With 1,195 adoptions last year, the Beatrice Humane Society would like to think we are the experts in introducing a pet to a new home and focus on tips and tricks for a smooth introduction during our adoption process. But not all new pets are adopted from shelters. In fact, over 70% of the rehomed pets last year were from friends, relatives or strangers, previous strays or breeders. Not getting along with a resident animal is one of the most frequently reported reasons for surrendering or rehoming a recently obtained pet. Helping you know just how to help introduce your new pet may just keep them in your home where they belong.
The first thing to remember about bringing home a new pet is that while your resident pets may get along with other animals, it doesn’t mean they want to live with the one you brought home in particular. You probably like your hairstylist, third grade teacher and your boss well enough- but living with them… that’s a whole different story. While we would never encourage you to live with your boss, if you were to consider it, we strongly suggest ground rules before the first moving box is unpacked.
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Ground rules for bringing home a new pet:
1. No chasing: The new pet will be scared, and uncomfortable, being chased (or chasing the resident animals) is asking for trouble. Teeth, claws, urination, defecation, and vocalization are all are possible and none will result in a better relationship between them. Bad experiences are hard to overcome, our goal is to create good experiences instead.
2. No sharing food, water, crates, beds, high value toys or litterboxes: After some time, sharing will likely be ok, but at the beginning, there should be very separate and designated resources. This should last at least 2 weeks, but it may take longer before they are able to safely share. There are some times where pets can’t or won’t share resources and we need to respect that. Fact is, if someone reaches across the table at a fancy restaurant to steal from your plate, they’re likely in danger of getting forked, and our pets often feel the same way about their food and toys.
3. Adult supervision: The resident and new pet should not be left alone together unattended. They should be individually crated or in separate rooms segregated with a physical barrier like a solid door when unattended until enough time has passed for trust to be built.
4. If introducing a dog to a cat, or a dog to another dog. The dog(s) should always be on leash, with the leash held by an adult. Its important that the dog is not allowed to pull on the leash. It can make their body language appear aggressive and scary even when they are not. Rather the leash is a safety mechanism to prevent chasing the other pet. For the first few days after initial introductions, during supervised interactions, you can let the dog drag their leash, that way if they get a wild idea to start chasing, you can easily step on or grab a leash to keep them from breaking Rule # 1.
5. When introducing a new cat to the home, keep the new cat in a segregated room with their food, water, bed and litterbox for at least three days before introducing them to other pets. This gives them time to bond with you before any animal introductions that might scare them. If after three days the new cat is still acting shy or scared, start switching out beds and blankets from the resident animals and the new cat. This will allow all pets to slowly get used to the smells of the other. They can also be allowed to interact through a barrier such as a kennel door, screen door or kid gate. If there is any hissing, growling or barking at this stage, keep the barrier in place and continue short practice sessions several times a day until all pets are calm, then remove the barrier.
With these simple ground rules, your new pet should easily settle into your new home. If you are running into problems, just remember it takes 3 days for them to overcome the stress hormones from the initial move, 3 weeks for them to actually believe they get to stay and start showing their true personality and 3 months to feel secure enough to trust and build routines. Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither is your relationship with your new pet.
If you are still having problems, call us at the shelter at 402-228-9100, we would much prefer coaching you through your introduction struggles than taking in your pet. If your problem is too advanced for us to coach over the phone, we will refer you to professionals that specialize in animal behavior.