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Tips for Introducing a New Pet to Your Household

December 10, 2023

Tips for Introducing a New Pet to Your Household

Your family life is exactly how you envisioned: You and your spouse both have thriving careers you enjoy. Your children are responsible and respectful. And your dog is friendly, loyal, and a good pal to the kids.

And your kids are so happy with their furry friend that they’re asking for another one.

Looks like you and your spouse have plenty to think about before saying yes or no, which may also include the costs to own a pet. Here’s some food for thought.

1. Questions to ask before adding a second pet

Be it a dog or a cat, deciding to get a second pet might seem like a simple decision at first. But dig deeper and you’ll discover that there’s a lot more to consider. Here are just a handful of questions to ask yourself before bringing another pet into your home:

  • Does my family have the necessary time to devote to a new pet?
  • Does my current pet get along with other animals or does it have an aversion to other pets?
  • How old is my current pet and what is the age of the pet we want to adopt?
  • How old are my children? Are any of them babies or toddlers?
  • Should I get pet insurance if I haven’t already?

If you have concerns specific to your situation--whether it’s a special needs child, allergies, the size of your yard, etc. -- consider talking to your veterinarian or a pet trainer who can give you advice.

2. Adopting a new dog

There’s more than one reason dogs are called "man’s best friend." They’re loyal and filled with unconditional love. Plus, they won’t hesitate to protect your home and your children.

But they're also a lot of work. The American Kennel Club (AKC) says that your current dog should be completely trained and out of puppyhood before adding a second furry friend. That's because training a dog - especially a puppy - can be time consuming. Adding a new puppy (or an older but untrained dog) to your home can only complicate the process if your current dog is also a puppy or untrained.

It's also wise to make sure your calendar is free of any major near-term events, vacations or projects so you can devote time and dedication to your new family addition. Proper training and socialization plays a large role in your dog’s behavior.

Even if just one family member wants a second dog, it's a decision that impacts the whole gang. Make sure each family member is on board with the decision.

3. Introducing your new dog to your current dog

Let's say your answer to the kids was "yes." Now it's time to get a second dog.

But one family member didn't get to vote: Your current dog. So it's important to know the steps to keep Fido happy when bringing the new dog into your home. The AKC offers some tips recommending the following:

Let your current dog sniff a towel or blanket that has the new dog’s scent. This will give your dog some familiarity so he will recognize the scent of the new dog when they meet.

Make sure both dogs are leashed on introduction day. The introduction should take place in a neutral, fenced location.

You can drop the leashes after they meet. Be sure to observe and watch for any signs of aggression - and leave the leash on so you can quickly grab it in case you need to safely separate them.

When you feel comfortable, you can eventually unleash the dogs to let them play. Just remember to praise each dog in front of the other one for good behavior. And use a friendly, happy voice when doing so.

Be sure to consistently supervise play time over the long run. Keep an eye on body language. For example, bowing means they’re being friendly. Scared or angry barking, visible teeth, or hair standing on end show signs of a brewing problem. Calmly divert the dog’s attention away from the situation, if that’s the case.

You can also help your existing dog through the meet-and-greet process by keeping his routine as normal as possible. And give equal attention to both dogs despite the urge to focus on the new dog.

4. Dog meets children

Many dog owners don't consider how to best introduce your new four-legged kid to your two-legged kids. But getting your kids and a new dog acclimated is just as important. After all, your puppy is in a new environment and must adjust to being away from his mother and littermates.

Introduce your children to the puppy one child at a time. Going forward, make sure all dog-children interactions are supervised since both are learning how to behave around each other.

Once you feel comfortable, get your children involved. You can ask them to help you take care of the puppy: Take your children on walks with the puppy, teach them how to hold the leash, and have them bring you the pup's food bowl when it's time for dinner. But remind your children that the puppy will sometimes need some quiet time alone.

You can take the same type of precautions with a baby (within reason), just remember to never leave your puppy and your baby alone unsupervised - even if you're walking away for a few seconds.

5. Introducing your new cat to your current cat

If you’re more of a cat family, the MEOW Foundation says you should never try to introduce the two cats face-to-face right away. Instead, the introduction process requires patience and takes time. Here are the steps:

You should temporarily house your new cat in a confined area or space during the introduction process. Let your existing cat and new cat sniff each other from under the door of your new cat's "safe room."

After two to four days, exchange bedding between the cats so they each become familiar with the other’s scent.

Let your new cat explore your home while your current cat is confined to one room. Do this for a couple of hours each day for a few days - just keep an eye on any signs of aggression.

Place your new cat in his carrier in a location inside your home but outside of his safe room. This lets your cats see and sniff each other through the carrier door. Tip: Keep each interaction short, and repeat this step a few times each day until both cats show a certain comfort level with the other.

The cats can now meet face to face as long as there are no signs of aggression. Simply crack open the door to the safe room to allow both cats to come and go as they please. Be sure to observe each visit and have a water spray bottle handy to discipline any bad behavior or aggression.

6. Cats and kids

Though your children will be excited to play with the new family cat, you'll need to remind them that the cat needs to ease into being comfortable with them just like he did with your current cat. Provide your kids with a handful of reminders:

  • Your new cat is nervous and shy.
  • Cats explore their surroundings by smelling everything.
  • Loud voices and fast movements might scare the cat.
  • The cat will play when it's ready. Be patient.
  • Cats sometimes accidentally scratch with their claws during play.
  • Gently pet the cat. Never pull its tail.
  • Be mindful of leaving doors open and allowing your cat outside.

7. Consider pet insurance for your furry friends

Just like humans, dogs and cats can suffer accidents. They might need to be rushed to the nearest emergency vet for an injury or a sudden illness. These unexpected medical expenses can easily cause you financial hardship.

For example, cancer treatments for pets can easily cost $5,000, while surgery to repair a torn ACL is about $3,300.

Pet insurance is somewhat similar to health insurance for people. Pet policies have premiums, deductibles, and copayments. But pet owners typically pay vet bills out of pocket, then submit a claim to the pet insurance company for reimbursement.

Policy costs depend on a few factors including breed, age, and deductible amounts. Many policies exclude pre-existing conditions, while others exclude conditions associated with the pet’s breed. In general, policies cover accidents, illnesses, and wellness and routine care.

You have the freedom to choose the plan that's best for your pet just like you would for your own health insurance.


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