Companionship is just as important for pets as it is for people, and many pets will benefit greatly from having a playmate, once they have worked out territorial issues and gotten used to each other’s company.
If you are wondering how your favorite feline or canine companion would feel about having another pet in the house, there are a lot of different issues to consider. Read on to learn more about introducing a new pet into your household.
Is a new pet viable for your household?
Regardless of whether you own a cat or a dog, there are several things that you should consider when attempting to decide if getting a new pet is a good idea. How your current pet will feel about sharing their territory with another animal is important, and if you are short on space and would have no choice but to essentially put both animals into close quarters and hope that they would get along reasonably well from day one, you may have to disregard the idea at the early stages.
Adding a pet to the home is very stressful on animals (and often people) at the best of times, and if your current pet is mature and very set in their ways, they may be extremely averse to the idea of accepting a stranger into their home.
Choosing and introducing a new cat to your existing cat
If you are considering adding a new cat to your existing cat’s household, your choice of second cat and how you manage the introductory meeting and later encounters is vital. An adult cat is much more likely to accept a kitten or juvenile cat than another adult, and mixing male and female tends to present fewer issues than adding a second cat of the same sex, particularly if both cats are female. Mixing two un-neutered males is usually a recipe for disaster, and yet another good reason for spaying or neutering your pets.
Be prepared to divide your house or apartment into separate territories for each cat, so that they both have a safe place that they can retreat to. Ensure that you can block off the two territories to separate the cats, and ensure that each cat has food, water and their own litter box in their own space.
During the first couple of days, keep your new cat in their own territory and allow them to settle down, get comfortable and get used to their change of circumstances. Begin to get both cats used to each other’s scent by petting one cat before moving into the other territory and petting the other cat, and using the same grooming brushes for both cats.
If possible, try to arrange to have a plastic screen or other transparent barrier that you can use to keep the cats physically separated while getting used to seeing each other before their initial introduction.
Once both cats are used to the sight of each other and are reasonably accepting of each other’s presence, it is time to enable their first supervised meeting. Ensure that you are on hand to step in if things don’t go according to plan!
It is highly likely that both cats might growl, bush up their fur and test each other’s nerve, and slinking around each other sniffing suspiciously with perhaps a little paw-swiping is to be expected! However, if one cat attacks the other or pursues the other cat into their territory, it is time to separate them again and go back to viewing at a distance, and try again another day.
Over time as your cats become used to each other and establish their relationship, their territories will naturally blend and your cats should be able to live side by side in harmony, although it can take several weeks to fully achieve this! Ensure that even when your cats have become friends, they retain their own litter box and food bowls, and that they each have their own bed and safe spot in the home.
Choosing and introducing a new dog to your existing dog
In many ways, introducing two dogs to each other is easier than introducing two cats, as dogs are pack animals and generally more likely to be sociable with each other- although this does of course depend greatly on the individual dogs in question!
If at all possible, try to introduce your new dog to your existing dog on neutral territory, outside of the home, and allow them time to get used to each other in a safe environment that neither dog has laid claim to. This will also give you a good opportunity to establish how well the two dogs are going to get along when housed together, or if there are likely to be any problems or personality clashes that cannot be ironed out.
It is vitally important for dogs to be allowed free rein to work out who is the alpha, and their relationship to each other in the pecking order of their small pack. You should give them the opportunity to do this as much as possible, only intervening if one dog becomes aggressive or if rough-and-tumble play gets out of hand.
When bringing your new dog home for the first time, hopefully your existing dog will already have gotten to know them a little and worked out their initial differences; however, it is important to remember that bringing the new dog into your current dog’s territory can be rather different than a meeting out in the open.
You should already have a good idea of your dog’s mood and personality, and if they are likely to be territorial or annoyed to have another dog in their home, and manage the meeting accordingly. If both dogs are obedient and sociable, settling the newcomer into your home may take just a couple of days.
