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cat-71494_640How would you feel if one day someone suddenly appeared in your home and didn’t leave? The stranger slept there (in either your own bed or a nice new one) and started eating your food (or a different kind of food that smelled and tasted even better than your own). What if the members of your family started making a big fuss over this newcomer and ignored you? You’d feel pretty badly, wouldn’t you? In fact, there’s a good possibility that you’d start resenting the newcomer. Well, that’s often how an existing pet feels when a new pet suddenly appears on the scene!

The problems that may result from such an intrusion can range from depression on the existing pet’s part, to occasional growling and hissing, to outright hostility replete with flying fur and bloodshed! In other cases, the original pet may become disobedient and even start having “accidents” in the house.

Regardless of whether the original pet (pet #1) is a dog and the new pet (pet #2) is a cat, or pet #1 is an adult cat and pet #2 is a kitten … or a rabbit, or a bird … there are steps you can take to ease the transition. By taking a little time before your new pet arrives, you’ll be able to prevent the most common problems from arising.

1) Always take pet #1 and pet #2 to the vet for a check up. Be sure all their vaccinations are up to date.

2) If at all possible, familiarize pet #1 with the scent of the newcomer days or even weeks prior to pet #2’s arrival. This can be accomplished by taking a towel to where the new pet is being kept (i.e. the breeder, the shelter) and gently rubbing the animal with it. Once the towel has the scent of pet #2, bring it home and leave it where pet #1 can examine it.

3) Play a recording of the types of sounds that will be made by the newcomer . You can record the sounds of a friend’s talkative dog or vocal cat or purchase a sound effects record. Start out by playing it for pet #1 at a low volume, . gradually increasing the level over a period of days or weeks. Your goal is reach a full volume without any reaction from pet #1. This is particularly helpful if you are introducing pet #1 to a pet of another species.

4) If you are particularly concerned about your pet’s reaction (i.e. possible jealousy or aggression) to the new arrival, bring home a stuffed animal that closely resembles your newcomer. Ideally it should carry the scent of pet #2 (see step 2). The point here is to simulate the new arrival as much as possible without overwhelming pet #1 with the real thing. If your pet shows any negative reactions to your “simulated” newcomer, it’s important to turn the negative into a positive. Give your pet extra hugs, kisses, attention and even treats. Let your pet feel that whenever the “simulated” newcomer is around, good things happen – the idea is a positive association.

1) If at all possible, introduce pet #1 to pet #2 on what I refer to as “neutral turf.” In other words, in an area to which neither animal has a claim – such as a park or a neighbor’s yard. Doing so will prevent pet #1 from feeling that his territory (his home) is being threatened.

2) Always be sure that both animals are introduced under controlled circumstances. In other words, both pets should be properly restrained – collars and leashes on dogs and harnesses and leashes on cats and rabbits. It may be necessary to enlist the aid of a family member or friend to assist during the introduction.

1) In the beginning, be sure to supervise pet #1 and pet #2 when they are together. It’s prudent not to leave them together unattended in the beginning – even if they seem to be getting along well. This is particularly true if pet #2 is a younger or smaller animal. Pet #1 may want to be playful but may not realize his or her own strength.

2) Supply both of your pets with lots and lots of toys. By doing so, you’ll lessen the chance of a fight occurring over a specific item.

3) The same thing goes for feeding time. Pet #1 should not have to feel as if he’s competing for food. Instead of feeding him more, you may want to divide pet #1 ‘s regular amount of food into several dishes to give him a sense that there’s plenty available.

4) It’s only natural for friends and family (and even you) to want to make a big fuss over the new arrival – especially if it’s a puppy or kitten. It’s up to you to make sure that pet #1 receives as much positive attention as pet #2. Here, again, that means extra hugs, kisses, attention, toys and treats for pet #1. If you insist on making a fuss over the newcomer, do it privately – out of the sight of pet #1.

5) Finally, if you sense that pet #1 is less than thrilled with pet #2, give them a chance to work it out. While our pets are learning to adjust to each other it sometimes sounds like a nuclear explosion! I know that the sounds of such a confrontation can be horrendous, but often what looks and sounds serious is simply your pets getting to know each other. One of the biggest mistakes owners make is jumping in too soon to break it up. Sometimes it’s best to just let them work it out. When to jump in is one of the toughest judgment calls an owner has to make. Of course, we don’t want harm to come to either pet. So supervise them carefully but remember that it may sound a lot worse than it is.

Your aim is to make pet #1 feel that pet #2 is the best thing that has ever happened to him. By doing a little pre-planning and following the above steps, you’ll come home one day to find your pets sleeping nose to nose!