Veterinarian Talia Gattenuo of Lone Mountain Animal Hospital in North West Las Vegas discusses how to help introduce a new addition into a multi-pet household.
Meeting and greeting. Socialization is important for your dog or cat because it can reduce his stress, and make him more comfortable when encountering new environments, people, and other pets. It can be beneficial for his overall health, making him a friendlier, happier, and more predictable companion.
Under-socialized pets can become aggressive, anxious, shy, and fearful, especially at the veterinary hospital. We love our pets, and we know these are the last things we would want him to feel. Puppies that are under-socialized and playfully aggressive, often grow into adulthood with the same habits that were once believed to be cute.
Many adopted pets show these same behaviors for a number of different reasons. There is no way to truly understand the entire history of an adopted pet, and sometimes these traits are a result of an abusive environment or neglect. But there is hope. A little patience and extra TLC can help turn your fearful pup into a friendly one.
Socialization is a lifetime lesson and should not be neglected as they get older. It is also important to understand the personality of your dog or cat. As for any pet, some are just more social than others. A kitten might be more susceptible to making friends with a dog other than the 6-year-old cat that has never had to share your affection. But no matter the age, it doesn’t make this feat impossible.
Confinement of the new pet might be a great start. Keep the new pet in his own room with his own toys, litter box, food, and away from the resident pets. Feed both pets at the same time on each side of the door so that they can both get used to each other’s smells while doing something enjoyable (food makes everyone happy). Over time, move the food dishes closer and closer towards the door keeping them on their own side during their meal. Dogs can do well with a high, sturdy baby gate between the two. Remember that this type of gate will not prevent a cat from jumping over. Reinforcing positive conduct with a favorite treat and affection can help solidify good behavior.
Once a new pet is acclimated to the new environment let him run around and explore your home while the old pets are in confinement. Do this several times a day but only when you are home to supervise. Once you feel comfortable with allowing them to begin to interact, you can try having them meet face to face but pay attention to their body language. Cats with flattened ears, crouching, and hissing are showing signs of aggression. Dogs will bare their teeth, growl, or become stiff-legged. You can clap, spray them with a water bottle or throw a pillow in another direction to distract them. If a standoff ensues, very carefully separate them until they calm down. Placing a leash on each pet, before interacting, helps to separate them if an aggressive behavior is elicited without getting the pet or you injured. Never get in the middle of a fight, you can get hurt. By paying attention to their body language, you may be able to prevent a fight and have time to use the necessary steps before it occurs.
It is very important to stay patient. Forcing your pets to get along will diminish your chances for success and might create a negative experience for both. Remember to work at their pace, not yours. The more patient you are, the higher your chances are of success. All interactions must be closely monitored and supervised until you are absolutely positive they are comfortable and safe within each other’s company.
This can take anywhere from one week to months depending on your pet. If you feel these tips may not be working, try discussing other options with your veterinarian.
Good luck, you’re on your way to having a larger and happy family.