As many pet owners know, adopting a new cat or dog can be exciting and rewarding, but adding another can be stressful.

Nora Bevilacqua, manager of behavior and training at Bideawee, says that verbal and physical feedback are important during introductions.

“The human voice is a great asset when it comes to animals. It can help break up tension that is arising and reward any good behavior that is occurring,” she says. “If the dogs or cats are behaving appropriately, reward them with a ‘Yay, good boy/girl’ and soft petting. If the tension is rising, you can break that up with a simple ‘Hey, knock that off’ and separate them briefly.

“It’s very important never to yell at your pets,” she adds. “Aggression plus aggression could create more aggression.”

If you’re thinking about bringing home a new friend and already have a furry family member, here are some tips to make the merger easier.

THINK ABOUT DYNAMICS 

Has your pet been around another animal? For adopted kittens and puppies, oftentimes the answer is no. Not taking this into account can lead to animal depression, acting out, running away, and sometimes, illness. Most shelters/rescuers prefer, and often require, a meet-and-greet between your current pet and potential new one.  

TAKE IT SLOW

Some experts suggest letting cats sniff each other through closed doors for a week before allowing them to meet. After that, monitor behavior when they’re together, adjusting play/inclusion time accordingly. For dogs, allow ample time for the new pooch to sniff and roam your house while the current dog is away, and vice versa. If they seem calm, let them meet in a park with their leashes on. If it goes well, let the dogs sniff each other. Walk them home with your existing dog leading the way; let your existing dog enter the house first to invite the new dog in.

EQUAL OPPORTUNITY

What one pet gets, the other should too. Don’t let pets share treats or food to avoid fighting. Dogs should be fed at the same time and have the same opportunities, such as sleeping locations, toys, walks, etc. Cats should each have their own litter boxes. And don’t forget about giving equal attention. Favoring a new pet will distress the current pet.

KEEP CALM

Furry friendships do not develop immediately. Before adopting a pet, remember that it takes time for animals to become friends, and in some cases, it may never happen. It’s best to stay calm, expect challenges, and not get discouraged if things aren’t peachy right away. With patience and commitment, families will thrive.

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