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Introducing New Pets

8 tips for maintaining your peaceable kingdom

When your family gets a new pet, patience is called for above all else. Just like people, animals may need some time to warm up to one another. Here are some suggestions for making the process as smooth as possible:

1. When introducing two cats, give the new cat its own “suite” initially, with its own food and water, bed and litter box. You should be able to close the door to this room. This will spark the resident kitty’s curiosity about what’s behind the closed door. Feedings for both cats should take place in front of the closed door so that the older cat begins to associate the pleasures of eating with the kitty on the other side of the door. Open the door slightly for minimal interaction. If there is hissing and unhappiness, close the door and try again later.

2. Rub a towel over one cat and place that towel under the other cat’s food bowl. This is another way to condition the resident cat to associate the new cat’s smell with food and positive feelings. Do the same with the new cat, using a towel with the resident cat’s smell under its feeding bowls.

3. The best place to introduce dogs for the first time is in a neutral area, preferably not in the park where your dog usually goes. Keep both dogs carefully controlled on leashes, with one person per dog.

4. If you are introducing more than one new dog, take them to the old dog one at a time so that it isn’t overwhelmed.

5. Watch for negative body language among dogs. If one’s ears go down, its legs become stiff and its body tenses, separate the two dogs and try again later.

6. Watch for “the bow,” when a dog’s front end goes down, its rear is in the air and its tail is wagging. This is a sign the dog wants to play and is a good thing.

7. When introducing a puppy to an older cat, the cat will be quick to get out of the way, get up high and swat the puppy when displeased. The puppy will learn quickly.

8. When introducing a dog to a kitten, you’ll need two people. Put the dog on a leash and have it sit. Bring the cat in in your arms, but don’t restrain it. It must feel it can get away or it will become frightened. Let the cat sniff and explore. If the dog gets excited, restrain it. If that’s not working, stop and try again later. A dog can easily hurt a kitten, so be sure the kitten always has a safe place to get away to.

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