now, or wait until January if possible.
Consider your current pets. Is one of them persistently aggressive or unfriendly to new animals? Does anyone have special needs that require modifications (such as a set schedule, their own litter box, and so on)? It is still possible to add a new pet to the home if you have a “difficult” one, but you will need to consider their needs carefully.
Mix personalities wisely. Cats, particularly older ones, often won’t react well to an overly energetic young dog. Dogs might not appreciate the addition of a larger dog that appears to be a threat (although this is not always the case).
Allow the new pet to settle in. Let them have their own area of the home to explore, and postpone introductions to other pets until they feel secure. Remember, this is a big change for them!
Feed pets separately, especially at first. This can help them avoid any feelings of food competition (which could trigger aggression).
Expect a few “incidents”. Your older pets might react to the change with inappropriate bathroom use, refusing to eat, seeking extra attention, or some other unusual behavior. Many animals respond to a change in the household this way, but in most cases the undesirable behavior is temporary. Offer loving reassurance, and keep to their usual routine as much as possible.
Handle introductions carefully. It can be difficult to predict how your current pet will react to a new one. Try the first introduction through a barrier or some sort, like a baby gate, so that the pets can smell one another while feeling safe in their own areas. Watch body language closely to predict any problems. Keep small children out of the room at first, so that you can intervene quickly if needed.
Keep initial meetings brief, and offer each pet plenty of reassurance during the event and afterward. Gradually increase the time they spend together, until you feel confident the new friends will get along.
Bring your new pet for a check-up. A healthy pet is a happy pet, so check in with us right away so that we can screen your new pet for any potential health problems. We can also offer more in-depth tips on helping him or her transition smoothly to your home.