Take it slow: Proper introductions can be the secret to pets becoming life-long friends

Grey and white cat snuggling with Golden Retriever

If you learn anything from this article, let it be this:

Integrating new pets takes time.

While no two experiences are quite the same, animals need time to get to know one another and learn how to comfortably share the same space. We know it can be tempting to let your resident pet(s) and new pet have full run of the house the first time they meet. Resist the temptation! The slower the introduction, the smoother it should go.

“First impressions are just as important in animals as they are in people,” says Liv Hagen, Manager of Shelter Behavior Services at AHS. “Proper introductions require thought, intention, and a little extra work from the humans. If you force your animals into sharing the same space right away, you risk the chance of them never getting along.”

Tips from the experts at AHS

  1. Keep your pets separated for the first few days. In fact, AHS strongly recommends taking your new pet to the vet before introducing them to any other animals to ensure no underlying, contagious diseases are transmitted.
  2. Dogs who have never met before should always meet on neutral territory.
  3. If you’re introducing a dog and cat, keep your dog leashed and your hand on the leash at all times.
  4. When introducing a new cat to your home, make sure they have a safe space, free from other animals — especially dogs. Confine your new kitty to one room with all their needs: water, food, toys, and litter boxes.
  5. Feed your pets at the same time, on opposite sides of a door so they associate the new smell of the other animal with eating, everyone’s favorite activity.
  6. Watch your pets’ body language. Dogs especially don’t display fear and anxiety in the most obvious ways!
  7. Reward polite behavior, and remember that routine and consistency are key.

These quick tips are helpful, but there’s more. Read our helpful advice on introducing a dog and cat, or review all our tips for introducing a new dog to your household.

How long does it take to integrate a new pet?

Your pets may not fall in love with each other as fast as you fell in love with each of them. And while your patience can be key to a long lasting friendship, sometimes it’s not enough.

“Just remember that it can take weeks, sometimes months for animals to learn how to peacefully co-exist,” says Liv. "Even then, some animals simply don't want to or aren't able to be friends, and that's ok too."

Everyone should want the very best for their four-legged companions, and sometimes that means making really tough decisions. If you find that after months of effort your pets just aren’t getting along (and maybe even a danger to one another), you may want to consider other options, including returning your newly adopted animal, or re-homing them yourself.

Whether you’re just considering bringing home a new pet, or you already have and things aren’t going as well as you hoped, friendly behavior experts at AHS are here to help. Call our Behavior Helpline at 763-489-2202, or complete our online form now for free, expert pet advice.

Other things to consider before bringing a new pet home

What if they require different kinds of exercise? Or both need expensive vet care at the same time? And what about all that extra…poop? There’s a lot to consider before adding another pet to your family. Read advice from other pet parents on bringing home a new pet.

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