How do I add a new pet to my household?
Introducing a new pet into the household can be a fun and rewarding process with proper planning. First, think very hard about whether or not your household is ready for another pet (or a first pet). If this is your first pet, consider all members of the household in your decision. If you have a toddler, it might not be a great idea to get a puppy, and certain breeds of dogs can be problematic with young children. Research the breed that you are interested in and choose wisely. There will never be a shortage of dogs in this world, so if you decide it would be best to wait, then wait. NEVER go to the store to pick up some milk and bring home the “cutest little puppy that they were giving away in the parking lot.” Unless you were already planning to add a puppy to your household, you will likely be unprepared and sorry.
So, you’ve made the decision to add a pet to your household and you have researched and have purchased all the required items. Oops—we need to know what the required items are.
Stainless steel or glass bowls for water and food
Food (You might want to find out what your new pet has been eating so you can get the same food, at least initially. You can always change later.)
Collar (breakaway) and ID tag if your cat will ever be venturing outdoors
Scratching post/cat tree/perch/bed—these are not all necessary, but one or two would be nice
Stainless steel or glass/ceramic bowls for water and food
Collar (consider a Gentle Leader or Promise Collar, head halters that give you better control and prevent your dog or puppy from pulling on the leash)
Crate or kennel with a soft bed for sleeping
Toys for chewing—these are a must for teething puppies
Now we are ready for our new pet’s arrival home. If you have dogs at home and are bringing home a cat, it would be best to put your dogs away and allow your new cat to explore the house undisturbed. Let the cat approach the door behind which the evil dog beasts are hiding (just kidding), so that she can sniff her competition. Show her the litter box and any cat trees or hiding spots you have selected for her. When you introduce the dogs to your new cat (especially if they have not been around cats before), put the dogs on a leash and let the cat be loose. Maintain good control of the dogs at all times and let the cat choose how much and when to interact. Well-mannered dogs can be told to leave the cat alone, and the transition should go smoothly. If your dogs are not well-mannered, consider spending the money on obedience classes before you expand the pet population in your home.
If you have dogs at home and are bringing home a puppy or a dog, the procedure is very similar, but all dogs should be leashed and under control during the face-to-face introductions.
If you have a cat or cats at home and are bringing some new invader into the house, be prepared for some resistance. This is especially true if you have had one or two cats for a long time and they have never had to deal with anyone else in their space. Potential behavioral problems that can occur are inappropriate elimination, fighting, hiding, and anorexia. Watch closely for any of these things, and intervene immediately. Talk to your veterinarian about specific methods of intervention.
So, follow the same steps listed above. Allow the cats to meet through the closed door first. You should probably not allow face-to-face interaction for several days. Give everyone their own food bowl and their own litter box. You might throw in one extra litter box just to prevent problems. Make sure that all the cats have their own special places to sleep or rest. If you are bringing a dog home to your cat, you might see some of the same problem behaviors. Your cat may just try and avoid the new dog, so make sure that your cat can easily get to food and water and especially the litter box without being bothered.
Whatever you do, do not rush the process or everyone might end up unhappy. Keep in close contact with your veterinarian and address any problems as soon as they occur. Usually, a well-balanced household with lots of happy pets can be achieved with a relatively small amount of work.