Variety is the spice of life! While some of us may be “dog people” or “cat people,” some of us love all kinds of critters and enjoy making them a part of our family. Having pets all living in harmony instead of fighting like cats and dogs can also be a challenge.
Our expert veterinarian, Dr. Kristin Andrews, offers some tips to help make your multi-species home a happy home.
Try to match pets with similar lifestyles or energy levels. For example, a senior dog may not be so appreciative of a young, playful kitten entering the household. Introducing a more mature, less rambunctious kitty into the house will be less disruptive to your older dog’s routine and habits.
Do Your Homework
If you are thinking of adopting a new pet, always ask about their history. Find out if they have lived with other pets, or if they are from a single pet home. Find out if they have shown aggression towards other pets before.
Supervision is Key
When introducing a new pet into your home, always supervise your pets. Leaving pets alone that don’t know one another could result in trouble. It can be very helpful when introducing dogs to do so at a neutral location such as a dog park. Have two people to do this, each one with a dog on leash so each dog can be easily managed. If they do well at a distance, then allow the dogs to slowly come closer. Going for a walk together, far enough apart that they can’t reach one another, can be a good way to start the bonding process. Reward them for good behavior with words of encouragement. Feeding treats in the presence of one another could cause aggression.
Let Your Animals Be Themselves
Keep natural animal instincts in mind. For example, dogs like to chase. Immediately letting them loose with a small “scurrying” animal such as a rabbit or guinea pig is not a good idea. Keep the little guy in a cage and the dog on a leash and just let your dog to see and sniff at first. If this goes well, and there are no signs of aggression or fear, then the next step may be for your dog to sniff while being held on a leash while the other pet is in someone else’s hands. The next step from there would be having your dog on a leash while watching the other pet roam around.
Another example where natural instincts are important is for our feline friends. Cats can take a longer time to adjust to new surroundings. Sometimes it can take days to even months for cats to adjust to a new situation. Having a safe place for them to call their own—such as a bedroom or bathroom with their litter box, food and water dishes, and bedding can make this transition easier for them.
Be Positive and Patient
Try not to scold pets for aggressive behavior when introducing them to other pets. Do introductions in a controlled environment so you can simply remove them from the situation and try again once they’ve settled down. It can take several controlled sessions of introducing new pets to one another before they can start to feel comfortable, so remember to be patient. Remember to give each of your pets special individual time and attention so that they don’t feel neglected and become jealous of the attention a new pet is receiving, too!
With time, patience, slow and careful steps, you can have a happy and harmonious multi-species household!