Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and for many of us, that means spending some quality time with our loved ones – be they two or four-legged, furred or not! However, for people in multi-pet households, it’s not always rainbows and roses; it can be especially difficult when two partners make the decision to move in together and subsequently, move the two fur-babies in together as well. It would be nice to assume that introducing new animals to each other and a new environment is as easy as throwing them in together and expecting them to just get along but unfortunately it is just not that simple. They are essentially step-kids and their whole world is being turned upside down, so here are a few tips to try and ease that tricky transition…
1: Be realistic. As mentioned above, just because you want them to get along, it doesn’t mean they will! Some animals are happy being more solitary than others and in some cases the best outcome you can achieve is for both animals to co-habit peacefully without aggression; they may never become “best buds”.
2: Slow and steady. It is important to be patient and work at speeds your animals are comfortable with, not the rate at which you want them to interact! Initial introductions should be brief (5-10 minutes) and then let them slowly spend more time together as they become more relaxed.
3: Supervision. Never EVER leave animals that are unaccustomed to each other alone! All it takes is one sudden movement and there can be disaster. A single dog bite to a cat or small dog can be fatal, and even without injury it may result in the two animals never being comfortable with each other. If you need to leave for work etc, make sure the animals are separated from each other.
4: Confinement. This allows animals to get used to the new environment without the distraction of a new animal as well. A good confined area needs to be a comfortable space such as a spare room or even a crate if your dog is already crate trained. From time to time the other animal should then be confined to allow each of them to have free reign to explore their surroundings.
5: The “sniff” test. Cats and dogs communicate with smells so it’s important to get them used to each others’ scents. This can be as simple as leaving some bedding or a blanket out whilst one animal is confined so the other can get used to it.
6: Maintaining “normality”. Cats in particular are creatures of habit and don’t like change. Try to ensure the rest of their lives are as normal as possible – keep food and litter trays in the same area, maintain the same feeding regime. Most importantly make sure you dedicate plenty of time to each pet alone with you so they still get quality time with their favourite human!
7: Reward good behaviour. As with any training positive reinforcement is vital – give plenty of praise and treats every time there is a successful interaction between the two animals. Remember that a successful interaction can be as simple as one animal walking away if they feel uncomfortable in the situation. Do NOT punish animals for aggressive behaviour! They are trying to tell you they are not happy; simply remove them from the situation and try again once they’re more relaxed. Punishing them from displaying these anxious behaviours may actually make fighting more likely in the future.
8: Reduce stress. Consider using Feliway or Adaptil diffusers and sprays at home. These are pheromones that have been proven to reduce anxiety in pets. See your local Vets4Pets clinic to find out more.
Bear in mind that there are no hard and fast rules – every situation is different and you must take into account each individual animal, as well as their age, sex, breed and temperaments. If animals have any medical problems these may also make the introduction process more difficult. We recommend a full health examination and check-up prior to introducing new animals. Please feel free to contact your local Vets4Pets clinic and we would be happy to arrange an appointment for you.