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In Universal’s latest animated film The Secret Life of Pets, beloved terrier Max (voiced by Louis CK) has to welcome in his new “brother,” Duke, a big floppy sheepdog. Needless to say, they get off on the wrong paw. How do we make sure this doesn’t happen in our own homes? Here are some tips for introducing another pet to your home.
Make a Shopping List
Make sure you purchase new gear for your new pet—dogs and cats can be extremely territorial and you’ll want to make sure everyone has their own stuff to prevent fighting, including their own food and water dishes, crates and litter boxes, plus toys and treats. Make sure that whatever brand of food your new pet was being fed by a breeder, foster parent, or shelter is what you use in the beginning so as to avoid digestive distress early on. You can gradually transition your furry family member to a new diet once they’ve settled in.
Plan a Gradual Introduction
You don’t want to have any surprises when introducing a new cat or dog into your home, so before you spring the big change, make a plan with a family member or friend who can help you gradually introduce a new pet into the house. While this is sometimes unrealistic—say, you rescue a dog who needs a home immediately, or find yourself fostering some kittens due to an emergency—it is the easiest way to smoothly introduce a new pet to the family.
With dogs, it’s best to introduce them outside the home first; walk them and give them treats for behaving. Always let the existing dogs lead and gradually allow them to meet with lots of sniffing. With cats, it is an even slower process. You may need to keep the kitties in separate rooms and slowly introduce their scents.
Create Safe Spaces
By this time, the dogs should be part of a pack and have established a hierarchy on their own. Cats can be hit or miss in the beginning and you may find yourself starting over from scratch (literally!). In the beginning, keep a calm, authoritative presence in the house. Moving is very stressful for your new pet, and uprooting routine can be trying for existing pets. Remain quiet and mellow around new pups or kitties. Make sure there are “safe spaces” for your new pet in case he or she gets overwhelmed, such as leaving open the crate for a dog and doors to separate rooms for a cat.
If All Else Fails: Get Professional Help
If you need a vet or animal behaviorist to step in and help don’t be afraid to ask. From obedience classes to personal consultations, a behaviorist can get things on the right track, especially if the animals’ behavior disrupts your everyday life and gives you stress. Bringing in a new furry family member isn’t always easy and your methods of communication can get muddled.
Over the coming weeks, your new animal’s personality will start to shine as you get to know each other, and your cat or dog becomes a part of the pack. Scheduling a routine and lots of love are two basic rules — the rest will follow.