You have fallen in love with a kitten or puppy and are ready to scoop them up and take them home. But you’re not too sure if your pet at home will agree with you on the new animal’s lovability. Many pets are very territorial when it comes to their owners but it is possible to show your original pet that adding to the family just makes one more to love.
The first thing is to make sure they are introduced properly. A good foundation starts with respecting each animal’s need to feel safe and have a territory where they belong. Without this one animal may dominate the other leading to constant fights for apparently no reason. You will need at least 2 rooms with a door in between. If you are introducing a cat or kitten to an enthusiastic dog it would be best to review with it some commands and make sure you have control or use a leash and possibly a muzzle. It’s best to be able to keep them separated for three or four days at least so make sure your 2nd room is set up with a litter box or pee pads for a new puppy. This will let the established pet get used to the smell of the new animal as well as letting the new animal get used to the smells and sounds of their new home. Try to get them used to each other’s smells on you, by stroking one and then going to the other room and stroking the other.
Do not let the larger pet (usually the dog) chase the smaller pet around or be aggressive even if it seems like harmless play. Try to wait till they are both calm before trying to introduce them face to face and switch rooms the animals are kept in so that they can sniff the place the other animals have been, without the other pet actually being there. You can also rub a towel on one of them (or put a towel where they sleep and then switch the towels) and then put it near the food or bed of the other so they might get used to the smell in a comfortable setting. Encourage them to smell each other under the door between them too. If one of the animals seemed scared and moves away from the door you may need to give them more time. Wait until they both seem curious and calm.
When they both seem calm and curious it is time for the big reveal. Hold the smaller or more timid animal (usually the cat or puppy) in your arms or on your lap till it is calm and bring the animals together slowly. Don’t let the animals make physical contact with each other at first. Let them get comfortable with each other’s presence. Try to wear long sleeves to protect your arms in case the more timid animal panics. Cats can scratch and even puppies have little claws that can draw blood. Another option when doing this is use a crate to allow them to see each other but not have much actual contact. Try to show them equal amounts of attention as you introduce them. Jealousy is always a problem between pets and it would be best to try to nip it in the bud before it can develop into full blown conflict.
Then put them back in their separate rooms. I know, it’s hard to separate them when you really want them to get along and it may seem like they are getting along, but they still don’t know each other’s moods and they might startle or be jealous unexpectedly. Each day gradually increase the amount of time they are allowed together. If you have an overzealous and aggressive animal make sure you play with them, walk them or in some way give them a chance to work off some energy before trying to put them together. Although not usual – some cats can be aggressive as well and if you are bringing home a shy toy dog the roles may be reversed to what most pet experts will tell you about.
Continue this process until they seem relaxed in each other’s company. You may want to keep your dog on the leash if they are the ones who are aggressive while letting the cat roam around the room. This allows you to better control the situation if the dog decides to chase the cat. Or if you have two dogs or two cats, try to restrain the more aggressive of the two animals and let the shy one get to know the place better before the dominant one declares its’ territory. This may take as long as several weeks so try to stay patient and move slowly or even go back to a previous step if continued altercations happen.
If the more dominant animal continues to start altercations you may want to consult your veterinarian for pheromones that can help calm your pets during the adjustment period.
After they can be in the same room with you, make sure to separate them for a while when you are NOT around to monitor them. Aggressive animals have been known to injure a passive animal when they know you are not around to restrain them.
If your dog is consistently agitated and barks or acts aggressively toward your cat, try to work on some other activity with the cat in the room. Give them something else to concentrate on. If it is the cat who is being aggressive, the same philosophy applies. Have the dog lay down while you play with the cat with a toy that will engage the cat’s hunting instincts.
Try to avoid scolding either animal. They are doing what comes natural to them; defending their territory. Punishment may end up being associated with the other animal instead of the aggressive behavior and cause worse behavior. Maybe even reward your dog with praise if they act appropriately and try to sound (and be) happy when both are in the room together and getting along. Give the cat (or dog if they are the shy one) a place to escape the attention of the other pet. Cats can be given a place higher up than the dog can usually go. Scratching post trees or a higher platform or shelf that the dog can’t get to. If it is the cat who is being aggressive you may have to go back to closing them in different rooms.
Try to have a realistic expectations. This may take longer than a few days and may require more effort than just putting the animals in opposite rooms. Animals are VERY perceptive and if your anxious about them meeting each other, they will be able to sense that and may match what they feel is your lead; that there is something wrong that needs them to be on guard and tense. Be relaxed and happy, and most of all, when possible, take your time. How they are introduced may set the tone of their relationship as friendly or threatening, and that may determine the peace in your household for years to come.