The following bi-weekly column is written and sponsored by Bark + Boarding, which provides a heart-centered and safe environment for your pets. Conveniently located at 5818-C Seminary Road in Bailey’s Crossroads, Bark & Boarding offers doggy daycare, boarding, grooming, walking and training services, plus in-home pet care.
by Chelsea Pennington, Bark + Boarding Writer and Animal Enthusiast
Having multiple pets can be fun for the owner and keep the animals from getting lonely, but can also present problems. The best way to avoid these problems is introduce the animals to each other slowly and give them time to adjust to this change.
Do get to know your animals individually beforehand.
You may think your dog is friendly, but if they’ve only ever interacted with a couple of dogs, they may not be as social as you think.
Likewise, some cats are just more social than others. Make sure you choose animals with matching personalities. A rambunctious, playful dog may overpower a shy cat or possibly even injure an older cat unknowingly.
An older, relaxed cat might get annoyed by a kitten who insists on playing, and while they might grow out of this stage, it could be stressful for the older cat and lead to fights. Some dogs or cats just may not have the right personality to put up with the other one and should be single pets.
Don’t forget that scent is very important.
When introducing one dog to another, walk the dogs going the same direction with a safe distance apart, but still within eyesight of each other. Then allow each dog to smell where the other dog has walked. If either of them snarls or lunges toward the other consider consulting a professional dog trainer or behavioral specialist before having the dogs meet.
For cats, begin by feeding both cats on either side of a door. Start with each bowl a couple feet away from the door, and slowly decrease the distance until they are eating directly on opposite sides of the door without reacting.
Next, take a blanket that each cat has used and give it to the opposite cat, again, allowing him or her to become more familiar with the other one’s scent. From there, allow the newcomer cat to explore outside of their room while confining the resident cat to the newcomer’s room.
Use a similar approach when introducing dogs to cats. Give the newcomer a room of their own to adjust to their new situation. Then begin feeding the animals on opposite sides of the door.
If your dog obsessively digs or barks at the barrier for more than a day or two, you may want to consult a behavior specialist before allowing them to meet face to face. If both animals seem comfortable, allow them to switch spaces, giving the newcomer time to explore the house and the resident to get used to the new scent.
Do have the animals meet in a controlled setting.
For dogs meeting dogs, it should occur on neutral ground, like a park or pet supply store. Both dogs should be on a leash as they are introduced and allowed to sniff each other.
The first interaction between cats can occur by partially propping open the door to the room where the new cat has been staying. It should be wide enough so the cats can see each other, but without being able to really interact or claw at each other if things go poorly.
When introducing dogs and cats to each other, keep the dog on a leash. The cat should be able to leave the room if they wish. Eventually, your dog should be able to ignore the cat and stay calm, and the cat should be able to eat and use the litter box regularly even with the dog nearby.
Check back in two weeks for 3 more tips on introducing your new pets!