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Tips for Introducing a New Pet to Your Home

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Every holiday season, there are thousands of people who receive or adopt new pets as furry (and sometimes slobbery) gifts. Excitement abounds as these fuzzballs work their way into your heart and, of course, your home. But there’s more to introducing a new pet into your home than simply buying them a bed and some food to get them started.

When bringing a new pet into your home, there are some things you should take in to account before just plopping them into the mix…

  • How they behaved at the shelter or their previous home may differ from how they act in their new digs. Perhaps they were super perky when you first met them, but when they are in their new home, they seem a bit timid. While some will blend in quickly, others will need some patience and understanding. Let them take the lead when it comes to acclimating to this all new environment. Once they can get used to everything at their own pace, they’ll likely be back to the perky pet you fell in love with.
  • Start small when introducing them to your house. It’s not recommended that you let your new pet have run of the house from Day One. Instead, remember that many pets came from places where they were in kennels or smaller pens and aren’t yet aware how to behave in larger spaces. This can be scary to some. Begin with a designated room for them to start in, where they can become accustomed to the smells and sounds of their new home. This is especially important for cats, as they tend to run and hide, and if they have access to the whole house, you may be hunting for quite some time before you locate your furry new best friend.

And what if the new pet is being introduced to a new home AND other pets? Here are a few things you may want to consider to help with this frequently stressful process…

  • Let the new pet explore on their own first. This may mean resident pets are kept in a separate room as well to begin with, or even watched by friends or family while the new pet gets the lay of the land.
  • Make sure there is someone to babysit at first. During those first few days, you’ll need to be extra vigilant. You can’t just bring in a new animal and then go out to the movies. The new pet is stressed and needs comfort, and the resident pet needs reassurance that this big change is okay. Only make the introduction when you know there will always be someone at the house to be there for all animals involved on a consistent basis.
  • Don’t force the interaction. Let the animals adjust to each other at their own pace. Don’t hold one in place to make them interact with the other and don’t scold if there isn’t an initial positive reaction. Having a gate that separates them yet still allows for sniffing so they can get to know each other is fine.
  • Control the initial introduction environment. Introducing dogs on a leash is recommended, as they may be inclined to jump and rough house. Even if this is done in a playful manner, it can be stressful to the new pet. This is especially important if there are dogs in the house, and you are bringing in a cat. You can also put existing pets in kennels or crates and allow the new pet time to sniff them out a bit.
  • Shower them with praise. When the animals, new and old, are together, shower all of them with lots of praise. Positive reinforcement goes a long way. There may be episodes initially, so do your best to downplay those moments and focus instead on when they behave well together, so that they associate the positive reinforcement with being with each other.

What if you’re concerned about introducing a pet to your child?

  • Talk with your child. Preferably, this is done before the animal is brought home. However, if you’ve surprised a child with a new pet, be certain to explain safety around pets and safety for pets. It’s important they are taught the limits of interacting with their new best friends.
  • Never leave the child alone with the new pet. Kids get excited, and even if you’ve told them Do’s and Don’ts, that may fly out the window when they are playing with their new pet. Children with new pets should be under constant supervision until you are certain they understand the rules and you are certain they are safe to be around each other. And for some cats, it may be necessary that the child only interact with the new pet when an adult is controlling the situation, as they can be more skittish and need additional coddling to get used to new people and surroundings.

Bringing home a new pet is an exciting and wonderful thing. With proper preparation and diligence, you can minimize the stress of introducing your new furry family member to the rest of your brood.

Bonnie Ruszczyk

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