Hey, Pets – Meet Your New Furry Sib
By Arden Moore – The Pet Health and Safety Coach™
In less than two months, the number of pets in our home unexpectedly climbed from four to six this year. The adoptions of Rusty, an orange tabby kitten; and Emma, an 8-pound young stray dog, were not planned.
In late January, I flew home with then 6-month-old Rusty from a national cat conference. In late March, skinny and scared Emma showed up with no collar or microchip ID in our neighborhood. For several weeks, no one claimed her despite us reaching out to shelters, rescue groups and veterinary clinics. She became ours officially in mid-April.
Quickly, the newbies were warmly welcomed by our current four leggers and are now full-fledged members of our Furry Brady Bunch. Our dogs, Bujeau, a gentle 9-year-old Bernese Mountain Dog mix and Kona, a 6-year-old energetic terrier mix, never snapped or lunged at Rusty or Emma. Our cats, Casey, a 6-year-old long-legged orange tabby and Mikey, a 15-year-old gentle black cat, did emit occasional back-off hisses, but never pulled out their claws on the new arrivals.
Pet Harmony Happened Quickly
Today, it is hard to figure out who is new as all six are bonded buddies. The futon in my backyard office is proof as Rusty enjoys catnapping stretched against Bujeau.
Check our 9-pound Emma enjoying being sweetly sniffed by Kona in our backyard.
And, finally, Casey graciously agreed to let Rusty squeeze into the toweled wicker basket for a catnap.
As many of you know, new pets don’t always arrive on our time schedule. And, merging pets or adding new ones can be tricky for everyone in the household. During COVID-19, many people quarantined at home have reached out to animal shelters and rescue groups to foster and even adopt dogs and cats in need of homes. Never underestimate the healing powers of pets on people mentally, emotionally and physically.
But be aware that bringing in a new pet into a home can cause disruption in the daily home routine. It can also generate stress in everyone – including you, your current pets and the newcomer. And, stress can take a toll on everyone’s health.
Six Tips to Safely Introduce New Pets
To increase the chance that your pet merger works for all, consider these tips:
- Don’t be in a rush with the introductions. For dog-to-dog intros, try to let them meet on neutral turf and not in your home or backyard. Both dogs need to be on leashes for safety reasons. Watch their body postures toward each other. They should be relaxed and sport soft eyes. Get them both to sit on cue and hand out treats as a way to have them enjoy a mutual experience. For cat-to-cat intros, place the new feline in an enclosed room, such as a bathroom or spare bedroom. Have all of the cat’s amenities – litter box, water bowl, scratching post, toys and comfy bedding – already in place. Allow the new cat and your current cat to check each other out by sniffing under the door for a few days. Then put your current cat in that room while you allow your new cat to explore your home safely.
- Be aware of your emotional state. Dogs and cats are experts at downloading our moods through body postures, voice tones and yep, our scent. They have superior senses of smell that can detect a potato chip under the sofa as well as your mood. Taking a deep breath and exhaling as well as speaking in a calm, confident voice goes a long way in making all pets in your home feel safe. Avoid yelling or baby talk.
- Spread your one-on-one time. One hidden bonus of being sheltered in place is that we have more time to spend with our family members and pets in our homes. Make a point out of giving one-on-one attention each day for each pet – even for a few minutes. This helps them feel accepted. On Day 1, we introduced Rusty and Emma to our water bowls in the house that we clean each day and add Oratene Water Additive to help keep their teeth and gums clean and healthy. On Day 2, we treated Emma to a Zymox shampoo bath and brushing session to rid her coat of dirt and odor.
- Keep meal time civil and safe. Some pets may eat faster than others and try to grab food from the bowl of the slower eater. That can cause digestive upset and even a food fight. In our home, we prepare all the food bowls in the laundry room off the kitchen. When it is time to bring out the bowls, we follow an order our pets now know: animated eater Rusty gets his bowl in the closed bathroom; calm eaters Casey and Mikey eat from bowls on two cat trees; Emma is served next to the dining room table while bowls for Kona and Bujeau are placed on opposite sides of the kitchen island that creates an effective visual barrier. After the bowls are empty, we immediately pick them up, clean them and put them away to reduce any food resource guarding issues.
- Ensure there are enough pet resources for all. Cats like to nap in various places during the day, so strive to have plenty of window perches, blankets on sofas and cat trees for all to pick and choose. Dogs need quiet napping places, so place dog beds in different rooms. During the initial introduction weeks, keep toys stored and bring out for supervised play time. We also treated all to new toys, conducting mini one-on-one play sessions in closed rooms with each of them.
- Introduce new pets to your veterinarian pronto. Within a few days of their arrivals, Rusty and Emma were given head-to-tail thorough exams by our veterinarian and received needed vaccinations for their ages. They were also started on flea, tick and heartworm preventives to keep them safe from these dangerous pests.
Bottom line: Don’t let pet introductions be subject to chance. Your emotional state and safety measures can go a long way in ensuring a harmonious welcome and lifelong friendships for all.
Arden Moore wears many collars in the pet world. She is a best-selling author, master certified pet first aid/CPR instructor, pet behavior consultant, host of the Oh Behave Show on Pet Life Radio and happy pet parent to a Furry Brady Bunch in Dallas. Learn more at www.ardenmoore.com.