Choosing The Perfect 4-Legged Family Member

Deciding to bring a new dog or cat in to your household is a huge commitment. Do you adopt a homeless pet, buy one from a breeder or a neighbor, or wait for that special stray to find you? No matter the method that your new pet comes in to your life, there are some things you can do to make the introductions smoother.

If you have human children, think carefully about the type of animal that you might add to your family. Puppies and kittens seem the perfect fit for little children, but it can often be overwhelming for moms and dads to raise 2 AND 4 legged kids at the same time. Puppies and kittens can really be as much work as 2 legged kids. Children don't often know how to communicate with animals and can appear frightening to the new addition. You might consider an older shelter dog or cat that has been “temperament tested”. This means that the shelter has had that animal undergo a series of behavioral tests to determine the ideal environment for that pet. Perhaps the chihuahua might do better sitting on a single ladies lap throughout the day. Or, the lab would LOVE to have kids to run and play with. Older animals usually have fully developed personalities and trained shelter staff can look for clues that will indicate the ideal family situation for them.

Choosing a new pet for your home.If you have other animals at home, consider their personality when making your decision. If you have a reclusive female cat, they may do better adding a male than another female. You might take in to account if your dog loves other dogs or doesn't like sharing their space. If you do introduce another pet, we recommend doing it slowly over a period of several days. Dogs are best introduced on “neutral” territory. This could mean a park or a neighbors yard. Keep both dogs on leash and remember to keep your anxiety under control. Dogs will certainly pick up on your body language.

Cats can be introduced by placing the newcomer in a bathroom or bedroom for a few days with food, water and a litter box. Make sure your existing cat can smell the other cat under the door. Offer both cats something delicious, such as canned food on their own side of the door every day to send the message that something wonderful happens in the vicinity of this new creature. After a few days, you can bring the new cat out in a large carrier into a common room. Again, offer special canned food to the new cat in the carrier (or treats) and special food to your resident cat in the same room. You can slowly move them closer to each other. The goal is to make sure that they know something great happens when this newcomer is around.

Always have a veterinarian examine your new animal before you introduce it to your existing pet. Your veterinarian may recommend blood or fecal laboratory work and external parasite control to make sure that they are as healthy as possible prior to introduction.

If you have questions about adding a new animal to your family, we'd be happy to help! 

Author: 
Christen L. Skaer, DVM