How To Introduce A New Pet To Your Family

Adding a new dog or cat to your family can be an exciting and joyful time. However, it is important to remember transitioning into a new home can be stressful for the pet. Puppies and kittens may miss the comfort of their littermates, and rescue animals may have experienced trauma in their past which can make an animal anxious, even in the best of situations.

With a new pet comes a list of immediate responsibilities. It is critical to consider what needs to be done in advance to make your home and yard “pet-safe.” Having a plan for introducing family members and other existing pets to the new dog or cat is also important for a smooth transition.a new pet for the family

Pet-proofing your home is crucial. Exposed electrical cords should be hidden, chemicals, cleaning aids and poisonous plants must be out of reach, and all small items (such as marbles, toys, magnets, batteries, thread/strings, retainers and jewelry) should be moved out of your pet’s reach.

A crate or kennel is extremely useful when introducing a new dog to your home. The crate should be large enough for the dog to stand up, turn around, and lay down comfortably. The crate creates a safe place for the dog to rest without interaction. It also eliminates the risk of destructive behaviors within the home, which could also result in harm to the pet.

Introducing new pets into a home with existing pets can sometimes be a challenge. While we hope for an immediate loving acceptance of the new pet by the existing pet, often the existing pet may feel defensive, threatened, or jealous. When possible, the first interaction between these pets should be at a neutral location. Often, adoption groups will allow you to bring your existing pet to the adoption site to meet potential new adoptees in advance. A meeting at a secured, safe, neutral play area is another great option. This gives the pets the opportunity to learn about each other without the added pressures of a guarded territory. When introducing dogs for the first time, use long (non-retractable) leashes and allow the dogs to greet each another. If the interaction seems friendly, the leash can be dropped to allow the dogs extra freedom. Leave the leash attached to all dogs so that aggressive interactions can be stopped with speed and safety if needed.

Introducing children to a new pet should also be planned in advance. When excited, children often frighten animals, so it is important to teach them to stay calm and move slowly around the new pet. Do not let children initiate contact and/or pick up the new pet initially. Animals who remain on their own four feet feel more confident, and are less prone to show aggressive behavior because they can move if they are unsure of the situation or feel threatened. As a general rule, new pets and children should never be left unattended. When the time is right, children can then be shown the appropriate way to pet and love on the animal.

Pets can bring us immeasurable joy. Planning ahead for the introduction of your new pet into your home can make the transition seamless and happy for all.

Originally published December 2015 in the Lake Norman Citizen.

Dr. Gretchen Burke is a veterinarian with LakeCross Veterinary in Huntersville. The vets in the big yellow house have been treating pets like family for 20 years. For more information, call 704-948-6300.