However well your dogs get along with each other, it is important to ensure they each have their own bed and crate (if used) and that one dog is not bullying or victimizing the other. Ensure that your dog’s toys remain theirs and are not stolen by the newcomer, and that they continue to feel loved and supported by you, and do not feel as if they are being pushed out by the new addition. Similarly, remember that your new dog has just undergone a big upheaval, and it will take them a while to settle into their new home and routine, even if they are of a happy disposition.
Some dogs are simply much more amenable than others to getting along with and accepting a new member of the family; neutered male dogs are usually fairly accepting of company and new pack mates, whereas several female dogs housed together can become aggressive and territorial.
Introducing cats and dogs to each other
Introducing cats and dogs to each other as part of an extended family can be very challenging, depending on the personalities of all involved. If your dog or cat is already used to the other species, this can make things easier, and you should examine the temperament and behavior of the dog in question very carefully before deciding if it is viable to keep them with a cat. If your dog has previously lived with a cat or can be trusted off the lead around cats, you should be good to go; however, if the dog has a propensity to chase cats, or has simply never spent any time around them, this may prove problematic. It is a good idea to introduce dogs to cats while the dog is still young, and a new puppy is often a good choice to ensure that they begin their life learning respect for cats, knowing their place, and that chasing and aggression are not allowed.
If your dog or the dog that you are considering getting is a hunting breed, it is vitally important to consider the potential risk factors for the cat in question. Sight hounds such as greyhounds, whippets and lurchers, as well as many types of terrier, have strong hunting instincts that are almost impossible to suppress, and you may have to disregard mixing a hunting breed with a cat for the wellbeing and safety of the cat; although there are of course exceptions to this rule! Many breeds of dog are generally quite amenable to living happily and comfortably with cats, including gentle giants such as the Great Dane, and other friendly, easygoing breeds such as spaniels and retrievers.
Remember to assign a territory and safe space to the cat, and ensure that both pets have their own beds and bowls. Also, unfortunately, to some dogs, the litter box can be a source of endless and unpleasant fascination; this is likely both to upset your cat and prove rather unpalatable for you, so keeping your cat’s food and litter box in a room or area that the dog cannot access is highly recommended.
Introducing cats to dogs is a delicate process that should be undertaken gradually, in much the same way as introducing two cats to each other should be handled. Remember to supervise interaction between cat and dog at all times until you can be sure that both animals can spend time together harmoniously. Having a room that the dog cannot access, perhaps fitted with a cat flap, is a good idea to ensure that your cat has their own space to retreat to if needed.
Finally, while the safety of the cat is of course paramount, and it is much more likely that a dog can inflict serious damage upon a cat than vice versa, it is also important to ensure that the cat doesn’t terrorize the dog, a surprisingly common occurrence! Teaching your dog to respect your cat is important, but don’t let your cat hurt or bully your dog either.
Territories and troubleshooting
Whatever combination of pets you hope to end up with-; multiple dogs or cats or a blend of both, it is important that all of your pets have their own designated territory or safe space, beds, bowls and litter trays (for cats). Make sure that all of the pets involved understand and respect each other’s territories, and keep food bowls and litter boxes in separate rooms if possible during the initial few weeks.
Your pets will need to work out their differences and start to build the foundations of their future relationship between themselves, and it is important to allow them to do this and not overly manage encounters after the initial couple of meetings, only intervening if one of the animals is becoming aggressive or likely to get hurt. If things are getting out of hand or your pets don’t seem to be settling, it may be that you are trying to move things along too fast, and should go back a step in terms of getting both pets used to each other’s smell, seeing each other from a distance, and having short, supervised meetings on neutral territory.
Exactly how long it takes for any two pets to become comfortable with each other and able to have free run of the house or apartment safely and happily depends very much on the nature of the pets in question, how well they get on and how they are introduced and managed. However, establishing a harmonious and happy multi-pet household is not something that can be rushed, and it is not unusual for it to take weeks or even a few months for your household to completely settle down in its new format. Good luck!