Bringing home a new pet can be fun and exciting, but don’t naively assume your resident pet will share your exuberance. There are many factors to consider when introducing pets to each other for the first time.
Species, breed, size, gender, age, individual temperament, and health status of each pet all contribute to their individual encounter and eventual coexistence. With so many factors to consider, it is extremely difficult to predict how one pet will respond to another.
Contrary to popular belief, not all cats and dogs are preordained to hate each other. Whether animals get along depends a lot on their exposures early in life. For example, my rescued four-week-old kittens nursed on my adult dog as their substitute mother. A year later, I am still trimming out “suckle matts” from my dog’s fur.
On the other hand, not all breed of dogs get along. For example, my Springer spaniel has a “natural” prejudice against flat-faced (Brach cephalic) dogs. She just doesn’t seem to like all that snorting in her face. In general, most breeds like other dogs that seem most similar to themselves.
If you have a male pet and want to add a second pet, you would generally be advised to get a female of the same species. Again, these are generalities and not guarantees or absolutes.
Also, you want to be very fair to your first pet, so don’t wait until they are old and not as likely to accept the change of a new furry household member, particularly a younger one with too much energy. It is best to get a second pet when your first one is about five to eight years old.
Tips for Introducing a New Pet to Resident Pets
Every animal is different — just like humans — but you can help increase the likelihood that your two fur babies will get along if you:
- Take your time. A gradual process of discovery and investigation is best. Spend extra quality time alone with each pet during the transition period. Also, watch for impending fights and be sure to guard and protect the smaller pet.
- Give a frightened animal an unblocked avenue of escape. Most important: Consider your own safety before interfering with aroused or fighting animals or you may be the one seeking medical attention.
This copyrighted article first appeared in the Residences section of The Palm Beach Post. It may have been updated since its original publication.