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Tips on introducing a new pet
by Dr. Francesca Matthews
Taking a new puppy or kitten home
Puppies and kittens often do not fret for their litter mates as much as we think; they are usually quite happy to leave with strangers and go to a new home, provided they have been well socialised. The period when they get stressed is at the end of the first day when they are put to bed and usually left alone for the first time in their lives.
How can you make this time better for the puppy or kitten?
Have everything ready before collecting the new pet:
Introducing a new pet to other pets in your house
Do not force new pets together! Monitor the situation at all times until you are sure that the animals have accepted each other.
Dogs should be introduced on neutral territory (that is, away from the house).
When the new dog is first taken home it should be allowed time to explore its new territory (the section and house), on its own without other dogs around.
The new pet should have its own bowl, toys, bed, lead and other essentials before it arrives.
The dominance order must be established based on the principles of the hierarchy of the pack. The owner (and other family members) must of course be at the top and then the new dog must be assessed as to its position in the pack and treated accordingly. Dominance can very between dogs in an established pack depending on the resource.
A common problem occurs when the new dog is made a fuss of first because it is ‘new’. This particularly happens if a puppy arrives as every visitor tends to speak to the puppy before the older dog. This is against the hierarchy rules that apply for dogs.
If the new dog is of a dominant nature and you have decided that it is to be the top dog then it should be greeted first and the other dogs will need to be treated as lower in the pack order (for example, being fed after this dog).
However, if it is not a dominant dog, then the dog that is the most dominant dog will become confused as this is breaking the pack rules! It may well show aggression toward the new dog because it feels the dog needs to be put in its place.
Note: there may still be aggression between two dogs if they are of a similar dominance level and trying to establish who is most dominant. In rare cases it is not possible to resolve this and one animal must be re-homed.
A new cat should be kept in a separate room to other animals until they become accustomed to each others smell.
Introduction should be gradual and in a room that the new cat has had a chance to explore on its own.
The new cat can be kept in a crate with a box for hiding in until it has become accustomed to other animals. This gives it a safe place where it can feel secure while preventing it from running away or from being attacked. These methods can be used whether the cat is being introduced to other cats or to other species.
Some cats will not accept the introduction of a new cat into the household, others may accept new cats but may not accept living with dogs.
Mixed and other species - some tips
Raising kittens with prey species (e.g. birds, rabbits) will mean they are more likely to accept the introduction of these into a household without showing predatory behaviour.
Remember to allow new pets time to explore their new environment without other animals being around.
Crating animals of any species allows time for resident and new animals to become accustomed to each other. It stops the new animal from running away, which otherwise could cause the resident animal to show aggression.
Again it is important to know about a species before giving advice. Some types of fish cannot be kept with other types as they are aggressive, and the same applies to some types of bird.
Female rabbits cannot normally be kept with each other unless they have been raised together.
It is important to note that there are always individual variations, with some animals accepting others readily and others preferring to be in a one-pet household!
Contact us if you need an advice on introducing a new pet. If we can't help, we will refer you to a animal behaviourist to help you out.