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5 Tips for Bringing Dogs and Cats Together

Working in the veterinary field, one of the most common questions I receive is about how to introduce a new pet into the household.

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Whether or not you are bringing a new dog or cat home, remember these 5 tips to ensure a less stressful introduction period:

  1. Be absolutely sure you are ready to introduce a new pet into the house. There is nothing more stressful to a newly adopted pet than being returned to the shelter due to adopting them at the wrong period of time in your life. Make sure you and your family are ready, especially if there is another pet in the house. You need to be sure your current pet will be accepting of a new animal in the home. A sad yet true fact is one out of every ten adoptions results in a return. That is a lot of returns.
  2. Make sure the species you are adopting has been tested trustworthy with the opposite species. The last thing you want is a dog that enjoys chasing your cat around the house or a new cat that will hide under the bed whenever the dog is around.
  3. Be patient! It takes time to introduce a new family member. It can take several weeks to a few months for full acclimation to other pets in the house. Being adopted and the process of adopting are exhilarating and stressful at the same time. Give them space to acclimate at their level of confidence. Never force an introduction. They won’t make friends faster; it can make the situation worse.
  4. Speaking of space, give them their own digs! Whether it is a training crate for a dog or a spare room for a cat, set up a safety zone just for them. This allows them to retreat to their personal space when they are feeling less than confident with the other species. They will come out when they want to interact on their own free will.
  5. Learn animal body language. Nothing is more frustrating than when a fight breaks out and a pet gets injured. Learning a cat’s and a dog’s body language beforehand can let you know when to remove a pet from a situation before it turns into a moment you will regret. Never leave your pets alone with each other until you are sure they can be trusted in the same room for hours at a time with perfect behavior.

A new pet is a lifetime commitment. Preparing beforehand can make a dramatic difference on creating a successful adoption.

http://www.americanhumane.org/petsmart-keeping-pets-phase-ii.pdf, Keeping Pets (Dogs and Cats) in Homes: A Three-Phase Retention Study. Summary of Phase II Adoptions by PetsMart Charities; Page 6. Retrieved 11/14/2014.

http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/cats/tips/cat_communication.html, Cat Chat: Understanding Feline Language by HSUS. Retrieved 11/14/2014.

https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-behavior/canine-body-language, Canine Body Language by ASPCA. Retrieved 11/14/2014.

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