tips for adding a new pet to your family

Tips For Adding A New Pet To Your Family | girl introducing dog and cat to each other
Posted by Dr. Ernie Ward on Aug 03 2016

Adding a tumbling kitten or playful pup to your furry family can be exciting and fun. If you already have a pet, it can also be stressful! Here are our best tips for making it a smooth transition for everyone involved.

Things to do before you bring home a new pet:

Visit the vet

Be sure your current dog or cat is checked by a veterinarian to detect any health conditions that could be impacted by the increased stimulation and physical activity that a new pet brings. If this is your first pet, do research and choose a veterinarian you trust.

Puppy and kitten-proof your home

Exposed outlets need to be covered, power cords concealed, cabinets fastened with child safety locks, garbage cans secured, harmful cleaning supplies stored away, toilets and exposed water containers closed and all off-limit areas gated. While you may have had well-behaved pets in the past, each pet is different – there’s no telling how curious your new addition may be!

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Create separate food and water stations

Fights over food and water bowls can happen between new and existing pets. Generally, if bowls are separated with 18” to 24” of space between them, pets will be less territorial.

Have individual toys

Just as with children, our pets don’t always want to share. Provide each pet with their own toys and chews from the start.

Review training

Since puppies and kittens are impressionable, it’s best to review basic commands with your other pets so they will be on their best behavior.

Create safe spaces 

Everyone needs a break and time alone to rest, recuperate and refresh. Crates, cat trees, separate rooms or a simple cardboard box can provide a much-needed respite from the younger siblings.

One cat = 2 litter boxes

In general, for each household feline you should have two litter boxes to avoid inappropriate eliminations. Litterboxes should be wide, low, open and cleaned frequently.

Add calming pheromones

Calming pheromones in the house can help with the stressful newness. Before you whip out the diffuser though, talk to your vet about what essential oils are safe for your pets.

Things to do the first week you bring home a new pet:

Have a safe welcoming home 

You must closely supervise introducing a new pet, especially around children and existing pets. Keeping your new pet in a carrier or on a leash and harness for the first hour or two can help you stay in control while everyone gets to know each other.

Supervise the first meet and greet

Gradually allow pets to investigate each other through sniffs, snorts and licks. If one of the pets appears too anxious or excited, separate them for 10 to 15 minutes. You may have a little less direct control of cat-to-cat introductions, but most adult cats are fairly accepting of kittens.

Hold daily training sessions

Pets need daily structured interaction with both humans and animals. Teaching basic commands, playing with toys and leashed walks are essential for healthy brain and body development. Designate time each day to work with your new addition.

Keep calm, cool and composed

It’s easy to become frustrated with a new pet. Unfortunately, our pets study our behavior to gauge how they should feel and react. Keep calm, cool and composed and you’ll find training goes much more smoothly and quickly.

Encourage socialization

It’s important to expose your new pet to a variety of environments, people and pets. Car rides, trips to the vet, parks and visiting friends are vital steps in teaching good manners and building socialization skills.

Remember: disputes happen

When tempers flare, immediately separate pets for private time. If a pattern emerges that allows you to figure out your pets’ triggers, you can avoid them in the future. If the fights escalate or persist, talk with a certified professional dog trainer about more advanced training techniques.

Consistency and patience are key 

Some pets are trained in a few weeks while others take a few months. The key is consistency. Dedicate 15 to 30 minutes twice a day for the first six months to work on commands. Even if you plan to have your new dog stay at a top training center, you’ll still need to teach them to listen to you when they return.

Never stop training

Most of the healthiest pets I treat are also incredibly well-behaved and are constantly learning new skills. You can teach old dogs and cats new tricks; sometimes it takes a youngling to remind us that learning never stops. 

Protection from the unexpected

It’s wise to enroll in comprehensive coverage the day you bring your furry family member home. Whether you’re considering pet insurance for your puppy or coverage for your kitten, you can’t go wrong with Petplan’s one simple plan!

Before you bring a new pet home, ask your veterinarian. There’s no one better qualified to guide you through the formative months and into a lifetime of health! If you’ve got an older pet whose energy is beginning to dim, or a pet who you think just needs a friend, ask your vet if adding a new pet is right for your family.

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