So, you’ve got a new furry four-legged friend. Congratulations—there is so much more love in your home! But whether you’ve got a brand-new puppy or a more-mature cat, you may notice that things aren’t as rose-colored for your new pet. Of course you want this transitional time to be as smooth as possible, so here are some FearFree™ tips from Kingsbrook Animal Hospital to help a new pet feel more comfortable.
Introduction to the Home Whether or not there are other pets already at home, it is important that a fur-baby’s first few days in a new house are spent confined in a small area with all of the essentials (food, water bowl, bed, toys, litter box for cats). One room is usually enough space. This helps establish a “safe space” for your new pet and gets them used to the smells and sounds of your home. It’s a great idea to leave your cat’s carrier or your dog’s crate open and accessible within this space, to create a retreat for him/her; adding treats or toys will encourage Fluffy or Rover to enter it freely. Another strong recommendation is the use of pheromones. Feliway® (for cats) and Adaptil® (for dogs) are available in plug-in diffusers to fill the room with calm-inducing pheromones. These will comfort the pet and allow for a more relaxed acclimation.
Other Pets If your new fur-baby is your one-and-only, you don’t need to worry about sibling spats. But if you’ve already got pets, this step is the most crucial to ensuring a harmonious household. Keeping the new dog or cat separate from existing pets will start you off on the right foot; often the original pets see the new animal as competition for food and attention, so make sure everyone has their own food bowl and toys. Cats are very territorial creatures, so after a week or so of sniffing one another beneath the door it’s helpful to use two (or three!) mesh baby gates to block the open doorway of the new cat’s room. This allows cats to see one another but prevents any physical contact. Dogs’ first face-to-face meeting can be outdoors, in a neutral area that neither perceives as his/her territory. If all goes well, short supervised “play dates” at home are a great next step. Continue leaving the new animal’s crate and pheromones out so that s/he has somewhere to go if feeling overwhelmed. Make sure to spend extra time with your existing animals so they don’t resent the new pet for “stealing” you.
Children It goes without saying that kids and pets should never be unsupervised together. Pets in a new home may be feeling stressed or fearful because of all the changes in their lives, so they might act out if they feel cornered or uncomfortable. Depending on the age of your children, introductions may be a multi-step process spread out over several weeks or a one-week integration—use treats or a favorite toy to encourage interactions as a positive experience for the animal, and break things off sooner rather than later if either party seems unhappy.
Health Care Before letting your new furry family member mingle with kids and/or other pets, be sure to have him or her thoroughly examined by a veterinarian. To make things less stressful, choose a veterinary office with FearFree™ certification—like Kingsbrook Animal Hospital! KAH staff and veterinarians are trained in low-stress, positive handling to help your
new pet have the most relaxing office visit possible. Bring your pet hungry, and let us know if there is anything in particular that seems to stress your fur-baby before we get started.
Socialization The last step in owning a well-adjusted pet is socialization. This means exposing your new animal to as many different people, places, and things as possible, so s/he isn’t afraid of them later. For dogs, this includes things like learning how to get a bath; for cats, learning to tolerate car rides is key. Limit first experiences to 2-3 minutes, gradually work up to longer times, and remember: make everything positive!
Every pet and every home is different, so if you have any questions or need a hand, don’t hesitate to reach out to Kingsbrook Animal Hospital–we are here to help!